Who Is John Shelby Spong?

“Is it you and me or just this world we live in
I say we’re living on love they say we’re living in sin.” – Bon Jovi

Jon Spong Jovi
By Ian Lawton

John Shelby Spong is the rock star of the progressive Christian movement. Put simply, he rocks. No one in the last 50 years has done more to translate Christianity so that it makes sense in a post modern world. No one has worked harder to present this movement, centre stage. Well, at least on the stage.

Ok, so he is not young anymore. Nor is his namesake, Jon Bon Jovi. He looks to communities like ours, and people around the world, to take the next steps on the progressive tour. He has enough drive and passion to guide us along the next stages.

An internet search of the phrase ‘living in sin’ reveals a fascinating top three results. John Spong’s book of that title is nestled in the middle of a ‘Bon Jovi’ (Rock band) Brazilian fan site named ‘living in sin’ and a ‘holiness’ group entitled ‘living without sin’. The Bon Jovi fan site peddles sex. The holiness site peddles old time religion.

The progressive movement that Spong has spawned is an antidote to both. It also brings them closer together. Let me explain.

Sexier than thou, as seen on the fan site, doesn’t work for long. The competitive, superficial elements of western culture don’t get at the essence of life and love and humanity. The progressive movement is interested in these essential matters, without needing to enforce absolute moral standards on people, nor ruin anyone’s fun. Don’t get me wrong. Progressive spirituality affirms the sexual in profound ways. It just engages with sexuality at a level deeper than commercialized culture. It explores sexuality that has integrity and invites people into a more connected humanity. Jack Spong has lived a life of integrity and connectedness, beginning with civil rights battles and then setting his sights on institutional and homophobic injustice in the church. He inspires us to continue in the cause for inclusion.

Holier than thou, as preached on the religious site, doesn’t work for many of us either. The holiness group claims as one of its beliefs that a sinless life is possible in the power of the Holy Spirit and only a life without sin is acceptable to God. This sort of holiness is otherworldly and pious. This is the sort of religion that divides life into the holy and the profane, and any engagement with the earthy, the sexual, or the human, is frowned upon. The progressive movement sees holiness as a full engagement with the stuff of life and love and humanity, and not a retreat from it. This is what J A T Robinson describes as “the beyond in the midst of our life” and “the holy in the common”. Robinson was Spong’s mentor, and penned the famous work “Honest to God”, a timeless text for progressives interested in theology.

Spong’s books, including ‘Living in Sin’, are a rose between these two thorny extremes. His teaching is profound as it challenges prejudice of all sorts at its root. He opens up possibilities for progressive theology, warns against swallowing ancient and baseless dogma, and calls for the church to be radically inclusive. He draws together that which has, for no good reason, been separate for far too long. Religion and science! Life and faith! This world and the beyond! Sunday and Monday!

Spong’s life has been so extraordinary that a play has been written about it.

“A PEBBLE IN MY SHOE – THE LIFE AND TIMES OF BISHOP JOHN SHELBY SPONG” is touring the country. It opened in LA in October of 2005 to a packed house and a standing ovation. Watch out, Jon Bon Jovi.

Check out the site for more information visit www.willandcompany.com/pebble

While you’re at it, check out Spong’s visit to Spring Lake next week. We’re very excited, and hope you can join us if you are in reach.

If you are not in reach, check out the dvd package we have put together, and stay tuned for the news and dvd’s of his weekend visit on February 18 and 19.

For all of us, near or far, Spong has laid down the challenge. We can freely be part of a movement of depth and courage that feels no need to tell people how or what to believe, but rather urges us all to be true to ourselves, to live fully, to love wastefully and to be all that we can be.

Don’t miss this Sunday when Ian explores the relationship between Bishop Spong and Christ Community Church, and reveals how Bishop Spong played matchmaker across the ocean to bring the Lawtons to this unique American community.

Ian Lawton’s Bio

Bishop Spong To Speak at C3/CCC

Saturday, February 18th:
9:00 a.m. Lecture
10:30 a.m. Book Signing
11:00 a.m. Lecture
(cost- $25)

Sunday, February 19th:
9:30 am Bishop Spong speaks at our morning gathering
10:45 a.m. Q & A Session

For more information, call the church office at (616)842-1985.

