October 19, 2009

John Shelby Spong Tired of "Biblical Ignorance' Regarding Homosexuality

Some very strong words were recently issued from the desk of John Shelby Spong, a noted author and former Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark. Here's an excerpt:

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.

There is much, much more posted on the blog A piece of my mind.


  1. off to read the rest.
    Thanks for sharing as always.
    Much Love.

  2. I am familiar with Bishop Spong's writings, and I have read this article several times. While I appreciate his intent, I do not agree with him.

    Some thoughts I have: We should not engage in debate when reciprocal dialogue isn't happening. We should continue to look for venues allowing open dialogue and discussion. We must keep preaching and living into the truth in love, because when we refuse to speak we concede the discussion to those who do speak. I think we have to keep telling our stories, and we need to be open and transparent about how our faith journey guides our lives as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people The battle is not won, and we need to "act as if" - even as we keep working for our rights. I believe that we must engage people in loving ways in order to change hearts and minds.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. I think it is important to put into perspective that Spong is 78. He has gotten to the point where he likely realizes that he may not see all these things come to fruition but he know they will happen. He is also at that point in his life where he does not need to censor himself. He does not have to play nice.