A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!


“I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone.” ~Bishop John Shelby Spong

By Bishop John Shelby Spong

spongsmI have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is “an abomination to God,” about how homosexuality is a “chosen lifestyle,” or about how through prayer and “spiritual counseling” homosexual persons can be “cured.” Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate “reparative therapy,” as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people.

I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality “deviant.” I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that “we love the sinner but hate the sin.” That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement. I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is “high-sounding, pious rhetoric.” The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer. The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance. They no longer talk to anyone but themselves. I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression. There isn’t. Justice postponed is justice denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new understanding was to “Roll on over or we’ll roll on over you!” Time waits for no one.

…continue reading on Bishop Spong’s website


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19 Responses to “A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!”

  1. Sandra
    November 12, 2009 at 2:02 pm #

    I absolutely agree with Bishop Spong! I believe that the Church, and I’m being generalist now, has become the keeper of law similiar to the Pharises in the New Testament! Bishops and Religious Leaders have become the so called guardians of morality and “moral living” whatever that is, and make pronouncements on homosexuality, common law relationships and the list goes on.

    Surely as our knowledge expands, and our hearts are open to God, we accept that some are different to me/us. Not better, not worse, just different!In this we offer love and respect and hope that we are offered the same in return. Isn’t this the principle of the Second Commandment

  2. Dan
    November 12, 2009 at 10:22 pm #

    From what I’ve read/heard one of the basic tenants of Progressive Religion is tolerance, i.e to not reject people because of different beliefs. It seems that this whole manifesto is about rejecting people because they don’t believe the same way that Progressive Religion does.

    Numerous times I have heard leaders of Progressive Religion deny that God as traditionally defined (a perfect, personal, infinite being outside of the material world) does not exist. If that is true, then right/wrong is defined by people and all opinions should be equal. I’m wondering why the Progressive Religion view is better than anyone else’s; or if it is actually better, by what absolute standard is it being measured against?

  3. anndar
    November 13, 2009 at 5:21 am #

    Wow – what an important and refreshing statement by Bishop Spong. I myself have been in it seems many arguments via Twitter lately on ignorance and religion regarding being gay – mostly sparked from the disappointing vote in Maine. Spiritual leaders like Bishop Spong voicing their beliefs are critical to this issue and I think he makes a great point that we can all learn from – how much time and energy do we want to give to those whose mind is dead bolted in hopes of changing them – people have to change on their own and all we can do is continue to be heard and fight for justice.

  4. allan
    November 14, 2009 at 5:26 pm #

    I would love to agree with ?Bishop Spong, and do agree not to “debate” them, however a lie, a hate and a misinterportation of Biblical scripture must be continually addressed. To those who are convinced in their ignorance, debate is,usually, useless, yet for millions of openminded youth who still believe that love is the foundation of all spirituality, still need to hear the truth.

  5. Jan
    November 16, 2009 at 9:54 pm #


    I 100% agree. I will also be choosing this as my manifesto from this day on.

  6. Doug
    November 17, 2009 at 12:52 pm #

    This comfirms what Huston Smith recently wrote, and I’m paraphrasing, that religion in America is hamstrung between liberals and conservatives, and essentially cancel each other out. It’s just more of the same old, tired “us versus them” and doesn’t sound progressive to me at all. Retreat and entrenchment only widens and deepens the chasm that exists, and people are left floundering in the wilderness. I hope the bishop will reconsider and recant this unfortunate manifesto.

  7. Becky Andree
    November 22, 2009 at 11:00 am #

    BRAVO! It is time to take a stand that treatment of indivdiuals should not be based on their sexuality, gender, color of their skin, etc. A new friend of mine pointed out so elequantly….”If being gay/lesbian is a choice, then choose to be gay”. I will personally spend my energy and day accepting individuals as they are and what they believe, but will also make sure to voice my concern of denying human beings rights simply because of their sexuality. The Bishop makes a good point, think about where you spend your energy/time…sometimes engaging in the debate can be a waste of time. Sometimes taking and declaring a stand can create more movement then a debate. I’m glad that women in the past were willing to go through uncomfortable times so that we could progress to this point and I am more then willing to do the same for gays/lesbians around the world. I want my three boys growing up in a home where they know there is love and acceptance for who they are as a person. I continue to tell all three of my boys “You will decide whether to marry a man or a woman and only you will know which one is true for you.”…….I want them to know that either way is normal and OK with me!

  8. Lori Thompson
    November 30, 2009 at 8:09 am #

    Agreed! I have never understood how anyone could possibly worship a God who would punish a person for being who they are. The God that I know includes everyone in an ever widening circle of grace.

