Friday, October 16, 2009

A Manifesto from Bishop John Shelby Spong

My Dad sent this to me this evening with the comment: "I thought you'd appreciate this no nonsense manifesto from this progressive Episcopalian Bishop from New Jersey. Too bad our bishops don't say the same. . and very publicly!"
Guess what! I DO like it. . . hehehe

Thursday October 15, 2009
A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!
I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is "an abomination to God," about how homosexuality is a "chosen lifestyle," or about how through prayer and "spiritual counseling" homosexual persons can be "cured." Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy.

I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate "reparative therapy," as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality "deviant."

I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that "we love the sinner but hate the sin." That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement. I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is "high-sounding, pious rhetoric." The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer.

The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance. They no longer talk to anyone but themselves. I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression. There isn't. Justice postponed is justice denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new understanding was to "Roll on over or we'll roll on over you!" Time waits for no one.


I will particularly ignore those members of my own Episcopal Church who seek to break away from this body to form a "new church," claiming that this new and bigoted instrument alone now represents the Anglican Communion. Such a new ecclesiastical body is designed to allow these pathetic human beings, who are so deeply locked into a world that no longer exists, to form a community in which they can continue to hate gay people, distort gay people with their hopeless rhetoric and to be part of a religious fellowship in which they can continue to feel justified in their homophobic prejudices for the rest of their tortured lives. Church unity can never be a virtue that is preserved by allowing injustice, oppression and psychological tyranny to go unchallenged.

In my personal life, I will no longer listen to televised debates conducted by "fair-minded" channels that seek to give "both sides" of this issue "equal time." I am aware that these stations no longer give equal time to the advocates of treating women as if they are the property of men or to the advocates of reinstating either segregation or slavery, despite the fact that when these evil institutions were coming to an end the Bible was still being quoted frequently on each of these subjects. It is time for the media to announce that there are no longer two sides to the issue of full humanity for gay and lesbian people.

There is no way that justice for homosexual people can be compromised any longer.
I will no longer act as if the Papal office is to be respected if the present occupant of that office is either not willing or not able to inform and educate himself on public issues on which he dares to speak with embarrassing ineptitude. I will no longer be respectful of the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who seems to believe that rude behavior, intolerance and even killing prejudice is somehow acceptable, so long as it comes from third-world religious leaders, who more than anything else reveal in themselves the price that colonial oppression has required of the minds and hearts of so many of our world's population. I see no way that ignorance and truth can be placed side by side, nor do I believe that evil is somehow less evil if the Bible is quoted to justify it.

I will dismiss as unworthy of any more of my attention the wild, false and uninformed opinions of such would-be religious leaders as Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Albert Mohler, and Robert Duncan. My country and my church have both already spent too much time, energy and money trying to accommodate these backward points of view when they are no longer even tolerable.


I make these statements because it is time to move on. The battle is over. The victory has been won. There is no reasonable doubt as to what the final outcome of this struggle will be. Homosexual people will be accepted as equal, full human beings, who have a legitimate claim on every right that both church and society have to offer any of us. Homosexual marriages will become legal, recognized by the state and pronounced holy by the church. "Don't ask, don't tell" will be dismantled as the policy of our armed forces. We will and we must learn that equality of citizenship is not something that should ever be submitted to a referendum. Equality under and before the law is a solemn promise conveyed to all our citizens in the Constitution itself.

Can any of us imagine having a public referendum on whether slavery should continue, whether segregation should be dismantled, whether voting privileges should be offered to women? The time has come for politicians to stop hiding behind unjust laws that they themselves helped to enact, and to abandon that convenient shield of demanding a vote on the rights of full citizenship because they do not understand the difference between a constitutional democracy, which this nation has, and a "mobocracy," which this nation rejected when it adopted its constitution. We do not put the civil rights of a minority to the vote of a plebiscite.
I will also no longer act as if I need a majority vote of some ecclesiastical body in order to bless, ordain, recognize and celebrate the lives and gifts of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church. No one should ever again be forced to submit the privilege of citizenship in this nation or membership in the Christian Church to the will of a majority vote.

