Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bishop Spong's Manifesto

This is cathartic. It is Bishop John Shelby Spong's Manifesto. Some of my favorite sentences:

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.
He is just warming up...
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.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
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.
Thank you! There is no middle ground any more than there is 3/5 of a person. Those who advocate for a so-called "middle ground" that continues to keep unjust rules in our ecclesiastical rule books or unjust laws in our civil governments are chicken shits who hide behind privilege.
I will particularly ignore those members of my own Episcopal [or Presbyterian] Church who seek to break away from this body to form a "new church," claiming that this new and bigoted instrument alone now represents the Anglican [or Reformed] Communion. Such a new ecclesiastical body is designed to allow these pathetic human beings, who are so deeply locked into a world that no longer exists, to form a community in which they can continue to hate gay people, distort gay people with their hopeless rhetoric and to be part of a religious fellowship in which they can continue to feel justified in their homophobic prejudices for the rest of their tortured lives. Church unity can never be a virtue that is preserved by allowing injustice, oppression and psychological tyranny to go unchallenged.
I added the red lettered "Presbyterian" and "Reformed" to make it personal. Personalize it by adding the name of your favorite sect.
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.
We'll get you gay hitched for Jesus right here, right now.
I have been part of this debate for years, but things do get settled and this issue is now settled for me. I do not debate any longer with members of the "Flat Earth Society" either. I do not debate with people who think we should treat epilepsy by casting demons out of the epileptic person; I do not waste time engaging those medical opinions that suggest that bleeding the patient might release the infection.
I wonder if I should still debate with those who think Cain and Abel played with dinos?
This is my manifesto and my creed. I proclaim it today. I invite others to join me in this public declaration.
I am with you, Bishop. That was fun. Read the whole thing. More Light Presbyterians has linked to it as well.

The point I take away from this exercise is that there is no argument. There is no debate. There are no "sides." There is no middle way between "extremes." There is justice and there is injustice.

To suggest that there is argument, debate, sides, middle ground, extremes, etc. is to give credence to oppression and to affirm that treating people like second-class citizens is a reasonable position.

We need more people to follow the lead of Bishop Spong and speak clearly. This clear speech is what is required to penetrate the fog of homophobic propaganda and the hand wringing of the weak-kneed who unwittingly corroborate with it.

Here is some more inspiration:


  1. "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."

    But that's what a Democracy is all about - submitting to the will of the majority. Bishop Spong must be for a Republic.

  2. I dunno. It isn't so much a question of Biblical ignorance, I think. There are, without doubt or question, passages of the Bible that view homosexuality as either 1) an abomination or 2) unnatural. There is also a broader metanarrative of justice, love, and reconciliation within the Bible that resists the condemnation of homosexuality, and calls us to affirm the covenant relationships of Christian gays and lesbians.

    The issue here is not whether folks know their scripture. It's whether folks know how to properly interpret it in the light of the grace given by the Holy Spirit.

  3. That Spong is still a bishop is utterly deplorable. He is living, breathing proof that many Christians have reacted so strongly against fundamentalism that their own leftist tendencies are every bit as problematic and unorthodox as those they despise.

    To cite only one problem:
    "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."

    He's a bishop! He was made a priest, and later a bishop, by "some ecclesiastical body"! We have reached the point where our own personal agendas are more important that the church in which we serve. The body of Christ has become secondary to our own whims, and it is tragic.

    And as for his rhetoric against the breakaway churches - how stupid! He's an Anglican! They broke away from Rome for a divorce. There is no room for high-and-mighty language of cowardice when your own Church is the result of so trivial a break.

    Does not celebrating gay unions really constitute "hating" gays? Come now. Our new understanding of human sexuality is at least new enough that those who disagree with it can be seen, some of the time, as honest folks who don't necessarily "hate." I'm not sure that Spong's canon-within-the-canon includes that bit about "love for enemies."

  4. I agree Pastor Mack.

    I am sure that many of the good white folks who supported segregation and opposed "miscegenation," didn't hate blacks either.

  5. Hi John,
    Since I like to tap dance in mine fields lets get this started.

    You added this to the end
    We need more people to follow the lead of Bishop Spong and speak clearly. This clear speech is what is required to penetrate the fog of homophobic propaganda and the hand wringing of the weak-kneed who unwittingly corroborate with it.

    What exactly did he clearly state? I did not hear it. I heard…Flat earth people… tortured lives…a religious belief that no long exists. Not much to meat there.

    Ok, I went to and read his whole manifest destiny. It sounded a lot like, you don’t agree with me, “the hell with you and horse you rode in on”.

  6. It's Mary E.

    "Not much to meat there."


  7. I think Spong is right on! So much so that I can't even be bothered with addressing the stunning assortment of comments left in the middle of the road like so many road apples after a circus parade.

  8. "Ok, I went to and read his whole manifest destiny. It sounded a lot like, you don’t agree with me, “the hell with you and horse you rode in on”."

    And how is that different from the radical right agenda in the PCUSA in which churches are picking up their toys from the sandbox and leaving?

    Oh right, it's not.

    Now I'm far more interested in the connectional church than Spong seems to be, and I disagree with him as often as not. But, I think he's saying what's good for the goose is good for the gander. So if people want to complain about his disinterest in connectionalism, I'll be happy to see where they have made similar complaints about the far right breaking covenant with the PCUSA so I know whether or not to take their complaints seriously.

    You know, just to be consistent. ;)

  9. Well, well -- seems to be some disagreement here about whether GLBT human rights are a problem . . .

    But Spong has been in the trenches too long.

    It's up to the rest of us to keep on engaging the rabid right wing. Otherwise, their screwed-up ideas will end up once more being the law of the land.

    The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Like 'em or despise 'em, as President Obama keeps demonstrating, we have to at least engage with the enemy if we can't bring ourselves to love 'em.

    So -- I disagree with both "John's" for justice-compassion reasons as well as self-preservation.

  10. HA! A propos of all this, see today's New York Times, in which it is reported that the Vatican is reaching out to disenfranchised Anglicans who are unhappy with the liberal fight over GLBT humanity.

