John Shelby Spong’s Seriously Supportive Statement

This morning John Shelby Spong was kind enough to write and send me this:

John Shore is a gadfly, calling the Christian Church everywhere to act the way it says it believes about love and justice, which of course makes him an uncomfortable presence in those churches that do not like to be forced to face reality. So were the prophets of old. So was Jesus of Nazareth.

And he wrote what he did knowing of my 16-point theological expression—the first point of which I imagine caused the great progressive lion to roll his eyes.

But what do I know? Perhaps it didn’t. All I do know is that today Jack Spong (as he’s known to those of us who learned that via the email he sent us this morning), the indefatigable proponent of feminism, gay rights, and racial equality within both the church and society at large—one of our time’s great champions of the underrepresented and oppressed—today went out of his way to encourage me in my work. And for that I will certainly always be most deeply appreciative.


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  • Brook E Mantia via Facebook

    Are you BLUSHING, John…? 😉

  • Nancy Johnson via Facebook

    Holy Toledo, Mackerel AND Cow mixed into one!

  • I’m pretty sure it doesn’t get much better than this. Congratulations!

  • Cool!

  • Adrenalin Tim

    Yaaaay! Congrats, that’s an awesome, ringing endorsement that’s well-deserved.

    May reality prevail—with or without the reality-deniers.

  • Janet Henry Boone via Facebook

    John Shelby Spong would know…he knows Jesus!

  • I’m so happy for how this made you feel when you opened your email this morning and the 367 times you have re-read it since. Happy Dance!

  • EqualityGal

    Retired Bishop John Shelby Spong is one of the heroes of the Episcopal Church. By his own admission/acknowledgement he was dragged kicking and screaming — by his wife and daughters in good measure — into equality … racial, gender, and GLBT.

    He writes in one of his several books that he had been a racist, anti-gay, anti-feminist ‘macho-man’ until he finally ‘saw the light.’ He’s never looked back since that time, working for GLBT equality within the churches, particularly the Episcopal Church.

    You’re in excellent company, John Shore; keep up your own good work for equality.

  • Chrissy Massaro Wesner via Facebook


  • nice

  • Ember

    Awwww. It’s like the Coke commercial, when the linebacker tosses his jersey to the kid… 😉

    Way to go! 🙂

  • Wow. Congratulations – very high praise!

    I think it must be fun to be compared to the “prophets of old.”

    Spong is someone… I actually wonder why he calls himself a “Christian” sometimes, not in a judgemental way, but because most people, when they call themselves “Christian” imply that they believe in #1 on the list there, which is the source of a lot of hate from “rational” people. It’s a “why torture yourself by identifying with” sentiment. But even if you’re just “Christian by philosophy” and nothing more, if things get done, things get done.

    It was an awesome compliment – be proud to get it.

  • DR

    This day has been fantastic and reading this tonight makes it IMPOSSIBLY more awesome.

  • Except in this case the kid is 52 …

  • Donald Rappe

    I have thought you were a prophet. More so, than a theologian. And while not ordained, you do perform a ministry, as many commenters notice. Congratulations. Prophets are not ordained, but, sometimes they get mantles thrown on them.


  • Lymis

    Well, he did say “prophets of old.”

    Seriously, congratulations. Well deserved. Keep up the good work.

  • Dirgham Tamas

    You got compared to Jesus of Nazareth and the prophets of old? Don’t let it go to your head, man!

  • We’re going to have to take up a collection to widen the doorways at Casa Shore to fit your head through ’em, aren’t we?

  • It’s not so much the head that’s a problem. It’s the huge, blindingly bright halo around it.

  • Anne Reid Oppermann via Facebook

    Keep being that uncomfortable presence!

  • BWAH-hahahah!

  • Carl Sansoucy via Facebook

    I’ve been a fan of his for a long time now. He’s on my list of people I want to meet.

  • Sounds like Moses…

  • Rebecca Lehman

    I’m an Episcopal priest’s daughter and at a time when I was seriously questioning God and my faith my dad introduced me to Bishop Spong’s book, THIS HEBREW LORD. That little book changed everything. This year, the most difficult of my life, Huffington Post introduced me to John Shore. Again, everything changed. I’m grateful to both of you and ridiculously happy that you each recognize the wonder of the other.

  • Christine McQueen

    To be totally honest, I know your writings very well, having read your blog (and now your book, “Unfair – Why the “Christian” View of Gays Doesn’t Work”) for much of the past year. And, though I have seen/heard the name of John Shelby Spong many times over many years, I can’t say that I have ever read any of his writings at all.