The battle in both our culture and our church to rid our souls of this dying prejudice is finished. A new consciousness has arisen. A decision has quite clearly been made. Inequality for gay and lesbian people is no longer a debatable issue in either church or state. Therefore, I will from this moment on refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no longer tolerate our culture's various forms of homophobia. I do not care who it is who articulates these attitudes or who tries to make them sound holy with religious jargon.

I have been part of this debate for years, but things do get settled and this issue is now settled for me. I do not debate any longer with members of the "Flat Earth Society" either. I do not debate with people who think we should treat epilepsy by casting demons out of the epileptic person; I do not waste time engaging those medical opinions that suggest that bleeding the patient might release the infection. I do not converse with people who think that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans as punishment for the sin of being the birthplace of Ellen DeGeneres or that the terrorists hit the United Sates on 9/11 because we tolerated homosexual people, abortions, feminism or the American Civil Liberties Union.

I am tired of being embarrassed by so much of my church's participation in causes that are quite unworthy of the Christ I serve or the God whose mystery and wonder I appreciate more each day. Indeed I feel the Christian Church should not only apologize, but do public penance for the way we have treated people of color, women, adherents of other religions and those we designated heretics, as well as gay and lesbian people.


Life moves on. As the poet James Russell Lowell once put it more than a century ago: "New occasions teach new duties, Time makes ancient good uncouth." I am ready now to claim the victory. I will from now on assume it and live into it. I am unwilling to argue about it or to discuss it as if there are two equally valid, competing positions any longer.
The day for that mentality has simply gone forever.
This is my manifesto and my creed. I proclaim it today. I invite others to join me in this public declaration. I believe that such a public outpouring will help cleanse both the church and this nation of its own distorting past. It will restore integrity and honor to both church and state. It will signal that a new day has dawned and we are ready not just to embrace it, but also to rejoice in it and to celebrate it.
John Shelby Spong
__._,_.___

16 comments:

Alastair said...

Three cheers for Bishop Spong! If only there were a few more like him in other churches (not just the RC Church in the US).

I've long felt that if the price for church unity is basic injustice then it's not worth paying. The sooner the right-wing go off and form their own "church" the better. The world church community had nothing to do with the churches in South Africa who advocated apartheid on the basis of skin colour, so why should we be so keen to accommodate those who want to see it perpetuated on the basis of sexuality?

J said...

I wonder why he omitted Pope Benedict XVI and his cardinals among the list of preachers to whom he will no longer listen. Is't he ignoring the 800-lb gorilla?

JustinO'Shea said...

Hi ALASTAIR. . .
Oh how I wish we RCs could claim Bp Spong! However, he a bishop in the Episcopal Church USA, Anglican Communion.

How far do you think a Catholic bishop would get publishing a manifesto like that!? ;-) Pity!

JustinO'Shea said...

Hi J. . . But he does include the Rome and Canterbury. . nt by name but by office. . those who hold these seats come and go. . the Office remains relatively firm. . .

See what Spong says: [7th paragraph]
"Justice. . for homosexual people can be compromised any longer. I will no longer act as if the Papal office is to be respected if the present occupant of that office is either not willing or not able to inform and educate himself on public issues on which he dares to speak with embarrassing ineptitude. I will no longer be respectful of the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who seems to believe that rude behavior, intolerance and even killing prejudice is somehow acceptable. . .

Spong leaves no one off the hook. hehe Good!

loki4469 said...

Amen!!!

Coop said...

I raise my coffee mug in a toast to Bishop Sprong! Yeah I got up late this morning.

Alastair said...

Sorry - that was badly phrased; I know Spong is in the Episcopal Church. I'm currently going to a Church of Scotland which has declared a moratorium on ordaining gay people, and on any of their officers making public statements on the issue. I'm trying to persuade the local leadership to take a stand, but they're reluctant.

I sent Spong's article to the minister though, just to keep up the pressure.

Courtney said...

