John Shelby Spong, 90, Dies; Sought to Open Up the Episcopal Church


That yr he ordained Robert Williams, an brazenly homosexual man, as a priest. (Ellen Barrett, a lesbian, had been ordained a few decade earlier than.) Bishop Spong understood the controversy he was stirring — in reality, he invited each Episcopal bishop within the nation to attend.

9 months later he was censured by his colleagues, however he continued to ordain homosexual and lesbian monks — at the very least 35 by the point he retired in 2000, he claimed, together with Bishop Perry. The church ultimately adopted his lead: In 1996 an Episcopal courtroom dominated that homosexuality was not counter to its ideas, and in 2015 the church acknowledged same-sex marriage.

If Bishop Spong’s place on girls and L.G.B.T.Q. clergy put him on the sting of the mainstream, his theological views put him properly exterior it. He taught that the Gospels must be thought-about inventive interpretations of Jesus’ life, not literal accounts of it, and he referred to as on Christians to reject concepts, like authentic sin, that would not be defined by science.

These views, much more than his social activism, attracted tens of millions of followers, in addition to numerous critics. Writing in Nationwide Overview in 1988, William Murchison referred to as Bishop Spong “the newest in an extended line of proper reverend goofballs,” chastising him for calling on the church to bend towards trendy society moderately than the opposite method round.

Traditionalists particularly disliked his take-no-quarter method, which they felt made it tough to have a dialogue.

“He at all times pushed the envelope, in impact made it laborious for different factors of view to coexist,” Paul F.M. Zahl, a retired Episcopal priest, stated in an interview. “You type of felt you had been being instructed to develop up, that he was preaching an grownup model of Christianity.”

Bishop Spong’s aggressive liberalism ceaselessly acquired him in hassle. After a outstanding Nigerian bishop tried to exorcise the “gay demons” from a homosexual priest at an Anglican convention in 1998, Bishop Spong denounced African Anglicans as backward.

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