    That said, since you’ve obviously read his work and look up to Mr. Spong, I’ll just say congratulations. 🙂

  • I love Shelby Spong. So outside the box.

  • Lisa Zahn via Facebook

    Bishop Spong is awesome!

  • Diana A.

    Your dad sounds pretty cool. Not all Episcopal priests are cool with Bishop Spong.

  • Diana Horel via Facebook

    Love jack spong you r in high cotton now

  • Rebecca Lehman

    He is very cool. He’s also not your typical Episocpal priest. It took him a while to get around to being okay with women as priests though he’s always fought for racial and religious minorities and he taught me in 1970 that homosexuality wasn’t a sin. Had his ideas around the ordination of women been so far out of the norm as his other ideas I would probably have become a priest myself.

  • Soulmentor

    Spong’s book, WHY CHRISTIANITY MUST CHANGE OR DIE is one of the most profoundly insightful of all the books of similar genre I have read. I cannot add to it and recommend it to all Progressive Christians.

  • Soulmentor


  • Cynthia Haug-West via Facebook

    AWESOME! Very well-deserved praise indeed, Mr. Shore.

  • You hippies! (And thank you.)

  • a friend

    Another great Spong book is “Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism.” I am a progressive mainline pastor who didn’t even have the word “progressive” in my vocabulary until a few years ago-I just thought I was “different” – and certainly not popular with the selfish, rich and conservative in my congregations. Only when I started reading Bishop Spong’s articles and books, did I start realizing I wasn’t the crazy one!

  • Well deserved!

    You consistently put the journey of your spirituality into your writing and this makes it powerful and relevant.

  • Will

    Plato, Socrates, John Shelby Spong, Jesus of Nazareth, and John Shore!!!

    Holy cannoli Batman!

    A gadfly is a person who upsets the status quo by posing upsetting or novel questions, or just being an irritant. The term has been used to describe many politicians and social commentators.[citation needed]

    The term “gadfly” (Ancient Greek: μύωψ, mýops[1]) was used by Plato in the Apology[2] to describe Socrates’ relationship of uncomfortable goad to the Athenian political scene, which he compared to a slow and dimwitted horse.

    During his defense when on trial for his life, Socrates, according to Plato’s writings, pointed out that dissent, like the gadfly, was easy to swat, but the cost to society of silencing individuals who were irritating could be very high. “If you kill a man like me, you will injure yourselves more than you will injure me,” because his role was that of a gadfly, “to sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth.” This may have been one of the earliest descriptions of pragmatic ethics.[citation needed]

    In modern and local politics, gadfly is a term used to describe someone who persistently challenges people in positions of power, the status quo or a popular position.[3] For example, Morris Kline wrote “There is a function for the gadfly who poses questions that many specialists would like to overlook. Polemics are healthy.”[4] Oxford University professor Bent Flyvbjerg has talked about “gadfly social science,” emphasizing a key role for social science in identifying and challenging the abuse of power, whoever the perpetrator and whoever the victim [5] The word may be uttered in a pejorative sense, while at the same time be accepted as a description of honourable work or civic duty.[6]

  • Geri Lee Nelson via Facebook

    John Spong is a wise, brave and kind man.

  • ScottNotSteve

    You are in excellent company. I imagine he might even be willing to put a “quote” of praise for your books. Bishop Spong was a groundbreaker in the Episcopal Church and has carried his message beyond. He is the reason I came to the Episcopal Church (any denomination that yielded a scholar and thinker like that, and which did not defrock him, was a church I could consider joining). I had the pleasure of meeting him in person when he delivered a lecture on Why Christianity Must Change or Die about 10 years ago. In many ways your TWC group seems similar to how Bishop Spong once expressed where he found himself — and I paraphrase as best I can here — in a place where no particular church really resonated with his deepest convictions.

    The work you are doing basically taks the spirit of Bishop Spong’s work and takes it to the next level, for evangelicals in particular and for non-evangelcials like me as well (because, it gives me hope that your work will find a foothold and evoke change in that community and beyond). In that you are an avowed evanglical, you have a different but potentially even more important perspective to share today. Which is to say, lots of Anglicans and Episcopals (though certainly not all) have already come around to embrace the issues of equality you have been talking about in your blog and work, though surely there is still much work to be done. Likewise, evangelicals who see the inherent injustice in much church teaching and God-talk surrounding issues of full participation and equality in the church, but feel that their God and their Church has been politically and spiritually hijacked or just unyielding to change, YOU are the new voice of reason. You are the person who explains how they can legitimately live out their faith without checking their brains or hearts at the door.

