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5 March 2015: William Maurice, i.e. Willie Mo, I Baptize You

It was a strangely emotional moment for me. I was in All Saint’s Church in Austin, Texas, holding in my arms a nine months old baby boy, preparing to baptize him. He was the first grandchild in my only brother’s family, a grandchild he would never see or know. My brother, William Conwell Spong, died …

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Q & A:

You often mention Elaine Pagels and Karen Armstrong. What are your thoughts on the writings of Joan Chittister – especially her book: Called to Question?

Also, I would like your opinion of the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

 

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26 February 2015: Part XLII Matthew – Identifying the Sources of the Passion Narrative

If we can demonstrate that Jesus never spoke the words, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” from the cross, but that rather the earliest gospel writers, Mark and Matthew, lifted those words directly and verbatim out of Psalm 22 in order to place them into Jesus’ mouth in the passion narrative, then …

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Q & A:

Recently I read your articles on “Atonement Theology.” While I agree with you, I am left with a question. All four gospels give considerable attention to the crucifixion and death of Jesus even more than to the resurrection. Atonement theology explains this. What is your explanation of the importance given to Christ's crucifixion and death in the gospels?

 

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19 February 2015: Part XLI Matthew – Entering the Passion Narratives

We looked last week at the passion narratives in the New Testament. We noted the additions, the deletions and the contradictions found in these central stories of our faith tradition. We asked the obvious questions. How accurate can narratives be when they do not agree with one another? This week, we press deeper into these …

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Q & A:

I was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church in my teens. Eventually, I left because I could no longer accept parts of the Nicene Creed as literally true. Due to your writings and the modern liberal paradigm of our current Presiding Bishop, I have returned to the church. Unfortunately, I have met with some opposition from several clergy members who are concerned that my beliefs are not “orthodox enough.” One local rector actually “interviewed” me and refused to admit me to membership status. I am perplexed. I know some parishes are more conservative than others, but I hadn’t expected to run into this sort of trouble. Do you have any advice for me? I sure could use some help.

 

 

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12 February 2015: Part XL Matthew – The Passion Narrative Begins

It is a familiar story. It has been burned into the collective consciousness of the Christian world over the centuries. Many of its elements have long since left their place of origin in the gospel narratives to become part of the secular world. Almost every one of us, whether Christian or not, has heard of …

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Q & A:

I attended an event sponsored by an Episcopal Seminary, likely laying foundations for fundraising. Hearing how seminarians are prepared for their encounter with fundamentalists, e.g. those anticipating the Rapture, I posed the question: Can (and should) Christianity be experienced fully and to good effect on a non-metaphysical platform? Expressed differently, will the graduates of this seminary generally be comfortable ministering to a congregation that finds metaphysical formulations of Christianity off-putting?

The response I received was to the effect that, while some Episcopalians have a non-metaphysical faith that works for them, the role of metaphysics remains strong. I take from that an assumption that a proper formation of seminarians need not include serious consideration of Christian faith without metaphysics.

While I believe that financial support of seminaries is critical to a vibrant future for the church, that future seems to me at risk if seminarians aren’t encouraged to envision a faith without metaphysics. Are some (Episcopal) seminaries less frightened by traditionalists and fundamentalists? Your writings are acknowledged but, at least in this case, kept at a distance. What have you found hopeful in the formation of our future church leaders?

 

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5 February 2015: Part XXXIX Matthew – The Apocalypse and the End of the World

In Matthew’s narrative, the Jewish year came to an end with the month of Adar. The Passover would be the first celebration of the New Year which began with the month of Nisan. Passover, according to the Torah, however, did not occur until the 14th and 15th days of the month of Nisan. If Matthew …

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Q & A:

Why do Christian ministers have to wear a uniform, big crosses, colored tunics, etc.? It is very off-putting to me and I think it acts as a barrier. Jesus did not have to wear those things, he was one of the people and had to be recognized by a kiss on the cheek.

 

 

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29 January 2015: Marcus J. Borg 1942-2015

He was one of the giants in the Christian faith during the last 25 years, widely read, widely known and widely respected. He was a quiet man, humble and unassuming, yet simultaneously he was brilliant, provocative and stretching. He was one of the three major shakers and movers of the Jesus Seminar, the other two …

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Q & A:

I am a 54 year-old gay man who "came out" to my parents (and others) in the early 1980s. Of course, at that time there was a great deal of homophobia in America and one of my struggles was the negative reaction of my mother, who had raised us in the Methodist Church. Somehow, however, by the late 1980s my mother started to become more accepting, perhaps naturally "softening" on the gay issue as it related to her son, but also influenced by social changes around her.

