holy crap

John Shelby Spong Is Sooo Over Debating Gays In the Church. Bless Him


When does a call for tolerance and understanding finally become too much? When does it reach a boiling point when queers and their supporters no longer have to even respect the viewpoints of bigots? At what point can we stop dignifying the religious rhetoric that masks human hatred? John Shelby Spong — the 24-year (now former) bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark and current self-described inclusive faith “champion” — has reached that apex. He’s done.

On the veritable eve of the Catholic Church possibly approving a pastoral statement on the dangers to marriage — which include cohabitation, contraception, and yes, the gay marriage, which “redefines the nature of marriage and the family and, as a result, harms both the intrinsic dignity of every human person and the common good of society” — Spong delivers this manifesto, which reads in part:

I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is “an abomination to God,” about how homosexuality is a “chosen lifestyle,” or about how through prayer and “spiritual counseling” homosexual persons can be “cured.” Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate “reparative therapy,” as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality “deviant.” I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that “we love the sinner but hate the sin.” That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement. I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is “high-sounding, pious rhetoric.” The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer. The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance. They no longer talk to anyone but themselves. I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression. There isn’t. Justice postponed is justice denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new understanding was to “Roll on over or we’ll roll on over you!” Time waits for no one.

[…] I make these statements because it is time to move on. The battle is over. The victory has been won. There is no reasonable doubt as to what the final outcome of this struggle will be. Homosexual people will be accepted as equal, full human beings, who have a legitimate claim on every right that both church and society have to offer any of us. Homosexual marriages will become legal, recognized by the state and pronounced holy by the church. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” will be dismantled as the policy of our armed forces. We will and we must learn that equality of citizenship is not something that should ever be submitted to a referendum. Equality under and before the law is a solemn promise conveyed to all our citizens in the Constitution itself. Can any of us imagine having a public referendum on whether slavery should continue, whether segregation should be dismantled, whether voting privileges should be offered to women? The time has come for politicians to stop hiding behind unjust laws that they themselves helped to enact, and to abandon that convenient shield of demanding a vote on the rights of full citizenship because they do not understand the difference between a constitutional democracy, which this nation has, and a “mobocracy,” which this nation rejected when it adopted its constitution. We do not put the civil rights of a minority to the vote of a plebiscite.

I will also no longer act as if I need a majority vote of some ecclesiastical body in order to bless, ordain, recognize and celebrate the lives and gifts of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church. No one should ever again be forced to submit the privilege of citizenship in this nation or membership in the Christian Church to the will of a majority vote.

As we hear church folk say: Amen.

(Thanks, Bethany!)

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  • Sean

    John Shelby Spong has always been a wonderful voice of strength. Amen indeed! :)

  • Qjersey

    He did great work with the LBGT community while he was stationed in Newark. Jersey is much more progressive than we get credit for.

  • Tom in COS

    My favorite line in the entire piece is “Justice postponed is justice denied.” What an amazing, and honest, thought. This should be the new motto of Gay, Inc. Maybe then we would see some results, not in 7 yrs. time.

  • Thom

    God bless John Shelby Spong.

  • Brian

    Hallelujah. It’s about time.

    The above statement is the same as the Declaration:

    “Homosexuality is not wrong, sinful, deviant.”

    It is NOT about “welcoming” or “inclusiveness,” it is about ending the idea that we are “wrong.” Gay-friendly isn’t enough.

    2 out 3 Christians will agree with this statement. We need to illuminate this progressive belief and marginalize the “literal interpretation” Christians. The result will be the “majority” of Americans on our side – on the side of Equality before religion.

    This is a good start. We need more. Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians and others are diving their churches for the sake of full equality for LGBT person. We must help them, as they help us.

  • tinkerbell

    Dang, if this dude had been preaching this when I was a teen, I might have never given science a chance and went the religion route. I’m glad that cutting-edge religion is just now saying we are human, too. Else, I would be praying the flu away and asking a deity to take care of next month’s bills.

    I do applaud this guy. At least he’s taken the courage to question his religion and use his brain for more than “faith.” He sees right for right and wrong for wrong. He has the strength to take a stand for what is just. Thank you, Mr. Spong. You are a decent human being! The gay community owes you our debt for standing up to your own religion on our behalf.

  • Josh

    It looks like Brian is finally getting what he’s been demanding.

    Persistence pays off. We have to figure out how to enroll the “good” religious people. That can be our “movement.”

  • Austin

    It will be interesting to see if he does indeed perform
    a wedding, or ordination,
    and risk being excommunicated by his church.
    The last paragraph sounds like he declares he will.
    If only now someone asks him to officiate their wedding.