John Shelby Spong, whose books have sold more than a million copies, was
the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark for 24 years before his
retirement in 2001. His admirers acclaim his legacy as a teaching bishop
who makes contemporary theology accessible to the ordinary lay person—
he’s considered a champion of an inclusive faith by many both inside and
outside the Christian church.

In his latest book, The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of
Hate to Discover the God of Love (Harper San Francisco, April 2005), the
visionary thinker seeks to introduce people to a proper way to engage the
holy book of the Judeo-Christian tradition. A committed Christian who
has spent a lifetime studying the Bible and whose life has been deeply
shaped by it, Bishop Spong says he was not interested in Bible-bashing. “I
come to this interpretive task not as an enemy of Christianity,” he says.
“I am not even a disillusioned former Christian, as some of my scholar
friends identify themselves. I am a believer who knows and loves the Bible
deeply. But I also recognize that parts of it have been used to under gird
prejudices and to mask violence.”

A visiting lecturer at Harvard and at universities and churches worldwide,
Bishop Spong delivers more than 200 public lectures each year to
standing-room only crowds. His best selling books include Rescuing the
Bible from Fundamentalism, A New Christianity for a New World, Why
Christianity Must Change or Die, and Here I Stand.

His extensive media experience includes a profile segment on “60 Minutes” and other appearances on “Good Morning America,” “Fox News Live,” “Politically Incorrect,” “Larry King Live,” “The O’Reilly Factor,” William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line,” and “Extra.”

Bishop Spong and his wife, Christine Mary Spong, have five children and six
grandchildren. They live in New Jersey.

Can’t make it to Spring Lake for Bishop Spong’s appearance?

Purchase the complete Center for Religion and Life weekend on DVD.

The set will include both of Saturday’s lectures, Sunday’s sermon, the sermon talk back featuring Bishop Spong and Ian Lawton, plus a never before seen interview with Bishop Spong.

This Sunday: CRL Brunch on Intelligent Design

The Center for Religion and Life’s Sunday Brunch Lecture Series
Sunday February 12, 2006
Howard Van Till
Brunch begins at 11:45 a.m.
Presentation 12:30 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.

The news industry has been busy recently with reports from Dover, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere regarding the efforts of some parents to get a perspective called “Intelligent Design” (ID) into the public school science classroom. In order to evaluate these efforts we need to get answers to several questions: Has ID earned the right to be presented in the biology classroom as an alternative to evolution? Has ID, as claimed by its proponents, stimulated a fruitful scientific controversy that students deserve to hear? Is ID even a scientific theory or, as many critics suggest, is ID a religious proposal masquerading as a scientific theory? These questions and the ones that you bring will be the subject of this Sunday Brunch discussion.

Check Out the Bulletin for This Sunday and the Bulletin Archive!

The C3 Bulletin Archive has turned into a great resource center for other progressive communities around the world. Check out our Bulletin Archive for more progressive Christian liturgies today!

May we join together as one community across divides of geography and time
to be united and inspired by these gathering words:

As we come together and feel the pulse of the life course among us, let us be thankful for this day and these people.

May we, gather here in mystery and unity, share an intention to live fully, breathing deeply into each moment, finding more love in ourselves and each other.

May we, gathered here in struggle and power, remember to listen for that voice still and small inside all of us that reminds us to look for more hope, everywhere.

Jesus said, “I have come that all people may have life, and have it in abundance.”

Are You Part of this Dynamic Community?

This Sunday following the 9:30 gathering we will be exploring our online
ministries in our Sermon Talk Back format. We will be examining issues
surrounding the use of technology. Is there a separation between our
local and global communities? Who benefits from our online ministries?
How does our online ministry coincide with our vision?

Come be a part of this dynamic conversation.

Can’t physically be here in Spring Lake on Sunday?

We would love to hear from YOU!

If you enjoy receiving the e-zine, surfing our website, and learning about progressive Christianity from C3/CCC please let us know.

Help us to put a human value on our online ministry.

Please send us your name and city/country that you live in. Also we would love to hear what you like about this community, and how we could better serve you. Reply to this ezine or email allison@christ-community.net.

