Essay Archives View as a list
28 March 2013: Did the Crucifixion Take Place at the Time of Passover?
Mark, the earliest gospel to be written (ca. 72 CE) locates the crucifixion of Jesus in the season of Passover, suggesting that the “Last Supper” was a Passover meal. Matthew, the second gospel to be written (ca, 82-85), and Luke, the third (ca. 88-93), follow Mark’s lead and between the three of them the Passover-crucifixion …
At church today, the pastor read a section from the Ephesians. That got me thinking. I presume each of Paul's letters addressed as they were to individual faith groups in different cities, were saved by each group and shared occasionally within that group. Who pulled all of Paul's letters together from the individual groups and when did he do that?
21 March 2013: A Pope is Chosen – Hopes Rise for Change
His name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, but the world will know him as Pope Francis I. He was a surprise selection by the Conclave of Cardinals voting in the Sistine Chapel and he received the required majority of 77 votes on the third ballot cast, a unifying fact. He is from the “Third World,” that …
I am a big fan of your writings and books. I am curious about what you imagine will be the future of the priesthood and pastorship in churches. What is the future of the clergy? I have been wondering if my calling is to serve as a priest, but I am unsure. What advice would you give someone discerning their calling to the ordained life?
14 March 2013: A New Plan for Good Friday
Reclaiming Good Friday as a major focus of both Lent and the Christian story will be at the center of my life this year, when I spend that day in Richmond, Virginia, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. This is the church I served as Rector from 1969-1976 and it is a church to which I …
A few months before the startling announcement of his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI published a book on the birth narratives of Jesus as found in the New Testament. It was a book promised in the publication of a previous book by this Pope, entitled Jesus of Nazareth, which I reviewed in this column more than …
Your comment in a recent column about Paul not being able to say the Nicene Creed prompts a question. We attended your week long seminar in Berkeley, CA, last summer on “Reclaiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World” in which you remarked that a creed is “not a girdle into which we force our flabby faith.” Later, you said that you viewed the creed as a love song and would perhaps reword it. My question is how would you restate the creed to make it not only palatable but meaningful in the 21st century?
28 February 2013: The Pope Resigns: A New Opportunity for the Christian World is Born
The world in general and members of the Roman Catholic Church in particular were shocked at the recent announcement that Pope Benedict XVI was resigning the papal office at the end of February. A moment of transition for this church has arrived. The stated reason for this unusual resignation was age and infirmity, but as is …
I am thankful to say that I watched a speech you made last night and it moved me to the point of tears. I had chills running up and down my spine as I listened to your explanation of the Bible in relation to homosexuality. For years I was filled with self-hatred. As a young adult I have tried t explain the responsibility the church has to the suicide of gay teens and the homophobic nature the church has fueled. My intent has been to show Christians how the church is turning family against family, youth against youth and degrading the self worth of those questioning their sexuality. I personally see the Bible as a living document that Christians will continue to grow and understand as they grow spiritually. I in no way want anyone to change their faith, only the voice and tone in which they express themselves in relation to the discussion of homosexuality. I look forward to finding and reading your publications in the near future. You are a living example of how Christ accepted outcasts and used them to teach the masses. May you forever be blessed and recognized for your contribution to the progressive rights for all humanity. I could never thank you enough for the lives you have saved and hearts to which you have brought much needed love, affection and understanding to. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
John 18 - “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
P.S. If you are ever in the Oklahoma area, I would love to have the opportunity to attend one of your events. May you continue to be blessed with the ability to speak to others and change religious and social views.