Love, love, love it. Do you have a link to the original article by any chance? Do you know where your dad read it?

Thanks!

J said...

I stand somewhat corrected, although saying he won't respect the Papal office so long as the "present occupant" remains uninformed and his statements inept seems a little tepid in comparison to what he has to say about Pat Robertson, et al. His Holiness is completely informed, which makes his and his church's position all the more indefensible. It always seems to me that our harshest words are reserved for easy-target televangelists when the Catholic Church, which is a much more powerful and corrosive opponent, is merely called willfully uninformed.
Nontheless, Spong's observations are a splendid rant.

JustinO'Shea said...

Courtney. . . here is what seems to be the closet to what might be the original site. . .http://secure.agoramedia.com/spong/34674.asp

I googled and found a number of sites for Spong's Manifesto. ..even my own blogpage!!! haahaaa

One of my friends said he was going to try to live by that! Good idea. It would be a freeing-up of mind and spirit: no wasting time on that stuff since I get no where [except smile-strain] with pre-determined overcharged emotional agendas.

Gary Kelly said...

Onya Spong! But if it took 500 years for Rome to get around to apologizing to Galileo - to end its dispute with the indisputable - then maybe we can expect to hear an apology to the homosexual community in 2500.

Meanwhile, I abandoned any debate with the church years ago.

Stew said...

Unfortunately, the general opinions from the "church" is what drives so many gays away from the church.
I'm hearing more and more of people like Spong. Maybe there is hope for the church. Because it's sad to see so many that believe be put out for a stupid reason that has nothing to do with anything.

Coop said...

As much I'd be so delighted for the Catholic Church to turn over a new leaf, I'd have to agree with Gary.

There's also those two words:
Catholic. Guilt. Where would we Catholics be without it??

JustinO'Shea said...

"Catholic guilt"...where would be be without it?

I'll tell you where. . . here: happy, joyous, free! I refuse/do not live with guilt and I am a catholic. . .Mass and communion on Sunday ,and to use an expression I despise ". . .the whole 9 yeards!" Yiksie!

NO ONE can MAKE me feel guilty. . . unless I allow them/ give them that power over me. Or, in other words I choose to feel guilty.

Conscience is the highest norm of morality. . . my conscience. . no one can tell me I have sinned. . they can say "that is a sinful act" but they cannot tell me I have sinned. I make that judgment; no one else!

If I do sin, and repent and am forgiven, I do not beat myself up for the rest of my life. It is over/done/finished.

To feed and live in guilt is very bad mental health. To live in guilt is a sin, in my book because it is a refusal to deal with the "sin" and accept forgiveness.

I am beginning to notice a lot of poor mental health in adults over sex. . . a refusal to accept responsibility for decisions, deal with this, then let go and move on.

See my drift? ;-)

Cheerios, dude. . .justin

Coop said...

I should stop feeling guilty cause I'm not a by the book Catholic.? That's both a statement and a question... Justin case I read you wrong.

Bolton Winpenny said...

I'm so happy to hear Bishop John Shelby Spong declare equality for gays and lesbians has been won and the battle over. When do I get my $350 back for my vehicle transfer tax when we traded my spouse's truck for a new truck in my name? Does this mean I can die and my spouse will get my social security? Somehow I believe that my representative John Payne will still suggest that I leave Pennsylvania in order to find equality, and Senator Piccola will still tell me that I do have equality since I'm just as free to marry a woman as any other man. Rep. Helm most likely still believes that we should include sexual orientation and gender identity into our non-discrimination law, but do to that ever pressing slippery slope, won't sign it for fear it will mean my marriage might get recognized. Have the central Pa. Congress House Representatives signed the repeal of DOMA bill? No?... I didn't think so. Perhaps Pa. Senator Eichelberger, Folmer et al, decided not to write words of discrimination into Pa's constitution, and instead signed the Pa. Marriage Equality Bill... hmmm, nope, still only two names there.

Decades ago, Harvey Milk thought he made great progress, and some drag queens in NYC stood up to police raids, but politically, we've only gone backwards since then.