Spong article 2


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Bonus Issue
 Four things.

  1. Thank you to all who have contributed financially this year.
  2. My father’s surgery went well. Nonetheless, he’s still in the hospital and your prayers are still appreciated. I’ll keep you updated.
  3. Larry Keene, who writes the “Simple Prayer” articles you read in The 77% Weekly the second Monday of the month, is NOT a rabbi. Dr. Lawrence Charles Keene is a retired Disciples of Christ minister.  (He’s also an ROTB board member, retired sociology professor, grandfather, father, husband, and my dearest friend.)
  4. Below is an article that I wanted to pass along.

-With love


John Shelby Spong’s article.

John Shelby Spong is the retired American bishop of the Episcopal Church Diocese of Newark. He is a prolific author and brilliant thinker. I have found his books Liberating the Gospels: Reading The Bible with Jewish Eyes and Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time to be enlightening.  He published an article last month that I liked so much that I decided to send it to you here, verbatim.

A Manifesto, by John Shelby Spong

A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!

John Shelby Spong

I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of
homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the
biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians
about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view
still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen
to them tell me how homosexuality is “an abomination to God,” about how
homosexuality is a “chosen lifestyle,” or about how through prayer and
“spiritual counseling” homosexual persons can be “cured.” Those
arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer
dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate “reparative
therapy,” as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be
repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of
the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or
at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer
take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of
certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality “deviant.” I
will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain
Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of
that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that “we love the sinner but
hate the sin.” That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a
self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate
homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that
hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they
adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement. I will no longer
temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a
tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to
emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries
conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews,
women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is “high-sounding,
pious rhetoric.” The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an
end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any
longer. The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian
Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost
in a sea of their own irrelevance. They no longer talk to anyone but
themselves. I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to
inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between
prejudice and oppression. There isn’t. Justice postponed is justice
denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil
rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot
adjust to a new understanding was to “Roll on over or we’ll roll on
over you!” Time waits for no one.

I will particularly ignore those members of my own Episcopal Church
who seek to break away from this body to form a “new church,” claiming
that this new and bigoted instrument alone now represents the Anglican
Communion. Such a new ecclesiastical body is designed to allow these
pathetic human beings, who are so deeply locked into a world that no
longer exists, to form a community in which they can continue to hate
gay people, distort gay people with their hopeless rhetoric and to be
part of a religious fellowship in which they can continue to feel
justified in their homophobic prejudices for the rest of their tortured
lives. Church unity can never be a virtue that is preserved by allowing
injustice, oppression and psychological tyranny to go unchallenged.

In my personal life, I will no longer listen to televised debates
conducted by “fair-minded” channels that seek to give “both sides” of
this issue “equal time.” I am aware that these stations no longer give
equal time to the advocates of treating women as if they are the
property of men or to the advocates of reinstating either segregation
or slavery, despite the fact that when these evil institutions were
coming to an end the Bible was still being quoted frequently on each of
these subjects. It is time for the media to announce that there are no
longer two sides to the issue of full humanity for gay and lesbian
people. There is no way that justice for homosexual people can be
compromised any longer.

I will no longer act as if the Papal office is to be respected if
the present occupant of that office is either not willing or not able
to inform and educate himself on public issues on which he dares to
speak with embarrassing ineptitude. I will no longer be respectful of
the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who seems to believe
that rude behavior, intolerance and even killing prejudice is somehow
acceptable, so long as it comes from third-world religious leaders, who
more than anything else reveal in themselves the price that colonial
oppression has required of the minds and hearts of so many of our
world’s population. I see no way that ignorance and truth can be placed
side by side, nor do I believe that evil is somehow less evil if the
Bible is quoted to justify it. I will dismiss as unworthy of any more
of my attention the wild, false and uninformed opinions of such
would-be religious leaders as Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry
Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Albert Mohler, and Robert Duncan. My country
and my church have both already spent too much time, energy and money
trying to accommodate these backward points of view when they are no
longer even tolerable.

I make these statements because it is time to move on. The battle is
over. The victory has been won. There is no reasonable doubt as to what
the final outcome of this struggle will be. Homosexual people will be
accepted as equal, full human beings, who have a legitimate claim on
every right that both church and society have to offer any of us.
Homosexual marriages will become legal, recognized by the state and
pronounced holy by the church. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” will be
dismantled as the policy of our armed forces. We will and we must learn
that equality of citizenship is not something that should ever be
submitted to a referendum. Equality under and before the law is a
solemn promise conveyed to all our citizens in the Constitution itself.
Can any of us imagine having a public referendum on whether slavery
should continue, whether segregation should be dismantled, whether
voting privileges should be offered to women? The time has come for
politicians to stop hiding behind unjust laws that they themselves
helped to enact, and to abandon that convenient shield of demanding a
vote on the rights of full citizenship because they do not understand
the difference between a constitutional democracy, which this nation
has, and a “mobocracy,” which this nation rejected when it adopted its
constitution. We do not put the civil rights of a minority to the vote
of a plebiscite.

I will also no longer act as if I need a majority vote of some
ecclesiastical body in order to bless, ordain, recognize and celebrate
the lives and gifts of gay and lesbian people in the life of the
church. No one should ever again be forced to submit the privilege of
citizenship in this nation or membership in the Christian Church to the
will of a majority vote.

The battle in both our culture and our church to rid our souls of
this dying prejudice is finished. A new consciousness has arisen. A
decision has quite clearly been made. Inequality for gay and lesbian
people is no longer a debatable issue in either church or state.
Therefore, I will from this moment on refuse to dignify the continued
public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not
tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no
longer tolerate our culture’s various forms of homophobia. I do not
care who it is who articulates these attitudes or who tries to make
them sound holy with religious jargon.

I have been part of this debate for years, but things do get settled
and this issue is now settled for me. I do not debate any longer with
members of the “Flat Earth Society” either. I do not debate with people
who think we should treat epilepsy by casting demons out of the
epileptic person; I do not waste time engaging those medical opinions
that suggest that bleeding the patient might release the infection. I
do not converse with people who think that Hurricane Katrina hit New
Orleans as punishment for the sin of being the birthplace of Ellen
DeGeneres or that the terrorists hit the United Sates on 9/11 because
we tolerated homosexual people, abortions, feminism or the American
Civil Liberties Union. I am tired of being embarrassed by so much of my
church’s participation in causes that are quite unworthy of the Christ
I serve or the God whose mystery and wonder I appreciate more each day.
Indeed I feel the Christian Church should not only apologize, but do
public penance for the way we have treated people of color, women,
adherents of other religions and those we designated heretics, as well
as gay and lesbian people.

Life moves on. As the poet James Russell Lowell once put it more
than a century ago: “New occasions teach new duties, Time makes ancient
good uncouth.” I am ready now to claim the victory. I will from now on
assume it and live into it. I am unwilling to argue about it or to
discuss it as if there are two equally valid, competing positions any
longer. The day for that mentality has simply gone forever.

This is my manifesto and my creed. I proclaim it today. I invite
others to join me in this public declaration. I believe that such a
public outpouring will help cleanse both the church and this nation of
its own distorting past. It will restore integrity and honor to both
church and state. It will signal that a new day has dawned and we are
ready not just to embrace it, but also to rejoice in it and to
celebrate it.

– John Shelby Spong, Retired Episcopal Bishop

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