Originally broadcast on June 28, 2018.
Probably America’s best-known spokesperson for an open, scholarly, and inclusive Christianity, Bishop John Shelby Spong has achieved an almost legendary reputation. A deeply committed Christian, he insists that he must also speak as an informed citizen of 21st century. Having equipped himself for his task by studying at major centers of Christian scholarship – Union Theological Seminary in New York, Yale Divinity School, Harvard Divinity School, and the storied universities of Cambridge, Oxford, and Edinburgh – he was named the Quatercentenary Scholar at Cambridge University in 1992 and the William Belden Noble Lecturer at Harvard University in 2000. He has also taught at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley California, the Pacific School of Religion also in Berkeley, Harvard Divinity School, the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, and the Theological School of Drew University in New Jersey. He has lectured at conference centers across the United States and Canada, including the Chautauqua Institution in Western New York, and at more than 500 universities, colleges, and seminaries across the English-speaking world, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and South Africa. He has also lectured through translators at Universities in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Thailand, and Indonesia.
Bishop Spong has received numerous honors, including being named “Humanist of the Year” in New York in 1999, and “National Person of the Year” by the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State in 2015. He is a Fellow of the Jesus Seminar and of the Gladstone Library in Wales. The Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Virginia, St. Paul’s College, and Lehigh University have each conferred on him the Doctor of Divinity degree, while Muhlenberg College, The Holmes Institute of Consciousness Studies, the University of North Carolina, and Drew University have each conferred on him the Doctor of Humane Letters degree. He was inducted to the Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers and Collegium Scholars at Morehouse College, Atlanta, Ga. in 2004. In 2010 his portrait was commissioned to hang in the “Hall of Honor” at the Martin Luther King Chapel at Morehouse College in Atlanta, alongside other noted civil rights leaders, and it hangs today just below the portrait of Justice Thurgood Marshall of the Supreme Court.
Well-known in radio and television circles, Jack Spong has appeared on such diverse programs as Politically Incorrect, The O’Reilly Factor, Good Morning America, Oprah, and Phil Donahue, and he has been featured on CBS’s Sixty Minutes. His twenty-six books have been translated into every major European language, including Russian and in the non-European languages of Arabic, Korean, and Japanese, and have together sold almost two million copies. His published articles have been featured in major newspapers across the world, and he has been the subject of stories in Time, Newsweek, Playboy, People’s Magazine, and the New Jersey Monthly. From 2001 through 2016 he was a weekly columnist on the Internet, published first by Everyday Health Today, then by Waterfront Media and for the past decade by Progressive Christianity.Org. This column, sometimes opened as often as 100,000 times a week, is entitled “A New Christianity for a New World” and reaches around the world.
Bishop Spong served as a priest of the Episcopal Church for twenty-one years in Durham, North Carolina (St. Joseph’s), Tarboro, North Carolina (Calvary Parish), Lynchburg, Virginia (St. John’s) and Richmond, Virginia (St. Paul’s). While in Tarboro and Lynchburg he was the play-by-play radio announcer for high school football and basketball games. He was elected by the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Newark (Northern New Jersey) to the office of Bishop in 1976, where he served for 24 years prior to his retirement in 2000.
Bishop Spong cultivates the right enemies, and on occasion has been attacked by Bill Buckley, George Will, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Ross Douthet, and two Archbishops of Canterbury! He has received death threats from right wing religious voices and was once named “Public Enemy Number One” in Edgecombe County, North Carolina by the Ku Klux Klan. He and his wife have walked through angry and sometimes spitting picketers to deliver lectures in the United States and abroad.
Jack Spong is married to Christine Mary Spong, who also serves as his agent and his editor. Parents to five grown children and grandparents of six grandchildren, they live today in New Jersey. Visit him online at www.johnshelbyspong.com.