  • yar2009

    Spong wrongly conflates the rights of minorities (eg. Blacks, women) with the call for rights based on sexual orientation. Sexual orientation, what ever its etiology, is aberrant as the biology manifestly proclaims in its silent but undeniable witness.
    Spong correctly prophesies the full acceptance of homosexuality. Full except for a remnant which Spong might label as dwindling and inconsequential. After all, what is the world to do with hundreds of millions of homosexuals and other sundry sexual orientations among the teeming multitudes? However, Spong, who calls those opposed to homosexuality ignorant and piously sentimental, is ignorant himself and sentimental himself in replacing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with his diatribes in support of the inclusiveness of sinners while denying the sin, of sinners while not admitting the admonishment: “Go and sin no more.”

  • marsmannetje

    yar2009, please take your admonishment and fuck off.

  • Peter

    Yar2009 Christ said to love thy neighbor as thyself and not to judge others, as he would do that. Now “go and sin no more”. Jesus NEVER said a single word about homosexuality; or that it could be wrong. How could it be wrong when all men were and are created by God in his image. Apparently you were not so lucky.

  • Andrew

    This the best comment from someone “religious” that Queerty has ever published. It makes those Lutherans look silly. John nailed it – homosexuals are not wrong, sinful or deviant.

    It’s beginning to come around Brian. Keep after them.

  • Jaroslaw

    I used to try to have discussions/debates with the religious fundies here at work. Of course, I thought we were talking, they were trying to “save” me which I didn’t realize. Anyway, the one theme they would never acknowledge is the world has changed.

    The majority of the people I was talking to were Black women. How could BLACK WOMEN not acknowledge the world changed? Slavery is more or less condoned in the Bible as well as the inferior status of women. Someone please explain this to me. Discussions ended when one of the women made a “harrassment” complaint. I guess when it was clear I wasn’t going to be converted, then they didn’t want to discuss anymore…

  • naprem

    Damn. Somebody got told.

  • Brian

    From ChristianPost.com:

    John Shelby Spong’s new manifesto is a sign of the times. For the past three decades, Bishop Spong has staked out a theological position that is so far outside the realm of Christian orthodoxy that it defies description. In a succession of notorious publications, Spong has denied virtually every conceivable doctrine and has embraced almost every imaginable heresy. His abandonment of biblical Christianity is both intentional and straightforward – what this bishop demands is nothing less than the total reformulation of the Christian faith. In other words, Bishop Spong would replace Christianity with a new post-Christian religion while continuing to be recognized as a bishop of the Episcopal Church.

    An ardent proponent of gay rights and the total normalization of homosexuality, Bishop Spong has long pressed for same-sex unions and the ordination of practicing homosexuals to every office in his church. In his new manifesto, he simply declares victory for his cause. Though skirmishes in many churches and denominations continue, the bishop is convinced that the final outcome of the struggle is clear: “Homosexual people will be accepted as equal, full human beings, who have a legitimate claim on every right that both church and society has to offer any of us. Homosexual marriages will become legal, recognized by the state and pronounced holy by the church.”pronounced holy by the church.”

  • Jaroslaw

    Brian #15

    What people fail to realize (and I know I already touched on this in my other post) is that almost everything in the world is changing on a continuous basis. Some things very slowly, but changing nonetheless.

    I have read a lot of Bishop Spong’s opinions and no he hasn’t “denied virtually every conceivable doctrine.” Jesus must be appalled indeed by groups speaking in his name.

  • John R.

    The cries of homophobia, hatred, etc. from homosexualists like Spong is not unlike the medieval cries of Heretic!, Heretic!, Heretic!

    We forget that homosexual behavior is a behavior, and if the Biblical censures against homosexual activity are now outdated, why then aren’t the censures against incestuous behavior, bestiality, murder, stealing, etc.?

    At the end of the day, the homosexualist side relies on a highly subjective belief that homosexual behavior is normal, natural and healthy. If truth is relative then so is the notion that homosexual behavior and heterosexual behavior are not just equal but equivalent.

    Consequently, the cries of homophobia that leveled against those who dissent against gay orthodoxy are not any different than cries of heresy that were leveled against those who dissented from Catholic orthodoxy in the Middle Ages.

    Spong would make a great Grand Inquisitor for the gay Inquisition.

  • crbn

    One may be tempted of accusing Spong of giving up the battle but, I tell you, when you have lived over 70 years on this planet, you should be forgiven for “a act of desperation”. One reaches a point where one is exasperated over the arguements of the fundamentalists amongst us.

    In an arguement with my oponents I have allways tried to be both logical and rational, but when I think that the arguement has been one I am met with the engender that “it’s in the Bible which is inerrant”. I have often pointed out that what is in the Bible is often contradictonary; that experts do not agree about the translation and that it’s interpretation varies from sect to sect; all to no avail. At that point I realise that my attempts at a rational arguementation have fallen down. I am then asked to have faith in something that neither they or I can prove rationally based on an inerrant interpretation of that Book. Sorry, I can’t do that and, that is Spongs dilema as well. We have both given up the belief that we can convince our oponents by rational arguement. Hence we are no longer willing to continue the dialogue.

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