An Anglican Priest and an Anglican Church in New Zealand: Sources of a New Hope

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 28 November 2007 0 Comments
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Thank you for the inspiring and informative
article about the present struggles in the Episcopal Church and
Anglican Communion. [See An
Audacious Institution
.] I had not known about the
super-majority required to pass the policy, nor had I known about
the small size and aging nature of the splinter groups. I hope
you will submit a version of this same piece for publication as
an op-ed piece in several prominent newspapers. These facts need
to be more widely known by those who are not already convinced of
the wisdom and humanity of your church's position.

On another subject, I recently read your book A
New Christianity for a New World
immediately after reading
Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. I was struck by how
much the two of you agree! I'm wondering if you have read his
book and what you think of his arguments there. (By the way, he
speaks highly of you at one point in the book).

I'm a member of Christ Lutheran Church in Pacific Beach,
California, and have heard you speak there and elsewhere in San
Diego on several occasions. My wife and I were among the
facilitators of our church's welcoming statement. I have been
frustrated for some time at the language that continues to be
used in the services that reinforces and prolongs the theistic
concept of God. A welcome topic for a future piece would be
suggestions for substitutions for outmoded language in the

Thank you for continuing to speak and write your


Thank you for your kind comments. My online
essays are available to newspapers for reprinting as op-ed pieces
any time they wish. The only requirement is that they state,
"Reprinted by permission of Waterfront Media, Bishop Spong's
online publisher. Bishop Spong's columns appear weekly on his
Web site,"

In regard to your question about Richard Dawkins,
I am not surprised at the level of agreement you find between us.
I think Professor Dawkins is both brilliant and an incredible
communicator. The definition of God that he rejects is the same
one I reject. The difference being that he thinks the God he
rejects is the western God of Christianity and I believe that
deity is a distortion of who and what God is. The Christian
Church has made such incredulous claims about who God is and who
God hates and how God acts that it is always on the defensive
when new learning that challenges old definitions appears.
Traditional Christianity has been buffeted by the insights of
Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Freud and many
others. They have destroyed the credibility of much of our God
talk. Richard Dawkins points that out in powerful ways, feeding
his conclusion that God is a harmful delusion that ought to be
dismissed. I agree that God is in fact a delusion and ought to
be dismissed. We disagree on the question of whether that God is
the God encountered in Jesus of Nazareth or a gross distortion.
I believe it is a distortion.

I met Richard Dawkins some years ago when I gave a
lecture at New College, Oxford. I had just that day read his
incisive book The Selfish Gene in the Bodleian Library at
Oxford so I was pleased to find myself seated next to him at the
High Table for dinner.

I am glad his book is so popular. I think it
feeds the very debate that the religious tradition of the west
needs to have. J. B. Phillips, another Englishman, once wrote a
book entitled Your God Is Too Small. I believe that is
the great problem facing contemporary Christianity. Richard
Dawkins helps to make sure we face that problem and, for that
reason, I welcome his book.

John Shelby Spong




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