    Here's a link, if you can copy the whole thing:

  11. I'm shocked that no one is bothered by this golden-calf-style drooling over Spong. This is a bishop that questions basic Christian beliefs like the bodily resurrection. This is who we are taking our cues from?

    And if your big deal is going to be gay marriage, at least discuss it THEOLOGICALLY. Give me something that at least looks Christian; boiling it down to "hate" just makes it as pointless a conversation as everything on cable news. Try out some Eugene Rogers or something. But right now, all you're doing is proving that the left can be as hostile and narrow-minded as the far right.

  12. "Give me something that at least looks Christian; boiling it down to "hate" just makes it as pointless a conversation as everything on cable news."

    There is no practical nor theological reason for the United States of America to discriminate against LGBT people for the purposes of marriage.

    Why dignify bigotry by attempting to reason with it?

    This isn't about reasoned theological debate. The debate is over and the rabid right lost. This isn't about reasoned practical debate either. I have been asking for concrete actual real examples of straight married people whose marriages have been "destroyed" by gay marriage, and I've never been given one example ever.

    So if the evidence isn't there, what is there to argue about?

    Some opinions are just stupid. I realize that in this day and age when we're supposed to be all touchy-feely about "self-esteem", etc., that it's no longer PC to say such things, but I believe it's true. So why would I argue with stupid opinions? They're not worth it.

    The information is out there. The theological arguments are over. The practical arguments are over. No one has said anything new in these debates for years. So I can only assume that people who remain ignorant want to remain so. Why bother engaging with them, when they refuse to do any real intellectual work?

  13. I agree with Spong. There's engagement, and then there is beating your head against a wall. You can't reason with hatemongers who choose to take the moral low ground and then use their own narrow minded take on the Bible to justify their position. These people have already rejected reason and instead have used religious dogma to trump love and compassion. So what good would trying to reason with them do?

    The bigots are, in my view, on the wrong side of history, and my guess is that what will eventually happen is that their point of view will die out over time. But even if that is not true, arguing with them will accomplish nothing.

  14. Exactly Mystical Seeker. Perhaps I'll start trying to reason with the Fred Phelps, Pat Robertsons, and other hate-mongers of the world when those on the far right, with whom they agree, start trying to reason with them.

    Oh sure, polite right-wingers like to poo-poo Phelps, et al., but when have you ever seen one of their number actually out to protest his hate? Or if Pat Robertson blames 9/11 on LGBT Americans, how many so-called "religious conservatives" spend as much time in the pulpit denouncing that sort of stupidity as they spend denouncing LGBT people? I'm sure a few have posted the occasional blog comment out where no one in their parish would see it that might go so far as to say that Phelps, Robertson, et. al., are "not representative" of Conservative Christians, for appearances sake.

    So if the "reasonable" right wing is unwilling to engage with the hate on their own side, it is clearly just more standard right-wing hypocrisy for them to post here suggesting that we do so.

  15. Alan, you are right. The "reasonable" right wing (assuming that there is such a thing) will never disassociate themselves with the wackos and hatemongers because they share too much common cause with them.

  16. Spong has never had any credibility except among the lunatic fringe left wingnuts.

  17. There are much better theologians out there who support your position, John, than Spong. I would go with Brueggemann, Rogers, Reuther . . . well there are a lot of them. Spong is not what I would call a deep theologian.

    Oh, and Alan, Phelps is not a Christian and Pat Robertson is a bigger flake than Spong.

  18. BTW, Mary E., I forgot to ask... In an earlier post here you called us all "God Haters."

    Which sounds suspiciously like, as you wrote, "It sounded a lot like, you don’t agree with me, “the hell with you and horse you rode in on”.

    I wonder if you could clarify the distinction between your calling us God Haters and what you're arguing against here.

    Or are you now willing to apologize for the God Haters comment? I notice you never quite got around to it in the previous discussion.
    Pastor Bob,

    Well, I'm glad to someone on the right be so bold as to write something so controversial in a blog comment section where few people will ever read it.

    When folks like you and your friends start writing even a quarter as many blog posts and blog comments denouncing the blatant lies and misinformation of people like Phelps, Robertson, Peter LaBarbara, Tony Perkins, James Dobson, et. al., as the volumes of posts and comments you write denouncing LGBT people and our "gay agenda", then I'll believe you actually mean what you've written here. When you start calling your friends on their posts, I'll believe you. When I start seeing right-wing churches standing alongside the rest of us peacefully protesting any of these folks next time they make a local appearance, then I'll believe that you and other conservatives actually agree with your sentiments. When I see the right wing actually allowing some freedom of discussion regarding LGBT issues instead of labeling anyone who disagrees with them a traitor (ie. Jack Rogers), or firing them just for merely suggesting that right wing religious groups focus on something else for a while (ie. Joel Hunter and Richard Cizik) then I'll maybe I'll start to believe that the right wing doesn't agree with Phelps and company.

    But as it stands now, Phelps and Robertson and Perkins and Dobson are all against gay marriage. So are you. So you call them names here where no one will see. The difference is what, exactly? Politesse?

    Sorry, no free lunch from me, Pastor Bob. I'm a tough grader. :)

  19. I do find it amusing that those who are outspoken against equality (ie. Pastor Bob) have the gall to tell me on this blog who best represents those who advocate for justice.

    Spong is a saint in my book. He has earned his wings in regards to equality. He is a master in challenging religious superstitions, and he makes the fundies froth at the mouth. The trifecta.

  20. Frankly, I'd have a hard time making a list of things I'd agree with Spong about, which should come as no surprise to anyone who's read much that I've written on topics theological.

    But to be counted as agreeing with someone who works for justice like Spong, or to be counted as agreeing with someone who works for hate like Phelps?

    I might never agree with Spong and friends on much, but I'll take our loony lefty fringe over their nutjob righty fringe any day.

    Who wouldn't?

    Oh... right. Sorry I asked.

  21. Alan, for what it's worth, Bob is no right winger. He is politically and theologically moderate or moderately liberal and I am not aware of him denouncing gays or the "gay lifestyle."