  9. Dry Bones
    December 3, 2010 at 10:21 am #

    This is sad and truely dishonest. I do not fear gay people; I love love the gay person; I cannot accept the sin. God does hate sin. (If God did not hate sin he must love the gulf it has created between Him and us; Which would bring into question his sending the Messiah, Jesus THE Christ, the only Christ.) Bishop Spong Has erected a straw man that even a “right-winger” like me cannot stand. Truth is, my sin, which is not homosexuality, is just as offensive to The Lord as the sin of Homosexuality: I am worse than most, this I know. Homosexuals are “broken”, to use the Bishop’s own wording, just as much as I am. (Without God’s grace I am nothing but a hell-bond sinner… like everyone else.) But it is only God, who does not by nature reside in us, who does the reparing and gets the Glory. Bow a proud heart before the Cross. Slavation from Hell is a free gift to all who believe, not to those who find righeousness within themselves. (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:9-26; Romans 10:8-13)

  10. Zym Soljourn
    December 4, 2010 at 2:54 am #

    I applaud the Bishop for seeing past the small-mindedness, and grasping the harm it does in the long run, and how his wisdom reflect a True God of Love and understanding.

  11. Penelope
    December 21, 2010 at 12:32 am #

    We all need to remember that the “Bible” was writen by man. All books are up for interpretations. Who are we to judge? (some of the wiser words writen) Does not God teach that all creatures large and small are to be loved equally and man is included in that. Are our egos so big that we think ourselves able to judge. My hat is off to the Bishop for getting to this place of acceptance, finally. But why a manefesto? We always need to address intolerance.

  12. Saphronia Young
    April 20, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    Bishop Spong is brilliant. I completely agree that “love the sinner, hate the sin” is convenient and dishonest. Radically inclusive love is the only possibility of reaching spiritual harmony and enlightenment, individually and as a global community.

  13. Nick
    March 1, 2012 at 2:12 am #

    Christians are not called to hate the sinner, but to hate the sin. While we should embrace all homosexuals as our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, I fail to see why the Biblical testaments against the practice of homosexuality can be just thrown out like that! Yes, it is wrong to say that homosexuality is a choice, and yes, it is wrong to say that it can simply be cured; but is it so wrong to say that we all have to make sacrifices for God?

    Forgive me for posting a Christian perspective on an SBNR site, but I’m just trying to see where another Christian’s full acceptance of the practice of homosexuality is coming from. We each have our earthly passions which tie us to this world, and which are against God’s will. For one, this passion may be that of deceit, or for another, of lust. Each of these people, however, is called to deny himself and take up his cross for Christ – that is, he is called to rise up beyond his humanity by changing his focus from himself to something above and beyond himself (God), and do whatever it takes to follow His will before his own. So then, if thieves are called to stop their stealing in favor of following God, why are homosexuals exempt from this idea? Why do they have the right to put themselves and their own sexual preferences before God’s will (where their sexual preferences are explicitly stated to be contrary to God’s will), when everyone else is expected to struggle to be free of their earthly bonds and passions?

    Sorry, I just don’t understand how a Christian bishop could favor homosexuality, if he has any notion of general Christian theology whatsoever…

  14. Joshua
    September 14, 2012 at 12:19 am #

    You are right, Nick. First of all, Bishop Spong is not a very good theologian. He is embraced by the liberal left all of the time, which is why he gets so much publicity and media attention, but disrespected and shunned by his contemporaries. Were he a Roman Catholic priest rather than an Anglican bishop, I have no doubt he would have been excommunicated long ago. His ‘go with the flow’ notion that one should accept something because everybody else does is one of the most ridiculous arguments that I have ever heard. Had this been done in times gone by, we would be speaking French now instead of English because everybody welcomed William the Conqueror with open arms, and Germany would still be a Nazi dictatorship because everybody just decided to ‘go with it’ on the whole Nazi thing.

    ‘Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil;…'(Isaiah 5:20, KJV)

    I am not religious but I am staunchly opposed to the homosexual lobby and agenda, for one because they represent one of the biggest threats to our culture, traditions, and our entire social order. They advocate blurring of the line between male and female. Many of them are attracted to members of the same sex who look like members of the opposite sex, which would suggest to me a form of sexual confusion which may have arisen from sexism caused by parental abuse from an opposite sex parent or repressed heterosexuality.
    The idea that ‘homosexuality is not a choice’ is a popular one now. Homosexuality may not always be a choice, but in many cases it is. As Freud said, humans are inherently bi-sexual and therefore can end up going one way or the other. A person’s sexuality can also fluctuate over their lifetime. This is why you have so many people, especially young people, who consider themselves bi-sexual because they are confused by the nonsense that the LGBT community has spouted that you are ‘born gay’ and if you’re homosexual you were always homosexual and will always be homosexual and it never budges. No one is ‘born gay'(there are even LGBT authors who will admit to this). The human genome has been mapped and no ‘gay gene’ has been found, so the only way somebody could possibly be ‘born gay'(if we’re willing to entertain that argument) would be because of a genetic hormonal mutation or defect(though I was not trying to upset anyone, watch how many people get pissed off and call me a ‘bigot’ in all caps for that remark).

