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28 November 2007: An Anglican Priest and an Anglican Church in New Zealand: Sources of a New Hope

It was a very different kind of liturgy. The opening hymn was by New Zealand hymn writer Shirley Murray, exhorting the community of Christ to cry out for justice and peace – to disarm the powers of war and to turn bombs into bread and the tears of anguish into joy. Yet, these strong words …

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Q & A:

Thank you for the inspiring and informative

article about the present struggles in the Episcopal Church and

Anglican Communion. [See An

Audacious Institution.] I had not known about the

super-majority required to pass the policy, nor had I known about

the small size and aging nature of the splinter groups. I hope

you will submit a version of this same piece for publication as

an op-ed piece in several prominent newspapers. These facts need

to be more widely known by those who are not already convinced of

the wisdom and humanity of your church's position.

On another subject, I recently read your book A

New Christianity for a New World immediately after reading

Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. I was struck by how

much the two of you agree! I'm wondering if you have read his

book and what you think of his arguments there. (By the way, he

speaks highly of you at one point in the book).

I'm a member of Christ Lutheran Church in Pacific Beach,

California, and have heard you speak there and elsewhere in San

Diego on several occasions. My wife and I were among the

facilitators of our church's welcoming statement. I have been

frustrated for some time at the language that continues to be

used in the services that reinforces and prolongs the theistic

concept of God. A welcome topic for a future piece would be

suggestions for substitutions for outmoded language in the

liturgy.

Thank you for continuing to speak and write your

beliefs.

Read the Answer...

21 November 2007: A Conversation on Death in New Zealand

“There were two ways that people seemed to relate to the death of my wife. Those who perceive death as the opposite of life tended to look at her death negatively, as a tragedy; while those who tended to look at death as the opposite of birth saw it as the completion of a process, …

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Q & A:

I am an avid reader of your books and was delighted that you

have written yet another one. Thank you for making scholarly

research related to the Bible accessible to the general public.

I have given copies of your books to dozens of friends and

relatives over the years in an effort to generate dialogue among

Christians and non-Christians alike. I think Jesus for the

Non-Religious is particularly useful for humanists/agnostics

who want to understand the historical Jesus. Thank you for this

book!

As a member of the "Church Alumni Association," I have been

frustrated by many aspects of the church, for reasons that you

describe so well in Why Christianity Must Change or Die.

However, I was delighted to discover, relatively recently, a

spiritual path that works for me: Attending Quaker meetings in

the unprogrammed/silent tradition. It seems to me that the

Quaker concept (that of "God in everyone") relates to Paul

Tillich's idea of God as "the Ground of All Being," which you

often discuss. Do you have any thoughts on this? I have so much

respect for your work, and I would be delighted to hear your

reflections on Quakerism, Quaker thinkers/activists, and your

experience in a Quaker meeting, if you've ever attended one.

Read the Answer...

14 November 2007: Lecturing in Central Otago, New Zealand

Most of my readers will not have heard of Central Otago. Otago is the name of a Southern Province in New Zealand stretching roughly from Dunedin on the southeast coast to Queenstown in the west. South from Dunedin the next land mass confronted would be Antarctica. Central Otago is marked by two magnificent glacial lakes: …

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Q & A:

I have shared your thoughts with many people, and the most

frequent response I hear is: "If I could find a church

whose pastor spoke like Bishop Spong, I wouldn't miss a Sunday."

Are there any churches in South Jersey that share your vision of

what a church could be?

Read the Answer...

7 November 2007: The Five Fundamentals: A Conclusion

If the “Five Fundamentals” articulated by traditional Christians in the early years of the 20th century represent the essence of Christianity then the time has come to acknowledge that we have come to the end of this noble faith tradition. Those “Fundamentals” assume a supernatural, theistic deity, who manipulates the laws of the universe to …

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Q & A:

I love your writing and your views that embrace
compassionate deeds rather than creedal concepts. It seems to me
that your message would have a much broader appeal if you opened
your invitation to follow your belief paradigm to all comers, not
just Christians; and broadened your teaching authority to other
sages and ethical and moral teachers beyond Jesus. I think your
call and message could be far more inclusive than being
restricted to Christians alone. Have you ever addressed a
non-Christian audience and broadened your message to accept their
way of worshipping God?

Read the Answer...