    Bob, in response to your comment about Phelps, my own belief is that I would no more say that Phelps is not a Christian than that Spong is not a Christian (and there are plenty of people on the right who say exactly that about Spong.) I think that rather than get into the whole game of deciding who is and isn't a Christian (or a "real Christian") it is more important to move forward and decide what kind of Christianity people want to embrace.

  22. MS: In my dealings with him he toes the party line. If it walks like a duck ....

  23. A bunch of right-winging nutcases are debating this whole gay marriage and membership in society at this crazy blog.

  24. Thanks Anon. It is curious whether or not the Ron Paul crowd is as Liberatarian as they say.

  25. OK, let me put it this way: the people I named, and many others, are scholars. I am not convinced that Spong is a scholar.

    I think Brueggemann is the best American OT scholar of his generation.

    Rogers, while I think his interpretations are dated, does a good job of connecting analogies and hermeneutical method with his work.

    Reuther's article on the "men lying with men as with women" passage in its patriarchal context is a thing of beauty and frankly convincing.

    Spong just isn't in their class.

  26. Spong is a retired bishop, not an academic, so comparing him to Brueggemann is comparing apples to oranges. I agree that Brueggemann is a great scholar, but I read him for his studies of the origins of the Old Testament. The questions that Spong addresses are of a wholly different order. It is interesting to know what scholars have to say about the origins of the Old Testament (or New Testament), of course, but that has no bearing (as far as I am concerned) on what we choose to do with this knowledge or, more importantly, the questions of how believers should address the future direction of the Christian church, and whether it will be a church of love and compassion or one of hatred and bigotry. Scientific or scholarly inquiry has never really been able to prove anything about love, compassion, or inclusion. Those are values that lie outside of empirical research.

  27. I think it's interesting that some folks want to debate Spong's theology when this "Manifesto" isn't remotely about theology. Nor is the manifesto even remotely surprising coming from Spong. In fact many LGBT folks and their allies have been saying for years, "I'm sick of debating this with you. I don't care about your opinion." Mel White has said the same thing for years. And though I don't put myself in their league, I stopped debating hate, ignorance, and fear with people years ago myself.

    So why are the busybodies, fusspots, tattletales and scolds carping about the theology of this Manifesto?

    A) They didn't actually read the manifesto, and their knee-jerk reaction to seeing the name "Spong" in print is to shout, "He's a witch! Burn him!"


    B) If there's one thing the busybodies, fusspots, tattletales, and scolds can't stand, it's to have someone poke a giant hole in their overinflated sense of self-importance. So, for someone to say to them as Spong has here, "I don't care about your opinion" is the ultimate slap in their narcissistic faces. It is the nature of a busybody to nag and gripe, and if someone doesn't want to listen to their griping and nagging (their primary hobbies) they simply can't stand it.

    Or it's a little of Column A and a little of Column B.

    So I'm happy to see Spong join the rest of us who have decided that debating and arguing hate, ignorance, and fear with people is a waste of time.

    On the upside, if enough people were to take this tack, and just ignore the busybodies, fusspots, tattletales and scolds, maybe one day they'd wise up and do us all a favor and find a real hobby and mind their own business.

    Or is that too optimistic?

  28. Sorry for the double post, but this is a remarkable statement in the context of Spong's "Manifesto":

    "I am not convinced that Spong is a scholar."

    And one must be a "scholar" to work for justice, Bob? One must be a "scholar" to care for others? One must be a "scholar" to recognize hatred, oppression, and ignorance? What an enormous steaming pile of elitist crap.

    Gee, Bob, sorry our "scholars" don't measure up to your stratospheric standards. Next time we'll be sure to clear everything with you first. I'm sure if only the scholarship was of a higher quality you'd change your mind on these issues, right?


    No, of course not. So why do you insist on playing these silly games? And, if the scholarship is so poor, and if all it really took was "good scholarship" to convince you of something, then might I suggest you do the hard work of rigorous scholarship yourself instead of wringing your hands and making excuses? Or is it simply easier to take pot shots from the cheap seats?

    Or perhaps it isn't really the supposedly low quality of scholarship that keeps you from admitting the wrongness of your position.

  29. Well the reason for the “God Hater” statement was to evoke a non rehearsed, non repetitive rhetoric that is always said here. I finally got to hear something more than the group party line. I got to hear one man’s honest opinion.

    My most current statement comes from reading an article from a man who is upset that everyone is leaving. What I have been told about the Episcopal form of government is that they are governed from the top down. Their top group (whoever they are called) decided to ordain gays as priests, bishops and cardinals (of which we already know) and now everyone else has to live with their ruling. No choice, no recourse. So what do the people do, leave.

    I can’t believe that Rev. Spong did not see that one coming. I have a feeling that is a futuristic picture of the PCUSA. Those who can afford to go, will.

    What I am realizing as firmly entrenched in your belief that you are right, there are others that oppose you that are just as firmly entrenched. All the yelling about not knowing the bible on either side has left that argument as moot point. So where does that leave us. A stalemate, another vote for 6.0106b, and then what…

  30. Mary E.,

    New job opportunities for homophobic Presbyterian ministers with the Vatican may be opening up.

    In case you haven't heard the PCUSA is representative government. Presbyteries and GA are made up of people just like you.

    We will be voting again on G-6.0106b. And we will vote on it as many times as necessary until it is gone. When it is gone we will be vigilant that it (nor anything like it) ever comes back.

    Those Presbyterians who cannot possibly live with minding their own business are free at anytime to join another schismatic group. I hear the EPC is looking for members.


    I have Rogers, Brueggemann, and Reuther on my shelf. Apparently, you do, too. If they don't convince you then who will? Not Spong. OK.

    How about Dolly Parton or Lady Gaga? Or how about a four year old who depends upon his two dads for a safe, loving home?

    It doesn't take a "scholar" to get simple fairness and to affirm that the value of a person's life is not up for debate.

    That is what Spong is saying. He is reminding us that the pompous theology of the prejudiced is a charade.

  31. "Well the reason for the “God Hater” statement was to evoke a non rehearsed, non repetitive rhetoric that is always said here. I finally got to hear something more than the group party line. I got to hear one man’s honest opinion."

