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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 …
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.
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 …
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,” …
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 …
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.
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 …
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?
24 December 2014: A Letter to my Community of Readers
Dear Friends: As the calendar in the year 2014 dictates this column should arrive at your email address at about 2:00 o’clock A.M. Eastern Standard Time on December 25th. I have a fantasy that all of my east coast readers in the United States set their alarms for 2:00 A.M. each week so that they …
18 December 2014: “Fear Not” – The Message of Christmas in a Frightened World
Christmas will dawn in 2014 in a world gripped by a growing sense of fear. We have recently experienced that pervasive emotion in almost every phase of our life in the United States. The content of that fear has struck our citizens in successive waves: a possible worldwide epidemic, a renewed war in the Middle …
11 December 2014: Standing on the Boundary Between Death and Life. Charles Robinson 1931-2014 R.I.P.
His name was Charles. His wife of 57 years, and now his widow, was named Cynthia. He was a lawyer who, after ten years and with a wife and three small children, gave up the practice of law to follow his heart. He became an artist of some note and an illustrator of many books. …
Bishop Spong spoke at Clemson United Methodist Church in Clemson, SC. He asked if we had questions. We were to write them down and get them to him. Situations arose that prevented getting my question to him. This is my question, because it is a question that my granddaughter asks regularly: WHAT is God?
4 December 2014: Insights from Behind the Iron Curtain
I made my second trip in the last two years behind what was once known as the Iron Curtain recently. There I saw the impact of communism that had been imposed by force of arms on these countries. I also saw what has happened since communism’s fall in the latter years of the 20th century. …
I read your essays and have read some of your books and have enjoyed both. You certainly give us a lot to think about and a new way of viewing our faith, which I appreciate so much. However, I was wondering, given your analysis of our current liturgy, what would be your ideal look like for an Episcopal Eucharist? Would you start over and rewrite it completely or just replace some of the verbiage in some of the prayers/creeds?
27 November 2014: Do Our Seminaries Prepare Clergy for Today’s World?
Writing about the Theological School at Drew University this past week caused me to think about theological education in general and my own theological education in particular. I loved the experience I had at the Protestant Episcopal Seminary in Virginia (VTS), but a year after graduating I realized that the gap between what my seminary …
I have read your book Eternal Life: A New Vision with great interest and have found in it much to which I can relate. Apart from a brief mention of childhood prayers (which frightened you because of their association with death) you do not say whether we should pray to this God of yours whom we should strive to find deep within ourselves. Theologians like John Bowker, however, hold that prayer is essential and holds the key to growing into a knowledge of God – whatever we mean by that term. Your thoughts on this subject please.
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