A Vision of the Rebirth of Christianity Occurring in Sweden

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 2 July 2009 0 Comments
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I have just read your answer to John Baker, who wanted to know where he can go to connect with a "Spong pastor." I, too, wonder if you could point me to someone here in Australia. I have read a number of your books, including Jesus for the Non-Religious and Why Christianity Must Change or Die. I have a list of others I still want to read. I am currently reading J. A. T. Robinson's Honest to God as a result of reading your autobiography. I talk about them all the time. I find it sad that I have to censor myself sometimes so as not to offend certain people with my new progressive ideas. Your books have awakened something in me and answered many questions I have long pondered. It amazes me how intelligent and educated people can be so medieval in their thinking when it comes to God, Jesus and the Bible. As a Christian I have believed we must challenge and expand our minds. There is so much to learn. It's funny how Christians claim we are so different because God gave us "free will" but condemn and judge anyone who dares to use it. The first book of yours that I read was Why Christianity Must Change or Die. After I read it I felt a real change in my spiritual growth. For a while I was very confused, hence I had to continue my journey, a journey I have really just begun. By reading your book I forced myself out of a comfortable place where all my questions had answers through the "inspired word of God," being touched by the Holy Spirit and "Faith." God and Jesus are more real and alive to me than ever before. Anyway, back to my original question — who can I contact to connect with as a Progressive Christian in or near Port Macquairie, NSW, Australia?


Dear Teresa,

I have been to Australia nine times and love that country enormously, but its dominant form of Christianity is very dated. In the New South Wales area you have to get beyond the Roman Catholic Church because the Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, is a medieval Catholic who does not know that the world has undergone an amazing theological revolution in the last 500 years.

Sydney Anglicans have been captured by the Jensens — Archbishop Peter Jensen and the Dean of the Anglican Cathedral, Philip Jensen. Sydney Anglicans are 18th century Northern Ireland Evangelicals who were planted in the South Pacific and have not grown since. It is interesting to watch Sydney Anglicans. They are so out of touch with reality that they do not speak to anyone who does not agree with them. Historically, they have been anti-Roman Catholic. One former Anglican Archbishop in Sydney, Donald Robinson, called the Pope "the Anti-Christ" and refused to sit on the stage of a papal visit to Sydney. Now, however, George Pell and Peter Jensen seem to be united since they have found a common enemy in homosexuals. It is amazing to contemplate the forms into which the gospel can degenerate. Things improve outside of Sydney, though Sydney tries to export its brand of Christianity through its economic power across the country. Anglican leaders in Brisbane, Newcastle, Perth and even in Kalgoorli are wonderful people who bear the Sydney Anglicans as a kind of cross.

The life of Australian Christianity for the future is held by a combination of progressive Anglicans and progressive leaders of the Uniting Church of Australia — a merger of major Protestant traditions. They sponsored a conference in 2007 in Sydney called Common Dreams that attracted 1500 people. A second one is scheduled for 2010. The leaders were Ian Pearson, Rex Hunt and Greg Jenks. Ian is the pastor of Pitt Street United Church in downtown Sydney, who hosted the Common Dreams Conference. If you were to contact him I am sure he could direct you to churches near Port Macquarie. If that does not work, e-mail Greg Jenks (gjenks@bigpond.net.au), who teaches theology in Brisbane, for suggestions.

Both of them are wonderful leaders. Good luck in your search.

~John Shelby Spong



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