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HERE I STAND by John Shelby Spong


My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love, and Equality

by John Shelby Spong

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-06-067538-1

This engaging, fluid memoir from Spong (Liberating the Gospels, 1996, etc.), Episcopalian Bishop of Newark, of his theological odyssey is five parts theoretical, ten parts intramural, and perhaps one part personal and spiritual. Spong’s controversial positions regarding racism, sexism, and homophobia in the Episcopal Church have won him responses from “I believe you are a prophet” to “if all else fails, I will try to rid the world of your evil presence personally.” Spong chose to “move the theological debate out of the structures of sacred space and into the homes and professional lives of our people,” bucking the church hierarchy when he saw it “sacrifice truth and justice to the sensitivities of the majority of those who made up the ecclesiastical body politic.” Questions of moral credibility moved him to defend the rights of African-Americans, women, and homosexuals within his church, and the need to make his church relevant to this day and age prompted a reconsideration of biblical narratives in the light of Einstein and Darwin and the Big Bang. Though Spong is clearly a man of the mind, he has spent much of his time dueling, when not actually duking it out, with a reactionary church hierarchy, calling them on their professed convictions, straightening his words when they have twisted them, taking heat for tinkering with entrenched—and, he feels, outmoded and potentially lethal to his faith—theological concepts that nonetheless have dispensed much religious security over the years. Ultimately, this is a professional memoir, with little personal material—Spong’s wife’s long mental illness is treated here with the same distance he suggests he handled it with at home—and scant spiritual probings. While Spong makes both church politics and his theological cerebrations fascinating, readers may feel dismayed that a man who has so much so say about biblical exegesis consigns the transcendental and the divine to the back seat.