    So you insult people in order to play games? And then you don't apologize? Maybe that's your game or maybe it was instead an honest, non-rehearsed outburst from you. I think we've heard your honest opinion of us, an opinion you don't deny.


    I won't pretend to read Spong's mind, but I'd guess that of the many things that concern him about these debates, seeing anti-gay anglicans leave the Episcopal Church is not high on the list for him. At all. Do you honestly think he's worried if some bigots leave his denomination? I believe the phrase is, "Don't let the door hit your a** on the way out."

    I can say that, for myself, I think the PCUSA is stronger with a more diverse set of theological viewpoints. But it is not the progressive wing that is threatening to leave. We never have. It is not the progressive wing that threatens lawsuits over property. We never have. It is not the progressive wing that stamps our feet and refuses to pay apportionment. We never have. I believe we can all live together in this denomination if only people remember to be Presbyterian long enough to look beyond differences on matters that are not now, nor have they ever been, essentials of the faith.

    But for some people, that's too tough to do. They've never really been interested in being Presbyterian, because it doesn't offer them enough control. Being Presbyterian doesn't give them enough opportunities to tell other people what to do. Being Presbyterian doesn't afford them enough opportunities to be busybodies, fusspots, tatttletales and scolds. They're Presbyterian because they were raised that way, or because they happened to stumble in the door one Sunday, but not because they have any real idea what our polity is about. So they stamp their feet, and shake their fists, and pick up their toys, and leave the sandbox when they don't get their own way.

    Oh well. We Presbyterians should be used to splits by now. It hasn't been the end of the Church in the past, and it won't be now if some tiny number of churches decide to chip off. We'll see them back in 30 years or so when the older generation is gone, and the younger generation, which does not care about these issues at all, realizes the silliness of their parents.

    Max Plank once said, "A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die." I think that applies to change in society as well.

    So don't mistake the slow pace of change for a stalemate. Demographics always wins. We've already won. People can try to delay the inevitable by leaving, but that just increases the speed of change in the PCUSA and increases their own isolation into tiny pockets of ignorance.

    It's a win-win, as far as I'm concerned.

  32. For the record, +Spong is a RETIRED Episcopal bishop. He is no longer pastorally responsible for either priests or parishioners, so he can say anything he damned well pleases.

    And while it will probably bore all you delightful Presbyterians to death, I feel compelled to respond to Mary E's mischaracterization of the Episcopal Church and our governing structure.

    Our church has a bicameral governing body, which is composed of the House of Bishops on one hand and the House of Deputies (made up of clergy and lay delegates) on the other. As in the U.S. Congress, both houses must agree on major changes to church governance or liturgy. Some issues require that both Houses pass legislation in two successive General Conventions (which meet once every 3 years).

    Our bishops are also elected by clergy and lay delegates within their dioceses, and must obtain the consent of a majority vote in both the House of Bishops and from diocesan Standing Committees (over 100 of them--again, composed of clergy and lay delegates) from across the nation.

    In cases where episcopal elections take place close to the time of our triennial General Convention, the House of Deputies will take the place of the Standing Committees and vote. (This was how +Gene Robinson received consents to his election to the episcopate in New Hampshire in 2003.)

    In other words, we are NOT the Roman Catholic Church, with a top-down hierarchy. The Episcopal Church is governed democratically. Our bishops do NOT have the authority to force changes on us. The Episcopal Church's move to embrace and include ALL the baptized in the life and ministry of the church (including women and GLBTs) has been a church-wide response to the movement of the Holy Spirit.

    We aren't as responsive to Her as we should be. We began discussing the ordination of women in 1855, and did not approve the process of ordaining them until 1976. We began discussing the issue of GLBT inclusion in 1974, and we are still working toward full inclusion. But we WILL get there, and we will have done it as a community of faith---not under Bishops' Orders.

    So, Mary E.---your disgruntled friend is either terribly misinformed or telling a deliberate lie. I will assume it is the former...but it makes me wonder whether people who are so ignorant of their own church's governance are "Episcopalian" in any significant way. Or if they have just decided they like our pretty churches and charming rituals and are annoyed to find that with that comes truly radical welcome?

    The truth is that most of our malcontents are really nothing more than "Baptists in drag" who have no concept of Anglican theology/ecclesiology or people who fancy themselves Catholic because they like smells and bells in the liturgy but don't want to have to answer to the Pope.

    And if I sound a tad bit bitter and angry towards those folks, I am. I am tired of having my church lied about and misrepresented by people with an axe to grind. There are plenty of homophobic fundagelical churches---if that's what you are looking for, go join one and leave the Episcopal Church alone.


  33. I think it's interesting that some folks want to debate Spong's theology when this "Manifesto" isn't remotely about theology....

    So why are the busybodies, fusspots, tattletales and scolds carping about the theology of this Manifesto?

    I was wondering why anyone is debating Spong's scholarship when the Manifesto isn't about scholarship.

    The way I look at it, there is theology and then there is theology. Some theology deals with esoterica--the nature of God, or the literalness of the resurrection, for example. When Spong talks in his books about the death of what he calls "theism", he is expressing that form of theology. Other kinds of theology are much more basic, but also more essential. When Jesus said that the greatest two commandments are to love God and to love others, he was expressing theology. When Spong takes that theological statement by Jesus seriously enough to apply it to gays and lesbians, then he is being the kind of theologian that I wish more of us could be.

  34. Doxy,

    Thanks for that!

    The truth is that most of our malcontents are really nothing more than "Baptists in drag" who have no concept of Anglican theology/ecclesiology or people who fancy themselves Catholic because they like smells and bells in the liturgy but don't want to have to answer to the Pope.

    Does that ever sound familiar!

  35. lol. John, you all are the real malcontents. but you cannot see that can you?

  36. Well, "Anonymous"

    If "malcontent" means not content with the injustice, the inequality and the bearing of false witness toward my gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender sisters and brothers both in the church and in civil society then yes I am a "malcontent."

    I am not "content" with the status quo.

