A Believable Conviction amidst the Trauma of Finitude

Column by Rev. Lauren Van Ham on September, 6 2018

Of the 12 theses Bishop Spong examines in his (maybe) last book, Unbelievable, Thesis 11 is, “Life After Death.” Still believable, he asks?

Saving Christianity from Easter

Column by Rev. David M. Felten on August, 16 2018

Jesus’ life was not an expression of a judging, vengeful vision, but was about manifesting a way of life that wasn’t driven by mere survival. Jesus’ life was grounded in a commitment to freeing people to love beyond their boundaries and their fears – beyond tribe, race, ethnicity, gender. This is the kind of love that enabled him to give his life away.

Column by Joran Slane Oppelt on June, 21 2018

Why are we here? How did we come to be? What is our relationship to the force that created us? What is our relationship to the environment and to the other creatures on Earth? Does man exercise free will? Why is life full of suffering? Where is the line between right and wrong, guilt and innocence, damnation and salvation? For Jews and Christians, these questions (and more) are first posed in that short, simple story.

Column by Fred Plumer on April, 26 2018

A few weeks ago, I recommended to our Progressing Spirit writers that we should all write articles that responded to Bishop Spong’s book, Unbelievable. Then it hit me. I was going to be doing the article this week and as I had suggested to our writers, I would have to start with Spong’s first thesis. “Holy moly,” what was I thinking? For Spong’s first thesis is “God.” Now, I am a student of the Bible. I have been studying it for over forty years. Nearly thirty years ago I came to the dramatic conclusion that the vast majority, if not the entire Bible, was written as metaphor by people who may have been very bright for their time in history but were largely ignorant of the world that inherited this book. We really do not understand the world they lived in, and obviously, they did not understand the world we live in today. Many of their sincere beliefs would be considered, at best, superstitions today. That is one of the reasons it has always amazed me people can argue for an inerrant interpretation of the Bible, using the Bible to “prove” their own interpretation.

Column by Rev. Gretta Vosper on February, 22 2018

Rejecting or reinterpreting traditional religious beliefs has always undermined family relationships, communities of faith, and the general coherence of the public. Many who haven’t crossed the threshold of a religious building in decades (if ever) hold rigidly to the privileges they believe religion provides them. Toy with those beliefs and you are unwittingly challenging the rights of the privileged, rights they too frequently enjoy denying those who do not share their beliefs. And those who do participate in religious communities with regularity are often invested in language and ritual they believe is integral to their experience. “Without reciting the Lord’s Prayer when we gather, how will we remember who we are?” they worry.

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on January, 11 2018

“Unbelievable” began its life years ago when my daughter, Jaquelin, who owns a Ph.D. degree in physics from Stanford University said to me: “Dad, the questions the church keeps trying to answer we don’t even ask anymore!” She was not hostile. It was just a matter of fact statement. The church keeps posing issues that the secular world has settled, or at least has decided to ignore. Questions such as: Who or what is God? What does original sin mean? What does it mean to say that Jesus died for my sins? Can one really believe in life after death? What does it mean to be born again? Why do we not try to grow up?

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on January, 4 2018

The book has elements about it that have bordered on the miraculous. I was not sure I would ever be able to complete it. I had written about ninety per cent of this volume before I had a stroke in September of 2016. The stroke immobilized my right side. It was not clear that I would recover. I could not lift my right hand, nor walk without a walker, dragging my right leg. These symptoms, however, began to fade in about six weeks and all my limbs have returned to functioning, a bit weaker, but functioning nonetheless. My tread mill was a valuable aid. I had used it daily for many years, but now it became important in my rehabilitation. My rule was to use the track for one hour a day. Once I did twelve minute miles or five miles an hour. Today in that hour I do three and one quarter miles, not a jogger’s pace, but steady as strength has flowed back into my body. One symptom, however, has remained resistant to my efforts at recovery. I cannot make my right hand write legibly enough that I can read it. I could use the computer, but that is not natural to me. I never learned to type and hunting and pecking takes so much time. People suggested that I get a program where I talk into my computer and it converts the words to print. I tried that, but perhaps I was undone by my southern accent. Every time I spoke the word “career” the computer would write “Korea!”

Column by Rev. Roger Wolsey on April, 27 2017

As a progressive Christian pastor and author I frequently receive critical pushback from conservative and fundamentalist Christians who adamantly declare that the only way to experience salvation is by giving intellectual assent to certain specific truth claims about the life of Jesus. Scratch that, they don’t generally care about his life, their focus is primarily upon Jesus’ death and his resurrection. Their message boils down to “Unless you believe that Jesus died for your sins and that he physically rose from the grave, you are a heretic, and will go to hell when you die.”

Column by Rev. Mark Sandlin on March, 30 2017

Churches are dying at an alarming rate. Every year more than 4000 churches close their doors for good and more than 2,765,000 people leave the church each year.

Yet we, the Church, insist on doing the same thing over and over again and somehow expecting different results. When confronted with change we tend to insist that “it has always been done that way,” as if history is an acceptable excuse for continuing down our path to demise.