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Here I Stand (2001)

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The legendary Episcopal Bishop tells of his lifelong struggle to champion an authentic christianity based on love, not hatred.



Here I Stand is the autobiography of John Shelby Spong, the Episcopal bishop who is a lightning rod for controversy. Spong has for decades been working to popularize an inclusive version of Christianity that avoids racism, sexism, and homophobia; as a result, he has engaged leading conservatives (such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson) in very public conflicts. Here I Stand, predictably, gives a blow-by-blow of Spong’s high-profile battles. More surprisingly, Spong also shares some very intimate details about his life that help to explain the sources of his theology. His southern childhood is related in a manner that is every bit as painful and comic as a Flannery O’Connor story. And the story of his first marriage, to a woman whose mental illness persisted for 15 years, is handled with sensitivity and grace. Despite his occasional rhetorical excesses, Spong’s book is clearly written in love–with God, with the Church, and with the world. “I walk inside the wonder of this God in every experience of life,” he writes at the book’s end. We are fortunate that Spong’s autobiography so expertly conveys this wonder.

From Publishers Weekly

Longtime devotees of Spong, the controversial Episcopal Bishop from Newark, N.J., will be familiar with some of the material in his new memoir, as his earlier books (Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, etc.) are peppered with autobiographical asides, but they will still relish this full-bodied, racy chronicle of Spong’s political and theological journey. Liberal crusader Spong reveals that his concern for the oppressed began in his native Charlotte, N.C., while growing up in an “overtly pious home [where] racism was an operative assumption.” Early on, he rejected the racism of the Jim Crow South and of the Church. Spong devotes the core of this memoir, however, to the battle that has earned him national prominence–the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals in the Episcopal Church. Spong has nothing but condescension for those who don’t share his views, especially the theologically conservative bishops from the Third World. (Many African bishops disagree with Spong’s stance on human sexuality, but rather than engage them, Spong suggests that they have blindly embraced the “fundamentalism” pedaled by English missionaries.) Spong’s naysayers will want to steer clear of this book, which will strike them as just another restatement of his heresy, but his followers will appreciate the characteristically lively prose. (Feb.)

Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In this superb autobiography, Spong (the retiring bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, NJ, and the author of over 15 books, including Why Christianity Must Change or Die and Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism) synthesizes his experiences as the leading spokesperson in America and abroad for liberal Christianity. In 20 well-written and -researched chapters, he remembers the dysfunctional environment of his early childhood, his intellectual and moral formation at the University of North Carolina, the humanization acquired through a loving marriage, and the pastoral responses incumbent of a good shepherd. Having thrown away almost nothing in 45 years of ministry, Spong reviewed files, scrapbooks, date books, and calendars chronicling times of adulation and popularity and times of prophetic loneliness. Spong’s continuing goal is to make Christianity relevant to the modern world. A delicate and scrupulously honest work; recommended for all public and academic libraries. —John-Leonard Berg, Univ. of Wisconsin Lib., Platteville

Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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