21 February 2013: The Birth of Jesus, Part X: Matthew Sources and the Hebrew Scriptures
Reading the Bible with any real comprehension in the 21st century is not an easy task. The gospels are a product of the 1st century, a dramatically different time, and they reflect a vastly different culture. They do not translate easily. Most Christians do not realize that Christianity itself was born in the womb of …
I am an avid reader of your columns and books and I feel much the same way you do regarding faith, theology and church. I have studied theology at both undergraduate and graduate levels at a Catholic university and earned an MA degree in Liturgical Studies. I currently worship as a Catholic and work full-time as music and worship director for a large Catholic parish but, in the climate of the Catholic Church, as a progressive I no longer feel welcome or comfortable as a Catholic anymore. Obviously, to keep my job, I have to at least act like I toe the line, even if I disagree with teachings on contraception and ordination for example I was raised in an ecumenical household; my father’s side of the family is mostly Catholic while my mother’s side is Lutheran-ELCA. I feel very comfortable worshiping with the ELCA, but I also enjoy Episcopal liturgy (the Anglo-Catholic variety anyway) and find both denominations’ liturgies more spiritually fulfilling than the Catholic liturgy, especially with our new text changes. Of course, to convert I would also have to find a new job, but that is a discussion for another day.
I have long felt a desire or “calling” to be in ordained ministry, a priest, a pastor or a minister, not a deacon) but being married that is not an option for me in the Catholic Church. I realize that questions regarding vocation are best discussed with a spiritual director, but, more generally, I do value your opinion on this. With what you say about Christianity, that it must change or die, would it be advisable to become a minister of a mainline Protestant church such as Lutheran-ELCA or EC-USA? I would love to “bring a new church into being” (to paraphrase S. Delores Dufner) as a pastor and challenge people to move beyond outdated beliefs and bad theology to a new wholeness. I’m curious what you think the Church requires more now: well-educated lay people pushing for change or well-educated pastors and ministers being and doing that change. Neither seems welcome in the Catholic Church by the hierarchy so again I speak in the context of main line Protestant and Episcopal Churches. I realize this might not fit the subject matter of the weekly Q&A column but I hope you will answer it anyway.
14 February 2013: The Birth of Jesus, Part IX. Was There Scandal at the Manger?
The prologue to Mathew’s gospel, which also serves to introduce the story of Jesus’ miraculous birth, is now complete. Matthew writing as he does to the members of a traditional Jewish community, who were also the followers of Jesus, has grounded the life of Jesus deeply into Jewish history. Jesus is the son of Abraham, …
I have just finished reading your latest book, Eternal Life: A New Vision and was especially struck by your chapter on mysticism. I am in the process of writing a doctoral thesis on an early 17th century mystic, a founding mother of French Canada. As a business executive now retired, and someone long disillusioned with the Anglican liturgy and credo of my upbringing, I had come to my own conclusions with regard to the unitary experience of the mystical tradition, which my subject clearly felt and the scientific understanding of the unity of all things (of which we are aware in our time, but she was not in hers). In the course of my life, I have learned to have no fear of death although I have experienced it at close hand. I have learned to regard Jesus as a very gifted man, related to the universe as you and I are. I have experienced the sometimes confusing, but very real gift of second sight, of clairvoyance, of knowledge beyond our known senses that we humans have always had, and, in our culture, usually feared. The best I can do, I have thought, is to write my experiences and my own spiritual journey for my children and grandchildren, if it might be of help in their own questing. Now I will enthusiastically join you and others in your movement. How often I have looked at the papal entourage of my relative’s religions and found them to be absurd and so self-serving in their manners and preaching, like the emperor who has no clothes.
With regard to religion, I was raised in the Anglican Church by church-going parents in Toronto, yet in their very old age, both my parents came to their own separate conclusions, unable to believe in the preachings of the church, and both found peace and dignity in an enormous love for life in all its unconceivable mysteries and in generosity of spirit. Neither needed to believe in an afterlife so great was their love of this life with all it revealed in the course of the century they both lived from beginning to end. You can imagine my delight to hear you in a Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) radio interview recently and, in reading your book, to understand how my life’s experiences have led me to similar conclusions to your own. Your courage to write, which I know is not courage but duty, makes the journey so much less lonely.
