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Chris Yaw Interviews Bishop John Spong: Humility and Acceptance Build the Church

May 21, 2012

Taken with permission from ChurchNext.tv

In a post-denomination, post-Christian world churches may no longer be able to survive if arrogance and protectionism play very large roles in their communities.

That's why John Shelby Spong, who's tenure as a liberal Episcopal bishop of Newark and subsequent career as an author and lecturer, is calling believers to act with humility and acceptance toward others.

Sure, John's kinder enemies don't even consider him a Christian, but at age 81, and 57 years of ordained ministry, his devotion is still clear - as is his conviction that experiencing God is at the heart of the faith.

 

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Synopsis
John Spong is a lightning rod for criticism from our more conservative brothers and sisters, and he also continues to draw packed houses to his Bible lectures. This is evidence, he says, of a deep hunger for a deeper way of approaching faith. Here are my notes from the interview:

A Middle Way
It's between Fundamentalism and Atheism. While some are retreating to tattered exclusivist beliefs, and others are simply throwing in the towel, Spong proposes a way between which is based on experiencing God.

Everybody's a Fundamentalist
It's because we all, to one degree or another, put some weight in our conception of God, which is not who God (whom is beyond our conceptions) is. Recognizing our own fundamentalism helps us tolerate and even accept it in others.

Reclaim Courage
Yes, it takes a lot of fortitude to believe in a God we cannot define but only experience. Relying on Tillich's idea of journeying into mystery, Spong challenges us to deeply embrace a Christianity that frees us to accept life's insecurities.

About John Spong
John Shelby Spong, is a leading voice for liberal Christianity in North America. He was the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark for 24 years, retiring in 2000. His admirers acclaim his legacy as a teaching bishop who makes contemporary theology accessible to the ordinary lay person- he's considered a champion of an inclusive faith by many both inside and outside the Christian church. Since his retirement, Bishop Spong has taught at Harvard University, where he delivered the William Belden Noble lectures; and at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA. He recently completed a tour to the U.K., Europe, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.  Bishop Spong is the author of several bestselling books which have sold more than 650,000 copies combined, including Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, and Here I Stand, a memoir of his journey to the reasoned, loving Christianity he has preached for decades.He has received numerous honors, including being named Quatercentenary Scholar by Cambridge University in 1992 and Humanist of the Year in 1999.  His extensive media experience includes appearances on "60 Minutes," "Good Morning America," and "Extra." Bishop Spong lives with his wife, Christine Mary Spong, in Morris Plains, NJ.

Books Bishop Spong Recommends
Amen - Greta Vosper
The Heart of Christianity - Marcus Borg
The Five Gospels - Robert Funk

Sponsors I Mentioned
Are you headed to the Wild Goose festival? Thousands of campers are headed to the beautiful hills of North Carolina June 21-24. Wild Goose is a festival at the intersection of justice, spirituality, and art. Some of this year's guests are Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, and Shane Claiborne. ChurchNext is a proud sponsor - find out more at wildgoosefestival.org

 


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