Watching Christianity Evolve in Scandinavia

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 3 January 2007 0 Comments
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I grew up ECLA Lutheran. My mother was raised Mennonite, which

contributed pacifist beliefs. My father was an ordained Methodist minister

but worked in a different profession. I married into a Lutheran family and

my parents now worship at the United Methodist Church.

I tried very hard to "make it work" in mainline Christianity. I

read, "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism" and that started me on the

path of questioning everything. I've been working my way through all of

your books and enjoying them quite a bit. Some of your sentences are so

finely crafted and beautiful in their content. My mother and I constantly

discuss your work. It is very difficult, however, to reconcile our newfound

awareness with our Sunday morning experiences. Certain statements, hymn

lyrics or rites have to be outright rejected or translated in my mind. (I

refused to allow the Creed at my daughter's baptism!).

I understand your desire for people to stay and fight for change

within their particular churches, but that is like trying single-handedly to

turn the Titanic around. I have only one life to live. I need to go where

my soul is fed. I have recently found the Unity Church and started

attending services. I am interested to know what your opinion is of the

Unity Church.

P.S. I highly respect your opinion, but please do not feel that I am

waiting for your answer in my decision to attend services. I do not mean to

imply anything of that nature.


Thank you for your letter and for your kind words. I am glad

that you have found Unity. I think it is one of the most exciting movements

within Christianity in the world today.

I had never heard of Unity until about ten years ago. While on

a lecture tour of Alaska, I received an invitation to speak at the Unity

Church of Anchorage. My response was that "these people don't know how to

spell Unitarian!" I had, however, already spoken at the Unitarian Church in

Anchorage, meeting there the Rev. Dr. Richard Gay who was, and is, one of

the finest clergy I have ever encountered, so I was in some wonderment about

what Unity was. I went and that was the first of many enriching experiences

I have had with the Unity Movement across the United States and throughout

the world.

Unity traces its roots to Mary Baker Eddy and what we once

called the Christian Science movement. It has, however, evolved well beyond

its origins. It is distinctively Christian but they have managed to escape

the traditional Christian obsession with sin, guilt, rescue and control.

They teach the goodness of God's creation, the capacity of human beings to

grow spiritually and they avoid dated concepts like sacrifice and the

sacredness of shed blood.

I have found their clergy to be bright, well trained, open and

positive. Their Spiritual Center and Training School is in Lee's Summit,

Missouri. The things that attract me to Unity are their dedication to

education; the consistently high quality of their music; their commitment to

affirm their children rather than to make them feel inadequate; their care

for one another and the joy that permeates Unity worship. I don't know that

Unity will be the future of Christianity but I do believe that the

Christianity of the future will have many of the marks of Unity within it.

I find that many people are like you, they discover Unity when they awaken

to what Christianity can be and compare it to what they experience in many

churches on Sunday morning.

I remain committed to reforming the church of my birth but I am

deeply grateful for what Unity has done for me and for the way that Unity

has enriched my life.

I wish you well on your journey.

John Shelby Spong




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