Somewhat ironically, some of her changing views came from within her church, which by that time was the Episcopal Church, my mother having changed denominations. At the time I was dimly aware that the Episcopal Church was a forerunner in the religious movement to fully accept gays. In any event, I can remember around 1990, my mother made a point to tell me about a new book she’d read by Bishop Spong of Newark, challenging and reinterpreting some commonly held biblical injunctions against homosexuality. The book was Living in Sin? A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality. At the time, to be honest, having made great progress in my own self-acceptance as a gay man, I had little interest in what any person, such as yourself, within “organized religion,” had to say, good or bad, on the subject.

Of course, my mother had been inspired by your book, but in mentioning it for me to read, she was “really” saying that she had reconciled her religious beliefs with my (and others‘) sexuality and had become accepting. Quite an evolution in only a few years-and of course I was delighted.

Skip to this past weekend when, due to my mother’s recent move to a senior facility, I was sorting through some of her books and came across Living in Sin? In the past few days, I read a few chapters, including the excellent one about what the Bible really says-and doesn’t say-about homosexuality. In other words, I was “discovering” 35 years later, the book that had helped transform my mother. I look forward to finishing the book in the near future.

Thank you, Bishop Spong, for your book that is indeed provocative, powerful and compelling and has, in the way I described above, made a difference in my immediate family. I am happy to see you are still writing and being read by many. I will visit your website from time to time, to see some of your latest work. My above account may be written a bit roughly but it is sincere.

 

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22 January 2015: Part XXXVIII Matthew – The First Confirmation Class

Most people are not aware that Judaism, at the time of Jesus, had become a missionary, conversion-oriented religion. People all over the Roman Empire were finding their way into synagogues and many of them were deciding to convert. This movement was large enough that the Jewish authorities had to develop a program for the incorporation …

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Q & A:

My question is: What is the soul? Is it separate from the body and what happens to it when we die? I really enjoy your books, but have not yet found the answer. None of us around the table here seem to know.

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15 January 2015: Part XXXVII Matthew – The Impact of Deuteronomy on the Journey of Jesus to Jerusalem

When the Transfiguration experience was over, Matthew tells us that Jesus and his disciples came down from that mountain. It had been a transformative experience for the disciples, Matthew suggests, because they had seen a new dimension of Jesus’ life opening before them. He has been portrayed in the Transfiguration story as the “New Temple,” …

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Q & A:

It has been said that we do not know who or what God is. In light of that, do you believe that Jesus had a different concept of God, particularly since he referred to him as “Abba” and seemed to expect that his prayers would be answered?

 

 

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8 January 2015: Part XXXVI Matthew: The Execution of John the Baptist: History, Myth or Midrash?

  Salome was a dancer, she danced before the king. She wiggled and she wobbled and she shook most everything. The king said, “Salome, there’ll be no scandal here!” Salome said, “To heck with that” and kicked the chandelier! That bit of doggerel is from a song sung at church camp in my youth. It …

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Q & A:

I am thoroughly enjoying your weekly study on the Gospel of Matthew. I feel it would make a wonderful Bible study in the church. Are you planning to collect these weekly reflections (series) into a printed book and, if so, when might it be published? I encourage you to consider this possibility...it would make a terrific resource for a church or college library. Thank you.

Also, I am currently reading the book The Mind Behind the Gospels: A Commentary to Matthew 1-14 by Herbert Basser. Are you familiar with this title? I am finding it a superb line-by-line commentary on Matthew.

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1 January 2015: Part XXXV Matthew – Getting Back in Touch with our Source

I return this week to our study of Matthew’s gospel after a rather long hiatus, which allowed me the opportunity to address other pressing topics such as my visit to a Nazi Concentration Camp in what is now The Czech Republic, an analysis of the impact of communism on Eastern Europe and finally, what it …

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Q & A:

Are you familiar with Phyllis Tickle’s book The Great Emergence and her analysis of where we are in terms of the 500-year cycle of “great” changes? Does it make sense to you? Does “Emergent Christianity” seem to be the wave of the future for faith? Will its impact be primarily on the established church or will it be a new form of faith altogether?

 

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