Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bishop Spong in Australia

Retired Episcopal Bishop John Selby Spong has recently been in Australia promoting his new book, Jesus for the Non-Religious. Despite criticism from the ultra-conservative Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Spong’s lecture tour has drawn large crowds, prompting Spong to comment that it has “tapped into a spiritual hunger that seems to be omni-present” throughout Australia.

In a recent article on his website, Spong relates three “unexpected serendipities from Australia.” He describes these events as “deeply touching” experiences that confirm for him that people are awakening to the “new and compelling vision” of Christianity that he and others have been discerning and writing about for years.

Following is one of these “unexpected serendipities”:


While I was signing books [in Canberra following a lecture at Albert Hall] I noticed a young man meandering for some time near the end of the line. When the last book was signed and the crowd gone, that man came to my table, knelt on one knee and began to talk with me. It had the quality of formal confession. He was indeed at the point of tears. “I want you to know,” he began, “you and your books have saved my life.” Recognizing the depth of feelings carried by these words, I invited him to tell me his story.

Out poured the account of a young gay man who had been told by his evangelical church that homosexuality was a sin that God condemned and that he must make a Herculean effort to overcome this moral depravity by turning to God and praying fervently to change. When “cure” did not come, he was told it was his fault. His faith was inadequate or his prayers were not fervent enough. He was in despair and depression. He said that he had begun to understand why the suicide rate among young gay men was three times as high as among heterosexual men. At some point in his dark night of the soul, he came upon my books, which told him that homosexuality is not abnormal, but minority, that one cannot be “cured” if one is not sick, that self-acceptance was the beginning of wholeness and that neither God nor the scriptures condemn sexuality that is whole, normal and self-giving. The fact that these books were written by a Christian bishop was terribly important to him, for it presented him with a Christianity about which he had never heard. He had learned that one cannot repent for what one is.

This gay man was finally hearing the gospel of acceptance and it was as if scales fell from his eyes when he began to see a Christianity that he had never seen before. I introduced him to the minister of a local church where gay and lesbian people are welcomed openly and where he will be safe and loved.

People ask why I am so impatient with religious structures and why I confront so relentlessly Christian prejudices. The answer is present in . . . stories [like this] of lives diminished by traditional religion. . . People [like this young man] are the ones for whom I write, and they reflect the reality for which I live.

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
To Whom the Future of the Catholic Church Belongs

1 comment:

Mystical Seeker said...

That is a great quote from Spong.

I think there is a lot of spiritual hunger out there from people who don't fit into what Christian orthodoxy teaches. Spong calls them "the church alumni society". And some people, like the man in the anecdote that you quoted, are not just spiritually disconnected but deeply wounded by what many churches are doing.