John Shelby Spong Biography
John Shelby Spong is an American retired bishop of the Episcopal Church. He was the Bishop of Newark, New Jersey from 1979 to 2000. His “Twelve Points for Reform” were originally published in The Voice, the newsletter of the Diocese of Newark, in 1998.
He was born John Shelby “Jack” Spong on June 16, 1931, in Charlotte, North Carolina. John is of American ethnicity. He is 90 years old as of 2021.
No information on his parents or siblings is disclosed to the public. He has kept this field private.
He is married to Christine Mary Spong.
John Shelby Children
John has a big family. Currently, he has five children with his wife.
John Shelby Spong photo
John was educated at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1952.
Furthermore, John received his Master of Divinity degree from the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1955.
Virginia Theological Seminary and Saint Paul’s College in Virginia conferred John honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees. Also, an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters conferred by Muhlenberg College, Pennsylvania.
John Shelby Spong Career
First, he served as rector of St. Joseph’s Church in Durham, North Carolina, from 1955 to 1957. Second, rector of Calvary Parish, Tarboro, North Carolina, from 1957 to 1965. Third, rector of St. John’s Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, from 1965 to 1969. And lastly rector of St. Paul’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, from 1969 to 1976.
Additionally, John has held visiting positions and given lectures at major American theological institutions. Most prominently at Harvard Divinity School. However, he retired in 2000.
As a retired bishop, John is a member of the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops. During his time as Bishop of Newark, confirmed communicants in the diocese drastically halved, from 44,423 in 1978, to 23,073 in 1996.
John Shelby Spong Books
Some of John’s books are listed below:
This Hebrew Lord.
Dialogue: In Search of Jewish-Christian Understanding
Life Approaches Death: A Dialogue on Ethics in Medicine.
The Living Commandments.
The Easter Moment.
Jesus for the Non-Religious.
Eternal Life: A New Vision: Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell.
Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World.
The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic.
Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy.
Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor The Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today.
John Shelby Quotes
“God is not a Christian, God is not a Jew, or a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist. However, all of those are human systems that human beings have created to try to help us walk into the mystery of God. Although I honor my tradition, I walk through my tradition, but I don’t think my tradition defines God. So, I think it only points me to God.”
“The church is like a swimming pool. Most of the noise comes from the shallow end.”
“Moreover, what the mind cannot accept, the heart can finally never adore.”
“Whatever it was that people experience in Jesus has today come to be identified with medieval doctrines based on premodern assumptions that are no longer believable. Additionally, that identification means that serious theological discussion seems to accomplish little more than to erect a division between the shouters and the disinterested.
Jesus becomes the captive of the hysterically religious, the chronically fearful, the insecure, and even the neurotic among us. Otherwise, he becomes little more than a fading memory. The symbol of an age that is no more and a nostalgic reminder of our believing past. Accordingly, to me, neither option is worth pursuing. Yet even understanding these things, I am still attracted to this Jesus and I will pursue him both relentlessly and passionately.
In conclusion, I will not surrender the truth I believe I find in him. Either to those who seek to defend the indefensible or to those who want to be freed finally from premodern ideas that no longer make any sense.”
John Shelby Spong The 12 Theses
Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. Therefore, a new way to speak of God must be found.
Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.
The Biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.
The virgin birth understood as literal biology, makes Christ’s divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.
Again, the miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity.
Too, the view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea. Being based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.
Resurrection is an action of God. Hence, Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. Therefore, it cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.
Moreover, the story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe. Therefore is not capable of being translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age.
For now, there is no external, objective, revealed standard written in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time.
Prayer and hope
Furthermore, prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.
The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.
In short, all human beings bear God’s image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one’s being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.
John Shelby Spong Website
John has an official website. For more books and other information, visit johnshelbyspong.com