31 October 2007: The Fifth Fundamental The Second Coming

The last of the Five Fundamentals claimed by American Protestant Traditionalists as the irreducible essence of Christianity has to do with the second coming of Jesus. To modern ears it is the most bizarre of the five and is based, I believe, on a misunderstanding of the Christ experience that was later literalized. However, that …

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Q & A:

I have been a subscriber to your weekly newsletter for some

time. I sincerely appreciate your opening up an entirely

different interpretation of biblical events, making it possible

for a person to question the literal view without feeling like

an evil person. I have certainly gained important insights into

the Bible and learned much about what doesn't make sense in the

literal interpretations. Of your several books, which do you

feel would be the most helpful and informative to read if I am

primarily looking for your view on what the Bible and

Christianity mean when they are stripped of the literal

interpretations?

Read the Answer...

24 October 2007: The Fourth Fundamental:The Historicity and meaning of the Resurrection Experience, Part VI

Something clearly happened to the band of Jesus’ disciples at some point following his crucifixion that was profound, life changing and deeply real. We have no written records between 30 C.E. and 50 C.E. from any source that purports to describe what that experience was. However, we can chart some dramatic changes that occurred in …

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Q & A:

Thank you for being the light that you are,

shining forth with your truth as your heart guides you to do.

Thank you, too, for so eloquently and clearly stating so many of

the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about Jesus and modern

Christianity that have been rolling inside me since I was first

old enough to understand what I was being taught in the Lutheran

churches. I fully believe that Jesus was the true embodiment of

God, or Spirit, or whatever name you choose to give to that

Universal Source, and that Jesus was the mirror that reflects

the "Christ nature" that is available to each one of us. I am

also of the belief that Mohammed, Buddha, and founders of other

religions expressed a similar God presence that spoke to people

whose traditions were different than those of the Jewish

background from which Jesus came. Because of this, I believe

that a true and dedicated follower of Islam or Buddhism or

Hinduism or any other religious tradition, though they are not

"born-again Christians," can express the same Christ nature that

Christians associate with a true connection with God or Spirit

or Universal Source; when they transition from this human life

to what they call paradise, nirvana, or enlightenment, they are

speaking about the same thing that Christians mean by "heaven."

I am interested in hearing your thoughts on other religious

traditions and their similarities to or difference with your

vision of a personal connection to God.

Read the Answer...

24 October 2007: The Fourth Fundamental: Miracles and the Resurrection, Part V

Something clearly happened to the band of Jesus’ disciples at some point following his crucifixion that was profound, life changing and deeply real. We have no written records between 30 C.E. and 50 C.E. from any source that purports to describe what that experience was. However, we can chart some dramatic changes that occurred in …

Read More…

Q & A:

Thank you for being the light that you are,

shining forth with your truth as your heart guides you to do.

Thank you, too, for so eloquently and clearly stating so many of

the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about Jesus and modern

Christianity that have been rolling inside me since I was first

old enough to understand what I was being taught in the Lutheran

churches. I fully believe that Jesus was the true embodiment of

God, or Spirit, or whatever name you choose to give to that

Universal Source, and that Jesus was the mirror that reflects

the "Christ nature" that is available to each one of us. I am

also of the belief that Mohammed, Buddha, and founders of other

religions expressed a similar God presence that spoke to people

whose traditions were different than those of the Jewish

background from which Jesus came. Because of this, I believe

that a true and dedicated follower of Islam or Buddhism or

Hinduism or any other religious tradition, though they are not

"born-again Christians," can express the same Christ nature that

Christians associate with a true connection with God or Spirit

or Universal Source; when they transition from this human life

to what they call paradise, nirvana, or enlightenment, they are

speaking about the same thing that Christians mean by "heaven."

I am interested in hearing your thoughts on other religious

traditions and their similarities to or difference with your

vision of a personal connection to God.

Read the Answer...

10 October 2007: The Fourth Fundamental: Miracles and the Resurrection, Part V

Did Jesus literally and physically walk out of his grave, restored to life, on the third day following his crucifixion? Those who drafted the Five Fundamentals thought so and insisted that anyone who did not say a convincing “yes” to that proposition could no longer claim to be a Christian. The resurrection of Jesus in …

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Q & A:

I am a member of the Spiritual Quest group at St. Mark's

Episcopal Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. One of the topics

we have been studying is the ancient Wheel of the Year and the

relationships of pagan beliefs, customs, and celebrations to

those of Christianity. At the vernal equinox, we found a

variety of very interesting stories, one of which follows: In

Rome, about 200 years before the birth of Christ, there was a

wide range of what we today would call "mystery cults." Attis

and Cybele held their vernal equinox rituals at the same place

where St. Peter's Basilica now stands in the Vatican - the

center of Catholicism today. Attis was also known under various

names such as Osiris, Dionysus, Tammuz, and Orpheus. The Attis

and Cybele festival had a death or day of blood, three days of

semi-death, then a return to life for the deceased. Attis'

mother was called Nana and she was a virgin - no surprise there.