    However, I will go about advocating for change by working through our constitutional form of government.

    The malcontents that Doxy and myself speak of, are power-hungry schismatics and thieves.

  37. Wow, that's really good. LOL. Looks like someone is using the internet without Mom's permission.

    More Orwellian truthspeak from someone who thinks, "Mind your own business" = "being a malcontent." Redefine your terms so that they mean nothing, and you too can attempt to make a straw-man argument out of anything. And that little nuggit o' wisdom gets wrapped in a clever 3rd grade "I know you are but what am I!?" candy coating.

    No wonder you make anonymous comments, anonymous. But at least we can credit you with having the minimal good sense to be embarrassed enough about your comments to refuse to sign them. Typical.

    And people wonder why Bishop Spong isn't interested in debating with such people and their schoolyard taunts? LOL

    But they are fun to make fun of! Now run off back to your fingerpainting homework kiddo, and let the adults talk. ;)

  38. the most hateful, intolerant, self-righteous people that i've ever met have been people of progressive stripe who fail to see that they are just exactly like the "fundie" nuts they point their fingers at, but at least the fundie nuts know they ARE fundies. the progressive fundies seem to believe their own press that they really ARE tolerant and loving (when, just like the other fundies, they simply love those who believe like them). BUT,as i say... progressives will never see that truth. why, after all, they say, their mean-spiritedness isn't really mean-spiritedness, it's being prophetic. lol. which is really just pathetic, in my humble, lower-case opinion.

  39. As I wrote earlier, kiddo, and I'll repeat myself in case you missed it:

    "I can say that, for myself, I think the PCUSA is stronger with a more diverse set of theological viewpoints."

    I'm not the one threatening to leave. I'm not the one trying to get people fired. I'm not the one trying to get people kicked out. I'm not the one making the church an exclusive straights-only country club.

    I'm happy to have anyone in the denomination, whether they agree with me on these issues or not, as long as they're able to mind their own business.

    So yes, I believe in real tolerance: You mind your own business, and I'll mind mine. Problem solved.

    I find it odd that you write with such apparent conviction, but don't have the conviction to be brave enough to sign your name to your comments. You're so proud to declare God's truth that you do it anonymously? Again, I'm not surprised you're embarrassed about what you're writing; you should be. I'm not surprised that you don't even believe your own rhetoric enough to find the guts to sign your name. I'm just surprised you keep coming back for more fun. LOL

  40. Mind my own business, if it has to do with the Presbyterian Church it is my business. I am a busybody when it comes to defending attacks from those who have no biblical grounds, go directly against God’s word. You can call me homophobic bigot till the cows come home. But it changes nothing, I can go to sleep at night knowing that I am doing God’s (Spirit filled, spirit lead, Biblically confirmed)will , not bending to a few name callers, because at the end of the day that is the only thing you can do.

    If you can give me anything and I mean anything that can biblically support your cause, then I will apologize for everything and you will never hear from me again. Let me state again. Supports YOUR cause. If not then maybe you should mind your own business.

  41. Oh, I believe my "rhetoric" but I have also faced the "tolerance" and "love" of self-proclaimed progressives who don't think twice about putting the screws to people who disagree with their viewpoints. No thank you. I don't care for any more of that progressive sort of "big tent" where I end up staked down with the tent peg! lol.

  42. As for coming back, my sole objective in this exchange has been the hope that some progressives might actually see their own tendencies to be/become fundamentalists of the left. It has proven to be a forlorn hope.

  43. This comment has been removed by the author.

  44. " not bending to a few name callers, because at the end of the day that is the only thing you can do."

    LOL. This coming from a person who calls us all "god Haters"? :) Do you people even bother listening to yourselves?! Wow.

    "I can go to sleep at night knowing that I am doing God’s (Spirit filled, spirit lead, Biblically confirmed)will"

    You do that.

    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." ~ C.S. Lewis

  45. So I will take that as you have nothing.

  46. Hey Mary E.

    The good bishop said it well:

    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.

    G'night, love.

  47. Mary,

    Try reading Spong's manifesto. I'm not interested in debating hate with people like yourself who can only shout "God Hater!" when you get frustrated and angry. It isn't fair to you to enable your childish behavior, which only serves to further embarrass you.

    Or put another way...

    My neighbor has a dog. It's a cute little thing, sort of a mop with big brown eyes. Whenever we leave the house, it yaps at us. I'm not bothering it. I'm not going in its yard. But still it yaps away. I don't bother trying to reason with it because 1) I think it's cute and completely harmless, and 2) trying to reason with it would be a waste of time. So, I just get in my car and drive away. Now if that cute little dog wants to believe in its cute doggie heart that it chased me away with its fierce doggie bark, more power to him. ;)

  48. Yes I said "God Hater" you said "Homophobe", what's the difference.Name calling is not changing anything.

    We have to learn to teach critical thinking to our students at school. I am having a difficult time with it, as you can well imagine. In critical thinking you come up with all the posible solutions to a problem not just settle with the one you like the most. I have to believe there is not just ONE solution to this situation is childish on both of our parts.

  49. Ok, Mary, let's start our lesson on critical thinking with a lesson on critical reading, shall we? Surely you agree that we can't begin to think critically about what someone else says unless we read their words for understanding, right?

    So please provide a direct quote from me -- not someone else, but me -- a real live quote -- not some imagined quote you made up -- from anywhere in which I called you -- not someone else, but you personally -- a "homophobe", where I said that you were "homophobic", or where I said that you suffered from "homophobia." Please provide a link to the quote so that we can all see what you're talking about.

    I will do the same for you. In a conversation on this blog you wrote, "So all you God haters get over it..." Since I was among those commenting on that post, it seems reasonable to assume you meant me, since you said "all you," being very specific to include everyone.

    Show me you can do some critical reading first, and that you're even bothering to actually read the words we actually write, rather than making up your own script. Otherwise, if you can't show that you're actually reading what I actually write, there's very little reason to bother with a conversation with you, wouldn't you agree?

  50. BTW, If it makes things easier, Mary, you can do a simple "Find" word search on this thread for the word "homophobe." You'll see you're the only one who has used the word homophobe here.

