Beauty, Wonder and Excitement in New Mexico

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 25 June 2008 0 Comments
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You continue to write articles that both excite and
amaze me. My respect for you, as I have often said, started when you
were my bishop in the Diocese of Newark. Every time I heard you speak
you challenged me and widened my spiritual world. I find today that
often in my prayers I fall back into the humanizing of God to assist
me in relating in some way. When I watch our church being torn apart,
however, I realize how limiting my humanizing is. In your columns I
see in the Episcopal Church a way to a new Christianity and that
enables me to enter my parish and celebrate the Eucharist interpreting
what I hear said so that worship becomes much more personal for me.

I feel that the Church must believe what we say every Sunday, "Thou
shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, and
with all thy soul. This is the first great commandment and the second
is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these
two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."


Thanks for your letter. I'm glad that this has
been your experience. Raising consciousness is not easy. It brings
deep appreciation from people like you, but it also brings deep
hostility from those who do not see. Every change in thinking
involves the death of a previous way of thinking and human beings do
not do well in the dying — even when death turns out to be the
doorway to resurrection.

It always helps to see progress in the human value system, but
sometimes it takes a lifetime before people notice.

I grew up in a radically segregated Episcopal church
in North Carolina. I lived through wrenching battles in that church
as racism began to die. I lived to see the Episcopal Church in North
Carolina elect as their only bishop a gifted African-American priest,
Michael Curry, who was at that time the rector of a Baltimore church.
He has been directing the affairs of the Diocese of North Carolina now
since 2000.

I grew up in a sexist church where girls could not serve as acolytes
and women were not allowed to function liturgically or to sit in on
any decision making body of church life. I lived long enough to see
40% of our clergy become women, 60% of our seminary students become
women and to see my church choose a woman bishop (in Nevada),
Katharine Jefferts-Schori, to be our Presiding Bishop, the highest
office our church has..

I grew up in a homophobic church where gay and lesbian people were
treated as if they were either mentally ill or morally depraved. I
have lived long enough to see openly homosexual clergy serving our
church with distinction and honor, and one of them, Gene Robinson, to
be elected and confirmed to be the Bishop of New Hampshire. Bishop
Robinson is not either the first or the only gay bishop in my church,
as the press likes to pretend so that it looks like news; he is our
first and only honest gay bishop.

Those are the things that make it worthwhile to endure the tension,
the conflict and the hostility that change always brings. Thanks
again for your letter.

John Shelby Spong




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