Pioneering leader in liberal Christianity challenges many Biblical interpretations and will speak in Peoria about new theology


John Shelby Spong, a global and pioneering leader in liberal Christianity, is scheduled to speak at 3 p.m. Saturday April 9 at the Universalist Unitarian Church, 3000 W. Richwoods. Tickets can be purchased at the door or by calling the church.

Spong became the Episcopal Bishop of Newark, N.J., in 1976 in his mid 40s. He had already developed a theological viewpoint that sharply contrasted with Christian fundamentalism. He had studied the Bible rigorously and had concluded that many of the traditional Bible stories did not really happen. He developed a new theology that seemed radical to many, claiming that teachings like the virgin birth, miracles, and even the resurrection, were myths that did not actually occur.

Over his long and productive life, Spong has lectured to hundreds of audiences, taught at Harvard and other schools and sold over one million books. His books have titles like “The Sins of the Scriptures,” “Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism,” and “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.” His works directly confront many traditional understandings of Christianity that rely on a belief in supernatural events.

Spong even believes that “most theological God-talk today is meaningless.” He argues that if God is anything, it is not an external entity, but something within us. “God is not a noun that needs to be defined. God is a verb that needs to be lived.” These views have made Spong a champion of religious liberalism, while some conservative Christians have referred to him as a “nightmare.”

Spong embraces Darwin’s theory of evolution, argues in favor of full rights for LGBTQ people, and claims that Christianity must undergo a radical shift away from Biblical literalism if it is to survive. He dissects Biblical passages minutely to show how they arose and why they should not be taken as historical facts. He points the way to a radical new view of religion based on a contemporary view of the human condition.

Since his retirement in 2001, Bishop Spong has continued to write and travel widely to lecture and teach. He has been and still is a transformational voice in the religious world. He became a bishop 40 years ago and as Episcopal priest Ellen Barrett writes, “the Episcopal Church has not been the same since.” Neither has the rest of the world.

Bishop Spong has appeared on 60 Minutes, Good Morning America, Fox News Live, Larry King, and the O’Reilly Factor.

The public is invited to his 3 p.m. April 9 presentation at the Universalist Unitarian Church. Tickets are $10 available at the door or by calling 688-5608.

Michael Brown

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