    In fact, if you do a search on "homophobic", "homophobe" and "homophobia" in this thread, or the thread where you called me a "God Hater", you will not find a single instance in which I used any of those words.

    But go ahead and look yourself, and then provide the *evidence* that I've been calling you names. Evidence, Mary. Try using it sometime in your "critical thinking."

  51. Of course, she could also Google all the top-notch Biblical scholarship that has led so many of us to reject a literal interpretation of the Bible and to embrace what Beloved Spear said in Quote #2 to this post:

    There is also a broader metanarrative of justice, love, and reconciliation within the Bible that resists the condemnation of homosexuality, and calls us to affirm the covenant relationships of Christian gays and lesbians.

    The issue here is not whether folks know their scripture. It's whether folks know how to properly interpret it in the light of the grace given by the Holy Spirit.

    But I predict she won't....
    because she is EXACTLY the person to whom Spong is responding.

    Anonymous--as a progressive, I will NOT tolerate hatred in my church. I don't hate conservatives. I will happily kneel at the altar and take communion with anyone. But when they damage the hearts and souls of people I love with their words and their attempts to exclude, I will not be silent.

    The Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition are grounded in scripture, tradition, and REASON. If someone demands that we abandon the other two legs of our three-legged stool to focus solely on scripture, then they are in the wrong faith community for THEM. Pointing that out is not hateful--it's just a fact. We are not obliged to change our entire approach to faith to suit those who don't like our tradition.


  52. I can't help but notice the irony here that there are 51 comments worth of debate and discussion in response to Spong's proclamation that he will no longer engage in debate and discussion with certain people on this subject.

  53. Thank God, then, that you are an Episcopalian. We have too much axe-swinging "toleration" on the part of self-proclaimed "progressives" in our own denomination as it is. To label anyone who opposes your viewpoint as a "hater" is a despicable tactic, but one that progressives seem well-adapted to. Progressives talk a good game...but, as this conversation shows oh so clearly, that is all it is... a game. I bid you all adieu. But please, in my absence, continue by your rhetoric to prove my point so that others may come and see the truth of it all in your very words.

  54. LOL!

    @mystical Some manifestos are just hard to keep.

  55. "To label anyone who opposes your viewpoint as a "hater" is a despicable tactic,"

    Tell that to Mary. ;)

  56. Nice try, anonymous. Being silent in the face of grave injustice (and what we perceive to be a perversion of the Gospel) is somehow supposed to prove that we are "truly" progressive? I don't think so.

    John--Although I, too, am tired of discussing/debating The Issue, I actually have problems with Spong's approach. He can only take it because he is no longer responsible for pastoral care.

    My husband, the priest, doesn't have the option of saying to his parishioners, "We aren't going to discuss that anymore." He serves a small-town parish, which means we have a variety of viewpoints represented in the pews.

    And that is how I KNOW that we can all continue to worship together, despite our differences. Dear Friend is very vocal about his stance on The Issue--but his conservative parishioners know that they are loved and welcomed to the church, just as much as our partnered same-sex couples are. In the Eucharist, we all meet and worship the loving God who calls us into relationship with Godself and each other. That, in my experience, is the way that hearts and minds are changed over time. Not by manifestos, no matter how much they resonate. ;-)


  57. Here is what I take from the manifesto, remembering that I, too, am a minister in a parish.

    1) "The battle is over." This is like Mary's song in Luke,

    He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
    53he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.

    Of course, he hasn't. So why does she use the past tense? Answer that and you get what Spong is doing there.

    2) I really do not engage in scriptural debates with those who believe the world is 10,000 years old or whether or not women should be silent in church or whether or not the curse of Ham means that blacks should be slaves of whites.

    3) If people, parishioners or otherwise, who sincerely need resources and care for dealing with the effects homophobia I direct them to these resources. I work with secular organizations such as PFLAG to that end. In fact, at PFLAG meetings we say up front at every meeting, "This is not a place to debate the morality of homosexuality. This is for advocacy, education, and support for GLBT people and their families. You want to debate, go somewhere else."

    4) That said, anyone is always welcome to attend my church. That does not mean that I am obligated to enable their prejudice. Our community is open and affirming, More Light et al, because the debate is over. You want to pick on gay people, find another church.

    5) This so-called theological and biblical debate is over. It is a smokescreen for prejudice. Catering to it gives it the illusion of a reasoned discussion. Spong's manifesto is a reminder of that truth.

    I think Spong is right on and I am right with him and that comes from someone who is in the trenches.

  58. And THAT, Pastor John Shuck, is why you have a growing church! Bless you!

  59. Yes--Dear Friend doesn't debate anymore either. I didn't mean to leave the impression that he did. Like you, he tells people why he believes what he does and points them in the direction of resources.

    A few people have left the church because of his inclusivity, but we've probably gotten significantly more than that number who came as a result of his welcoming stance. Our parish is filled with young families, who tell Dear Friend "I didn't want to raise my children in a church that taught people to hate."

    For most people, homosexuality is simply not a core faith issue. We have found that most of the time, any angst on that issue is clergy-driven, not lay led. When clergy make it clear that all are welcome, even those who have problems with homosexuality seem to find it possible to coexist peacefully in the same parish/denomination.

    And we have also found that radical welcome is typically lay-led. When the people in the pews lead the way, eventually the clergy catch up. ;-)


  60. Sounds like Dear Friend is a great priest and that you have a great church!

    When the people in the pews lead the way, eventually the clergy catch up. ;-)


  61. Viola linked to my post. She thought I was calling her a chicken shit. Far from it. I posted at her place the following:

    Dear Viola,

    For the record, I didn't call you a chicken shit. "Chicken shits" is the moniker reserved for those who actually are in favor of justice for LGBT people in the church and in society, but because they are afraid for their position, or are afraid that they will lose members, or are afraid what the neighbors will say, or afraid that conservatives won't like them anymore, or afraid that _________________ etc. etc.

    they actually stall and sometimes even work against the process.

    You my friend, are certainly no chicken shit. You are clearly the opposition!