    I am not against homosexuality because of religion, I am against it because I know and understand that people are born male or female for a reason and homosexuality does not and never will coincide with biology or nature. We are naturally and instinctively obligated to procreate. That’s why we have a libido (nature was not counting on birth control). Just because animals do it does not make it natural. A cat knowing how to use the toilet or open a door is not natural, but there are plenty of cats out there that know how. Also, scientists have done sexuality studies on animals. What they have found is that although animals may sometimes engage in homosexual relationships, these same animals later go back to mating with members of the opposite sex, so no incidence of a homosexual ‘sexual orientation’ has ever been found in the animal kingdom. At best, animals can be described as bi-sexual or ‘hetero-flexible.’ Also, animals don’t understand how reproduction works and don’t know why they have a libido. This gives them a little more of an excuse when it comes to mating. A male dog does not realize that humping another male dog will not lead to puppies, nor does he realize that humping a female dog can and often times will lead to puppies. They are not as self-aware of the many differences between male and female. The way they usually tell the difference between a male and a female is by pheromone. They don’t really understand how the sexual organs work or how they differ; they just know how to use them.

    Humans do understand these things, so we have even more of an obligation to respect and live by nature and biology than animals do.

    Of course, my views on the topic usually ostracise me from peers my age who think that being homosexual is no different than liking vanilla ice cream instead of chocolate ice cream (also one of the most ridiculous, annoying, and arbitrary arguments that I have ever heard [sexual preference cannot be analogized to taste buds any more than one can compare apples to oranges]). So of course, I find the most sympathy and understanding for my views within religious circles, who have similar views, but for very different reasons. The LGBT movement ostracises and attempts to remove from society those who still believe that male rightfully goes with female and those who wish to recognize the many differences between the two sexes. They also wish to drastically change our language. People now use ‘sex’ to describe what can only be rightfully described as sodomy(I understand that word may carry some negative connotation, having originated from religion, but that is the only word in the English language that technically and academically makes sense with which to describe the types of behaviour that homosexuals [especially homosexual males] engage in). What does ‘sex’ mean? In the past, the only thing the word ‘sex’ meant was gender. It was a synonym. However, at some point in time, someone coined the term ‘sexual intercourse.’ Well, what does ‘intercourse’ mean? It is an older word for intersection. Intercourse, Pennsylvania was so named because it is located at the crossroad of two old major roads that were very important in colonial times, and the town was named long before ‘intercourse’ ever suggested copulation. Therefore, it is impossible for two people of the same sex to have sexual intercourse, because of the very meaning of the term. Eventually, lazy people started using the shorter word ‘sex’ to refer to ‘sexual intercourse.’ So, a man, by definition, cannot possibly have ‘sex’ with another man. Even the media plays into this perversion of language, using the term MSM(men who have ‘sex’ with men). The LGBT community and movement is notorious for committing this type of corruption with the English language. ‘Gay’ use to mean ‘happy.’ The change of the meaning of the word ‘queer,’ however, originated from people using it as a derogatory term for homosexuals. Now the LGBT community/movement wants not only to change the meaning of the word ‘marriage,’ but wants the state and even federal governments to re-define it to mean something it has never meant! The authority to change the meanings of words is certainly not given to the federal government in the US Constitution, and I do not believe it is in any state’s constitution that the state has the authority to do that.

  15. Frej von Fräähsen
    October 27, 2012 at 5:16 am #

    Countless blessings on this man!

  16. Chantel
    March 3, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    I feel like I just got a breath of the freshest air possible 😀 I am happy because you have seen with your own eyes and heart, you chose what you thought was right and wrong. If all people in the world did this then religion would no longer be such a battlefield. Thanks for being so thoughtful 🙂

  17. Eric Desplanque
    April 2, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    I totally agree!!! Excellent comments and thoughts! Thank You Bishop Spong. ‘Political correctness’ has changed us forever. I often wonder what the ‘real numbers’ are for those who share and believe in your views? I suspect it’s much larger than we realize. Eric D.

  18. Victor Archuleta
    January 23, 2015 at 7:28 pm #

    I cannot rewrite the Bible, or tamper with any other religion, that teaches what is an abomination to God. If a man can seek hormone therapy to transform himself into a woman, then a gay man can seek hormone therapy to balance his maleness. A person might erase words from Scripture, but by doing so, he only increases his distance from the Judge he’ll meet in the afterlife. And I ask this question in all sincerity: Or have they rewritten that part, too?

  19. Samuel Shen
    December 19, 2016 at 2:40 pm #

    As a Chinese Christian, I feel so sorry for all my American brothers fighting about the homosexuality, My point is that we all get a simple biblical truth wrong: we Christians are just the same with these gay and lesbians, the same sinners, nothing better! I am convince that it is not sin or homosexuality but the denial of sin bring us the hell. It is so simple that sin has been defeated by Jesus’ death. The denial of our sins and the rejection of the grace is the essential problem of the whole fighting, we have to agree a sin as the homosexuality, but it is just one sin as we commit every day. Again: God hates sin, but he loves sinners! Again: we are the same sinners!

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