Reflections on our Final Days in South Africa

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 16 January 2008 0 Comments
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The news has been received that a California Episcopal Diocese
(San Joaquin) has reached the second stage in voting to leave the
national Episcopal Communion over the issue of homosexuality.
The media is describing the anti-gay position as biblical, the
pro-gay as being against Bible teaching. After reading
Living in Sin and The Sins of Scripture, I
cannot believe that it is that simple. Reporters are not doing
their job of careful investigation.

  • Have these biblical stories and texts that are quoted to
    support the anti-gay position ever been read, analyzed,
    thoroughly debated, and defended in bishops' conferences? These
    are supposedly intelligent people who respect scholarship. How
    can they support exclusion on such flimsy evidence?

  • Am I wrong to think this struggle among Episcopalians might
    be a healthy thing, and that resistance from the highest levels
    might be a way of teaching and illuminating facts and reality,
    exposing the prejudice for the evil it is?

  • Where is all this going? What could or should be done to
    bring about a rational and acceptable result?
    Your thoughts and your comments would be very much appreciated.


It is not fair to expect secular journalists to be
biblical scholars, nor should it be anticipated that they would
spend the necessary time to research the issue. It is for that
reason that they tend to accept uncritically the oft-repeated
Evangelical Protestant and Conservative Roman Catholic
definitions that the Bible is anti-gay. If these people were
honest, they would have to admit that the Bible is also
pro-slavery and anti-women.

There is also a widely accepted mentality that if the
Bible is opposed, the idea must be wrong. That is little more
than nonsensical fundamentalism. The rise of democracy was
contrary to the "clear teaching of the Bible." as the debate over
the forced signing of the Magna Carta by King John of England in
1215 revealed. The Bible was quoted to prove that Galileo was
wrong; that Darwin was wrong; that Freud was wrong; and that
allowing women to be educated, to vote, to enter the professions,
and to be ordained was wrong. So the fact that the Bible is
quoted to prove that homosexuality is evil and to be condemned is
hardly a strong argument, given the history of how many times the
Bible has been wrong. I believe that most bishops know this but
the Episcopal Church has some fundamentalist bishops and a few
who are "fellow travelers" with fundamentalists

The Bible was written between the years 1000 B.C.E. and
135 C.E. Our knowledge of almost everything has increased
exponentially since that time. It is the height of ignorance to
continue using the Bible as an encyclopedia of knowledge to keep
dying prejudices intact. The media seems to cooperate in
perpetuating that long ago abandoned biblical attitude.

That is not surprising since the religious people keep
quoting it to justify their continued state of unenlightenment.
That attitude is hardly worthy of the time it takes to engage it.
I do not debate with members of the flat Earth society either.
Prejudices all die. The first sign that death is imminent comes
when the prejudice is debated publicly. The tragedy is that
church leaders back the wrong side of the conflict, which is
happening today from the Pope to the Archbishop of Canterbury to
the current crop of Evangelical leaders. That too will pass and
the debate on homosexuality will be just one more embarrassment
in Christian history.

John Shelby Spong




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