Donate to C3/CCC with Meijer Community Rewards

Shop at Meijer and earn money for Christ Community Church. Meijer Community Rewards program donates up to 4% of purchases to the organization of your choice. Sign up is easy! Pick up an application at your local Meijer store, at the Growing Place at C3/CCC, or you can sign up online by following the link below. You will receive your Meijer Rewards Card in the mail within two weeks and then just swipe your card at the check out. It is that easy! You can have your contribution split among multiple organizations, so if you already have an account, please add Christ Community Church (organization # 533101) to your account today!

Meijer Community Rewards

Don’t Miss The I-WET in Chicago!

Experience the power of integral thought and practice first-hand! Join the folks of Ken Wilber’s Integral Institute for a two-day immersion into the next wave of human evolution — and discover a compelling new approach to personal growth.

A team of ILP experts from Integral Institute will lead the Integral WET weekends, two powerful days of presentation, participation and media, facilitated with both individual and group processes. You’ll be introduced to the foundations of Integral Life Practice (ILP), and learn through direct, engaged experience the principles for carrying your practice forward. You’ll also connect with local practitioners in your area who are committed to this emergent approach to human transformation.

If you would be interested in attending the I-WET in Chicago March 25-26 with a group from C3/CCC please contact Allison Rockey for more information.

“Call Me Malcolm” Movie Premiere

Don’t miss “Call Me Malcolm”, a documentary feature about a transgender seminary student, and his struggle with faith, love and gender identity.

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 5:00 p.m.

At Extended Grace: 17234 Robbins Rd. Grand Haven (behind Pizza Hut)

This event is Free!

Michigan Premiere with refreshments to follow and an interactive discussion with Joseph Parlagreco, producer.

Join us March 12th for a Presentation by ANSWER

Sunday March 12th come check out the presentation of ANSWER’s (American Nepali Students & Women Education Relief) Display of Needy Children in Nepal in the Narthex, between and after the services.

These students are currently enrolled in schools in Nepal, but are in need of sponsors to continue their studies. Unlike many such programs, these children have been selectively screened from destitute, low caste families and are enrolled on college prep pathways in excellent native schools, taught in English, and with a high success rate. Besides being tax-deductible, the administration is self-supporting, so that all of your donation goes towards the child’s education which costs just 50-60 cents a day. Letters to the children will be going out soon, so now is the perfect time to begin a sponsorship and your correspondence.

Also check out two powerful, short films smuggled out of Nepal and Two young, local filmmakers just back from Nepal after the 9:30 a.m. gathering.

One film is a local award winner; the other is still in production. Tulsi Bhandari and David Ruck will answer questions about the civil war and their recent experiences there. Unbeknownst to most, this war is now 10 years in the running, the bloodiest war in Asia, and one of the most complex and enigmatic political fronts anywhere. What is at stake?: Nepal is a 500 mile buffer state between the two most populous, and rapidly developing nations in the world. Paradoxically, China has now supplanted the USA in arming the King’s forces against the Maoist insurgents! Please come and gain the insights of these two daring young men.

Explore Your Options to Donate to C3/CCC

We now have two options for online giving.

The Network For Good is a secure online donations collection website for non profit organizations. Through the Network for Good you will have the option of either making a one time donation or signing up for automatic monthly recurring donations. You must be a U.S. resident to donate through the Network for Good.

Donations can also be made now through Paypal. By accessing the support c3 page on our website you can make a one time donation, or a recurring donation of $10 through Paypal. You do not have to have or create a Paypal account to use this service. Paypal accepts International payments.

As explored in our recent community financial meeting donating through The Network for Good or Paypal is more efficient than using the merchant account that Christ Community Church has set up. With both The Network for Good and Paypal there is no flat service fees. Both services retain 3% of the donation amount to cover their processing fees.

You will need to enter your own information into either Paypal or The Network For Good we cannot transfer that information for you. If you would like to stop into the church office we will be happy to assist you.

Donations made to Christ Community Church are tax deductible. Please consult your tax advisor if you have any questions.

We cannot thank you enough for your support of Christ Community Chu

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