Lecturing in Central Otago, New Zealand

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 14 November 2007 0 Comments
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I have shared your thoughts with many people, and the most
frequent response I hear is: "If I could find a church
whose pastor spoke like Bishop Spong, I wouldn't miss a Sunday."
Are there any churches in South Jersey that share your vision of
what a church could be?


I wish I were knowledgeable about South Jersey churches,
but other than possessing some anecdotal evidence, I am not.

One of my favorite clergy, The Rev. Dr. Jill McNish, who
has her PhD from Union Seminary in New York City, recently
accepted a call to South Jersey (Swedesboro). She was an
attorney prior to going to seminary and is one of the brightest
people I know. However, South Jersey is very large and
Swedesboro may or may not be a possibility for you.

Another option would be to send an e-mail to the Rev.
Fred Plummer (fplummer@tcpc.org) who heads up the Center for
Progressive Christianity, with whom churches can register by
meeting eight criteria of openness (one of which is theological).
Ask Fred for a list of the South Jersey churches (of all
denominations) that are on his list. Those readers of this
column from elsewhere in the country who have the same question
may also avail themselves of this service with a simple e-mail.
The same is true for churches that might want to identify
themselves with the Center of Progressive Christianity. They
would like to know where the congregations are to which they can
refer requests like yours.

Beyond those bits of advice you have to hunt for such
a church one by one. Every denomination has some churches that
live in the 21st century and engage it meaningfully and some that
do not. As a whole denomination, I find the United Church of
Christ ahead of most other parts of Christianity. I am excited
by many things that I see on the cutting edge of the United
Methodist Church. I have also been deeply touched by Unity
Churches, a Church that now calls itself "Centers for Spiritual
Living" (but which once was known as the Church of Religious
Science) and by the intellectual freedom that I find in the
Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship. Indeed a UU Church in
Washington's Crossing, New Jersey, is another example of a vital
South Jersey congregation. For those attracted to more
sacramental expressions of Christianity, I have discovered that
the level of openness and engagement such congregations display
depends totally on the pastor. These clergy are not always
appreciated by their respective hierarchies, but in my mind they
are the heroes of Christianity who will be responsible for making
it possible for Christianity to live in the 21st century and
beyond. I admire them greatly. You would too if you knew who
they are and where their churches are located.

I hope this helps.

John Shelby Spong




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