    John Shuck
    Elizabethton, TN

  62. You could have just dropped the "chicken"... ;-)

    (I'll go to confession now.)

  63. I re-read Bishop Spong's manifesto. Two things stoodout to me.

    1. I make these statements because it is time to move on. The battle is over. The victory has been won.

    2. The battle in both our culture and our church to rid our souls of this dying prejudice is finished. A new consciousness has arisen.

    The division has made all of us question our society and our culture. I welcome at new people that our comming to our church with skepticism not christian sisterly love.

    I just see society, culture and politics driving this bus I just wonder.

    Last our words from Bruce Reyes Chow from his Facebook page.

    Bruce Reyes-Chow thinks that to be liberal or conservative is to hold to a theological or political ideology or platform, but to be truly progressive is to hold to a way of being that trancends, interactions with and finds worth in both.

  64. Hey Mary E.,

    Can you point me to a time in which society and/or church didn't have divisions?

    The win-win in this situation is to allow for freedom of conscience both in regards to ordination and marriage.

    Don't want gay deacons or elders?
    Then don't vote for them.

    Don't want to get gay-married or to participate in a gay marriage?
    Then don't.

    Allow for freedom of conscience to those who disagree.

    Everybody wins.

  65. I guess my ultament question is why be Presbyterian?

  66. I suppose every Presbyterian must walk that lonesome valley and answer that question for herself.

  67. I mean why try to change the PCUSA why not start your own non-denominational church. I mean there are news ones all the time. Wouldn't that be a win-win situation?

  68. That, Mary, would be a good question for those who continue to try to change the PCUSA into a fundamentalist denomination, or who try to take the church's property, or who constantly file charges, or who have stopped giving to the denomination, or who have nothing good to say about the denomination or its leadership.

    G-6.0106b was added to the constitution in 1997, Mary.

    Let me repeat that. The PCUSA was changed by the addition of G-6.0106b.

    Fine. So now we remove it.

    We are always changing. That is why we meet. We make changes.

    G-6.0106b will likely be removed soon. Sometime in April or May of 2011, the 87th vote in favor of removing G-6.0106b will happen. It will be gone.

    I don't know that for certain. But it is a pretty good guess. If it doesn't happen then, then it will happen by April 2013 or April 2015, or April 2017.

    I hope sooner rather than later, but eventually. We will be voting on it every time.

    In addition, those who want to continue to oppress LGBT people will send resolutions, and make plans, and so forth, that those who are working for justice will fight off.

    You have a choice. You can fight equality and justice or you can help us toward it.

    Equality is win-win for everyone.

  69. John you say

    In addition, those who want to continue to oppress LGBT people will send resolutions, and make plans, and so forth, that those who are working for justice will fight off.

    I will ask again, then why be Presbyterian? Start your own church and who is there to oppress...besides the idiots on the outside, but it would be your church, your doctrines, your beliefs. Or start your own Presbyterian Denomination, we already have the Wineskins, and EPC, you could start a 4th.

  70. You have odd notion of church.

    Unlike some, I don't think of it as a little sect of like-minded people separate from the world.

    It is in the midst of the world. I won't be taking my toys and leaving if I don't get my way (like those do in the groups you mentioned).

    The church is never perfect. It, like those of us in it, will always be sinful and oppressive. The Holy Spirit will always be nudging us toward change and to accept those things we cannot change.

    Thanks for the career advice, Mary, but I am happy right here.

  71. I didn't say you had to make a career change. You are a preacher you would remain a preacher. Starting another denomination is not starting another career.

    I also beilieve the Holy Spirit is leading us to change, to sorts of changes.

    As far as those that left, I guess they got tired of all of it. I one hand I understand and on the other hand I wish they would of stayed in the fight.

  72. Mary,

    Let's try this one more time:

    I am not leaving.

  73. It was just suggestion, nothing more than that.

    I intent to stay too.

    I am here to fight for the justice of God. Where ever he leads me. It might be your way and it might be my way. But where he leads I will follow.

  74. Ha! Sounds more like wishful thinking to me, Mary. After all, it's hard to pretend someone doesn't exist when they won't leave the room!

    And it's easier to ignore injustice and call it "fighting for God" when no is there to challenge that.

  75. Great Mary!

    Seriously. No one has to leave. Peace.

  76. Mary follows the MO of lots of folks on her side: Interrogate people, but refuse to answer questions yourself.

    Still waiting for the evidence, Mary, that I've been calling you names, as you charged earlier.

    Care to apologize for bearing false witness, Mary?

    Then she switches to the "argument" we've seen several times from the other side: "Get out!"

    John has it right. Just labeling yourself orthodox while spouting 1920's style fundamentalism wrapped up in an obviously Roman Catholic notion of top-down polity & clericism doesn't actually mean you *are* orthodox, Mary. It just means you don't understand traditional Presbyterian doctrine or polity.

  77. I do understand Presbyterian Tradition and Polity.

    So tell me why our FOG task force is weaking it.

  78. Still can't bring yourself to apologize for bearing false witness, Mary?

    Why should I answer any of the rest of your interrogation when you refuse to repent of the lie you stated earlier, when you said I called you a homophobe?

    If you cannot be honest, and if you cannot admit when you are wrong, even when the evidence is plainly put in front of you, why would answering your other questions be useful?

    Do you hope that by ignoring your own "God Haters!" rant, and by ignoring your own false statements about me that others will also ignore them?

    Do you hope that by changing the subject to the new FOG that we will somehow forget that you bear false witness and do not repent?

    Don't you think it makes you look completely hypocritical to argue against the ordination of LGBT people when you appear to be showing yourself to be be an unrepentant sinner who bears false witness?

    And just saying "I understand Presbyterian tradition and polity" doesn't make it so. If we get back to your "critical thinking" comment, then surely you know that a claim such as that should be backed up by evidence. All the evidence thus far shows that you do not actually understand either traditional, orthodox Presbyterian theology nor polity. Evidence, Mary. You should try it sometime.

    But in the meantime, Mary, feel free to apologize for bearing false witness.