I believe your work is critical and would like to help. My question as a newcomer to your movement is how you see the church, or any Christian community, progressing into a form, in a practical way, that will call people to participate meaningfully. I simply cannot bring myself to attend a church of any denomination that continues to sing hymns of the Father from the 18th century and reads lessons from the Bible that are interpreted in a way that has no relation whatsoever to the realities of my life. Not to mention the Apostles’ or the Nicene Creeds, which I cannot say because I do not believe them. My children have not been raised in the Church deliberately. One is married to a non-practicing, but theoretical Jew; another is married to a devout atheist; the third is an artist happily conjoined with another artist, both non-theistic and non-religious. All of them are loving, caring and productive people. Two of the three couples have beautiful children. But neither they nor I have a community of like-minded people with whom to celebrate life....yet they do so in creating their own traditions and celebrations around the important events of their lives. The Jewish element remains slightly exclusionary with male members who wear identifying clothing or “beanies” and speak with an identifying “Jewish” lingo and cadence.
While others remain fixed in their religious traditions, the label “Christian” in a progressive movement like yours is bothersome to me as there must be a way to recognize the same conclusions members of other “faiths” are no doubt coming to. It is extremely difficult for believers to let go of their emotional lock hold on outdated beliefs and traditions, as you say. Several close friends in the scientific community are rote members of their congregations, whether Catholic or Christian Jew, and as doctors live what appears to be almost a neurotic belief, fanned and fostered by their respective clergy...no doubt with financial self-interest a factor.
You are a pleasure to read and follow. I wish you every success and hope to join in your movement in a meaningful way.
7 February 2013: Gun Control, Immigration and Senator Hagel: The Manifestations of Cultural Paranoia in our Current Political Debate
There are times when listening to the political debate in this country that I am absolutely astonished. Many of the participants in the current struggles regarding the proposed limitation on assault weapons, or making background checks for gun ownership universal, appear to be responding to a world that I do not believe exists. The debate …
31 January 2013: Malcolm Warnock 1905-2012
He was a remarkable man, a superior lawyer and one who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II. He had many, many friends and I was privileged to be one of them. I knew him for 35 of his 107 years. More than that, I knew him in some deeply personal settings. I …
You are of the persuasion that Jesus was deserted by his disciples. Do you believe that is “literally” true? Does that mean you are “literally” selective of the Bible as you accuse the fundamentalists of being? My feeling is this: no matter what we do or accomplish in the “physical” realm ultimately we will make that final journey alone. Regardless of the number of people who are “present” or have taken up “our” cause, we face death one on one.
P.S. I hold your work and world view in very high regard. Thanks very much for that and all that you have done for me and those like me.
24 January 2013: Inauguration Day 2013
Inauguration day in America is a time of transition, the proper moment to articulate the hopes and dreams of the future. These things are more vivid if the one to be inaugurated is just beginning his or her presidency, but even when it is the beginning of a second term for a sitting president, it …
I understand and support that “you do not think of God theistically,” i.e. what could be called the God of the Old Testament. But, as I have read, the study of theology is based on accepting the fact that a transcendent reality called God truly exists, i.e. there is a God existing outside the material universe, but having an influence or some sort of presence on earth. Do you believe in this concept of a transcendent God and, if so, do the experiences of the disciples and apostles that you attribute to them being transformed into their world-conquering evangelism represent an example of God’s actions here on earth through the mind invasions that produced their seeing an image of Jesus? These concepts seem to me to be a necessary part of including in any “New Christianity.” What do you think?
In Need of a Good Word?
We encourage you to show your support for positive and progressive Christian views by becoming a part of Bishop Spong's growing online community. You'll receive a new column each week on topics in social justice and spirituality that matter most.
Free Q&A Email
Sign up for Bishop Spong's FREE weekly Q&A email.
Looking for something special? Search here:
Browse by Date
Browse our monthly archives: