A Conversation on Death in New Zealand

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 21 November 2007 0 Comments
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I am an avid reader of your books and was delighted that you
have written yet another one. Thank you for making scholarly
research related to the Bible accessible to the general public.
I have given copies of your books to dozens of friends and
relatives over the years in an effort to generate dialogue among
Christians and non-Christians alike. I think Jesus for the
is particularly useful for humanists/agnostics
who want to understand the historical Jesus. Thank you for this

As a member of the "Church Alumni Association," I have been
frustrated by many aspects of the church, for reasons that you
describe so well in Why Christianity Must Change or Die.
However, I was delighted to discover, relatively recently, a
spiritual path that works for me: Attending Quaker meetings in
the unprogrammed/silent tradition. It seems to me that the
Quaker concept (that of "God in everyone") relates to Paul
Tillich's idea of God as "the Ground of All Being," which you
often discuss. Do you have any thoughts on this? I have so much
respect for your work, and I would be delighted to hear your
reflections on Quakerism, Quaker thinkers/activists, and your
experience in a Quaker meeting, if you've ever attended one.


I have always held the Quaker movement in high
regard. Early in my career, I gained much from the writings of
an Episcopal priest who had become a Quaker. When I was a rector
in Richmond, a member of my staff in her retirement joined a
Quaker meeting house with her husband and derived much strength
from that association. About two years ago, I led a National
Conference for Quakers that was held on the campus of Virginia
Tech University. Every contact I have had with them has been

The witness of the Quakers is deep in American
history. Ben Franklin both honored and was later deeply bothered
by their presence in Pennsylvania in the 18th century. They are
peacemakers, deeply ethical people. I find that the Quaker
movement has served as the conscience of our nation. It has
always been small in numbers but powerful in making its message
heard. Quakers always seem to appeal to those turned off by
traditional, organized religion.

Two of our presidents had Quaker roots, Herbert
Hoover and Richard Nixon. It would be interesting to find what
the residual influence of Quakerism was on the formation of their

So, if you have found a home there, I rejoice for
you and I commend it to others when traditional worship patterns
begin to offend more than to enhance.

John Shelby Spong




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