Attis was crucified on a pine tree and his followers ate his

body; his blood was spilled or released to renew/redeem the

earth. Attis was both a sacrificial victim and a savior, his

death and re-birth intended to bring salvation to mankind. Most

researchers will declare that Attis is clearly the prototype for

Christ. (This information is from

target="_new">Ireland's Druidschool Web site). It appears

that the Christian churches tried to win over the pagans by

taking over or blending in with their celebrations at these

particular times of the year pertaining to the sun, moon,

fertility, harvest, and otherworldly observances like Halloween.

Does the church calendar have any meaning? Does it really

matter? How does all this complicate our understanding of God,

Jesus, and our ministry in the world? And, lastly, what do you

think about it?

Read the Answer...

3 October 2007: Unexpected Serendipities from Australia

My lecture tour of Australia apparently tapped into a spiritual hunger that seems to be omni-present in that land. Book store lecture events in Sydney, Melbourne, Malvern, Frankston and Adelaide drew standing room only crowds that were limited only by the size of the bookstore. Some of them, in Sydney, Frankston and Adelaide, seeing the …

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Q & A:

I have been reading your books and weekly Internet essays for a long time. I even had the chance to meet you when you lectured in Houston, and I attended other lectures you gave here, all of which have enriched me. Here is what lies heavy on my heart now: It occurs to me that the Episcopal Church has not heretofore established a rule (I do not know if "rule" is the correct term) that gays and lesbians can't marry one another, or a rule that would prevent a gay or lesbian person from becoming a priest or bishop. Otherwise, why are certain bishops trying to get these rules carved in stone in an either/or way? It also occurs to me that those who favor these rules are the ones who are breaking away from those who do not favor them and/or who have blessed the marriages and appointed the bishop. What comes to mind is the cause of the first schism in the Church, between Western Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. That came about when one side, the Romans, acted without following established practice, which was that all decisions must be made by unanimous consent of the bishops. The debate at that time was about whether the Holy Spirit came from the Father or from the Father and the Son (the filioque clause). Rome, not Constantinople, caused this schism, at least according to what my Orthodox friends told me when my wife and I took the pilgrimage to Russia in 1988 to celebrate the millennium of Christianity in Russia. It's ironic that the ones who do not wish to break away from the others are the ones being blamed (and cursed, I assume) for creating the threat of schism in out time. I guess they are doing this so they can claim the properties owned by the Church and be in the position to force the departure of the "dissenters." In view of this, I urge the ones who do not favor the new rules not to take a defensive attitude in this affair, but, instead, continue to open their doors, minds, and hearts to those who do, with the hope that all will realize that it is Christ's Church. Before I end this message, I want to ask a question about the deadline. Who gave any bishop the authority to set a deadline on another bishop for the settlement of any issue that confronts the Church? To me, this is another example of the anarchy mindset that has befallen our government and now our Church. Thank you for your efforts in support of those who others want to marginalize.

Read the Answer...

26 September 2007: Pitt Street Uniting Church, Sydney, Australia The Face of Tomorrow’s Congregation

Some twenty years or so ago the leaders of Australia’s Uniting Church, a body that came into being in 1979 as a merger of Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists, with samplings of some other smaller Protestant bodies, decided that the Pitt Street Uniting Church of Sydney was doomed and probably should be closed. Its empty pews …

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Q & A:

I was a Christian once - for about 18 years, or most of my

adult life. But then I read the Bible honestly and realized it

was mostly evil. I am now Pagan/Hindu and will never be a

Christian again. I know you agree that there is much evil in

the Bible. You even reject basic Christian doctrines like being

born in sin, the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus' blood for those

who believe and heaven and hell. How then are you still a

Christian? The depiction of Satan in the Bible is far better

that the depiction of God. If the Bible reflects God in any way

truly, then he is a monster and Satan is a hero for rebelling.

Don't you agree? So, why are you still a Christian?

Read the Answer...

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