  79. Brothers and Sisters,
    I do regret the indignant name calling on my part. I let my emotions get the best of me and I lashed out with the most hateful thing I could think of. It was wrong of me to use the Lord’s name in vain and bear false witness against my brothers and sisters. I have sinned against God and my brothers and sisters, therefore I sincerely ask for God and you to forgive me for what I have said. I am genuinely sorry.

    Mary E.

  80. Thanks for that, Mary. In my experience reading blogs, the number of people able admit when they've made a mistake is vanishingly small (usually they either continue to try to ignore it, disappear from the conversation, or if they're blog owners, they just start deleting comments and/or closing comment threads), so it's good to see you're not one of those sorts of people. Certainly no hard feelings on my part.

  81. Alan,
    I truely have appriciated your insite, I don't always agree, but it is appriciated.

    It is not my first time to eat crow and it probably won't be the last. But it is important to step up and take responsibility for what I said.

  82. A few opinions:

    1. Unless conservative Presbyterians just give up the fight I suspect that G-6.0106b will remain on the books for about 10 years - this because people my age tend to be more conservative than those younger than us in their 20s and 30s and those older (pastors not elders) tend to be at least a bit more liberal and will die first. Let me hasten to add that this is not something I can prove by stats but rather is from my observation of voting trends.

    2. I don't plan to go anywhere. And here is where I disagree with those leaving the denomination. I think their position tends toward Donatism. I like being in a denomination with Alan and John. Lockstep theology is no fun.

    3. I think the fear among conservatives at least in part grows out of the requirement that ordained folk must believe in and be willing to ordain women made the Kenyon case in 1975. They (and sometimes me too) are afraid that the time will come when people will be required to ordain sexually active homosexuals to be ordained and/installed and that it will be added to the AAEEO requirements that are currently in place for race and gender and, oddly enough, for marital status. Let me hasten to add that the AAEEO requirements are regularly ignored. How many women actually receive calls to larger churches? And how many African American or persons from other non WASP ethnic groups receive calls to lily white congregations?

    4. I suspect that such a change, suggested in point 3, will not take place until I am either retired or dead. I don't think that such a change, if it happens, will happen in the next 10 years. On the other hand since I don't expect to receive Social Security I may have to work until I die!

    Alan I appreciate your insistence that there be freedom to believe and act according to one's conscience. But many are afraid that This freedom of conscience will be short lived. After all if the ordination of sexually active homosexuals is a justice issue shouldn't all be required to do so?

  83. Bob,

    First, I think 10 years is a pretty conservative estimate given the very close vote last time. Given the number of close presbyteries and ties, we were really just a few elder commissioners shy of getting rid of B last time, and I suspect it will be even closer as we introduce similar overtures next time. But I do appreciate 1) your optimism that we will eventually win, and 2) that we have at least convinced you that we will never stop until B is gone.

    However, it seems odd to, on the one hand make a slippery slope argument about ordination and then on the other hand note that no one is forced to vote for the ordination or installation of anyone, even when federal law prohibits such discrimination (a legal protection which, perhaps you do not realize, is not afforded to LGBT American citizens.)

    So which is it?

    No one is forced to vote for the ordination or installation of anyone. No one is asked their reasons for voting for or against any candidate and people can, and I suspect regularly do, vote against the ordination of women or members of racial/ethnic minorities on the basis of race, gender and ethnicity (as well as any number of other specious factors.) While this is indeed a justice issue, people are still free to make boneheaded decisions. I, for one, am not for forcing anyone in the church to believe as I do. Clearly that's the purview of the busybodies, fusspots, tattletales and scolds. So if you're uncomfortable with a group of people making your decisions for you and forcing you to vote against someone regardless of their qualifications, then I think the choice of sides is pretty obvious. So instead of warning against a slippery slope that hasn't happened, perhaps you should be a tad more concerned about the slippery slope that has happened with regard to excluding an entire group of people based on something other than qualifications.

    Those congregations who continue to refuse to stand for justice and inclusion of all people will simply die out. As you note, demographics always wins.

  84. Alan

    I'm going to respond to you on my own blog. As I started to write an answer it became impossibly long. So take a look at my blog for my essay.

  85. Wait a second now Bob. What are you doing here, stealing sheep?

    Come over to my blog?!! Indeed! : )

  86. One more note: Alan you didn't comment on my statement about those who leave being like Donatists. I consider that the most important thing I said!

  87. What John, you want me to write a 5 page essay on your responses page?


  88. Donatists, pelagians, I can think of all sorts of words that would accurately describe them.

  89. A five page essay? Yeah, you are right, use your own blog! : )

    But you ought to give us a two paragraph summary! : )

  90. Greetings from Singapore

    Praise the Lord for Bishop Spong

  91. Welcome, Gentle Lamb!

    What a great statement!

    The manifesto is not about disengaging in debate and dialogue, but is a change of mindset, a declaration of "No", to the lack of morality, integrity, and humanity, of the Christian Right in a debate which should never have occurred in the first place.

  92. In response to first comment about democracy vs. a republic, from an American history teacher..

    We are not a pure democracy and never have been or were intended to be. We are a constitutional republic founded on democratic ideas. The meaningful difference between the two is that we have rights, an intentional system of government based on checks and balances and the rule of law. Pure democracy means we could technically vote down people's free speech, the supremacy of the Supreme Court and the separation of church and state, to name a few. You say republic like it's a dirty word.. do you really want people to vote on your freedom of assembly? I think not.

    The point Spong was making, very well in my opinion, was that the 14th amendment ALREADY grants equal protection under the law. The correct path to gay rights is not through ballot initiatives, but via Supreme Court rulings that acknowledge the obvious (yet still untested) facts that: a) marriage is ALSO a civil institution, the proof of which is such things as marriage laws exist to begin with, b) these marriage laws meaningfully alter one's status/classification as a citizen in a way that defines government's interactions with a citizen in demonstrable ways, c) these ways cannot be said to be functionally equal, and it is widely understood and proven that married status affords certain benefits and protections that are not enjoyed by single citizens, and most importantly D) the 14th Amendment guarantees every citizen EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW.

    It really is that simple.