My Great Mentors - Number Seven: Clifford L. Stanley

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 10 October 2013 0 Comments
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I embrace the divinity of Christ but do not wish to rely on the virgin birth or the resurrection as proof of that divinity. My pride in this “position” is my Achilles, I know, or at least suspect. In the sense that I am a new Christian (though able to trace the source of my faith to early Anglican experiences in the All Saints Church of Parramatta in Sydney, Australia). I am open to holding Christ’s teachings high, yet, as you have probably gathered, I am “holding back” in my faith. Love of his word (as reported) and of the sacrament, together with the power of forgiveness in my own life and the hope and love that the Christians I meet share, have all made me wonder: am I a failed Christian, as I believe Christianity too important to be relegated to the world of fairy stories or is there a place for me and my ilk in eternity?


Dear Bob,

I see you as one who seeks to find God beyond the boundaries of your religious past. That is I believe what all of us must do. The question is whether the institutions that shaped our religious past will be open to our presence in their lives.

If you grew up, as you state, as a “Sydney, Australia Anglican” you surely know that the Anglican Archdiocese of Sydney represents what is probably the most backward, literalistic brand of fundamentalism that one can find in the entire Anglican Communion. They are also judgmental, defensive and attack anyone who seeks intellectual integrity in worship. Christianity, as practiced by both the Sydney Anglicans under the leadership of the current Archbishop, Peter Jensen, and the Sydney Roman Catholics under the leadership of the current Cardinal Archbishop George Pell, are so out of touch with modern knowledge and contemporary scholarship that they are the main reasons that Australia is increasingly a secular and non-religious society.

Ultimate truth cannot be captured in the words of the Bible, the creeds, the doctrines or the liturgies of any religious tradition. All of these things are only pointers toward a truth they cannot capture. Their claims of possessing truth in either their “inerrant scriptures or in their “infallible” religious leaders are as arrogant as they are nonsensical.

Having said that, I will continue to walk into the mystery of God via the Christ path. I call myself a Christian. I feel bound to live my life in such a way as to share life, love and being with every other child of God. Increasingly I find communities of faith that embrace these ideas and I am comfortable to live within these communities. I hope you can find such a place in Australia.

My best,

John Shelby Spong




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