    I admired your work long before Jack Spong called you out, but this certainly shows that your work is getting broader attention, and deservedly so. You are every bit a groundbreaker today as Bishop Spong was a decade or so ago.

  • Robin Browning-Bolewski via Facebook

    I love the Episcopal Church for their stand on inclusive ministry to ALL God’s people. Bishop Spong is a personal hero of mine.

  • Monica Neiderman via Facebook

    Wow. Now you is the shiz nizzzle!

  • c’mentista


  • c’mentista

    Remove Jesus of Nazareth from that list then its closer to accurate. He only rates 4th on your list anyway. That speaks volumes.

  • AND he just linked to your blog on his Facebook.

  • a really nice quy as well as a bit of a prophet.

  • Paul

    There’s nothing confused about Bishop Spong. He’s the clearest teacher of true Christianity today.

  • Will

    The list was not in any particular order. Jesus belongs on the list of gadflys.

    In the Gospels, Jesus was a thorn in the side of the religious authorities of the day. Their displeasure lead directly to his death.

    Please elaborate why you disagree.

  • Diana A.

    One of them, at least. There are many great teachers of true Christianity but, like John Spong, they tend to challenge notions with which too many of us Christians have become comfortable, and therefore suffer from that whole “a prophet has no honor in his own country” syndrome.

  • Great post which is refreshing and powerful.

  • Soulmentor

    Read Spong’s book WHY CHRISTIANITY MUST CHANGE OR DIE. That will go a long way to clearing things up for you.

  • Gordon

    You ROCK, John. I am an accountant/economist and ran into Milton Friedman at a restaurant in Gualala, CA when I was a much younger man. We had this amazing discussion over beer, oysters and mushrooms at the bar and he was so warm and complimentary. I’m sure he was paying it forward, but it made me feel very good. Enjoy the warm glow from Rev. Spong. You deserve it.

  • c’mentista

    confused = gone astray

  • Diana A.

    It is your opinion that John Spong has gone astray. I disagree.

  • Richard W. Fitch

    My friend, Natalie, who introduced me to the writings of Bishop Spong over a decade ago, has said: The Church has Hope as long as Jack is in purple!

  • textjunkie

    wow John, how did you come across Spong’s radar? Inquiring minds want to know… congrats!!

  • Joe Snavely

    Very cool! I appreciate Spong+ as a critic of the Church…a prophet pointing at hypocrisy and calling our assumptions and idols into question. Now the alternatives that he offers often seem to me to throw the Baby out with the bath water as it were…but that’s ok…there are lots of folks like you John who are able to take Jack’s critique and connect it with the heart of the Christian Tradition.

  • Amanda Longmoore via Facebook


  • maybe you could team up with the Sexy Liberal Tour.

  • i will find a way to fund your trip to Anchorage.

  • Fran Hlavacek via Facebook

    I’d be sure to get tickets!

  • Would that be the same as an old-fashioned “two-holer”?

  • Susan Rogers St Laurent via Facebook

    I had to look it up, but “gadfly” in this instance is good, eh?

  • Kathleen Grimes Ricker via Facebook

    I would go.

  • Hollie Butler via Facebook

    I’m definitely there!

  • Anne Young via Facebook

    Shows like this should hit New Haven!! Awesome!!

  • Heck, if the scheduling worked, *I* would go to that – and I’m a hellbound atheist!

  • Michele Sevacko via Facebook

    Count me in – anywhere you land – within a few hours of where I live. And, I’ll help you promote it too!

  • I love it!! Let me know if you need a ‘roadie’!

  • Oh, count us in. Where can I get tickets myself and my husband.

  • Andie Redwine via Facebook

    I’d produce that tour!

  • Adara Pallady via Facebook

    I am just re-reading Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism- the two of you together would rock!

  • Kyle A Lovett via Facebook

    We’ll host you in Hawaii!

  • Thynkie Dink via Facebook


  • (I actually DID just write him to ask. I told him I’d already ordered 10,000 “Two Johns: No Waiting” tee-shirts, which I’m sure he’d be glad to hear. I also told him the heathen/pagan crowd were particularly excited, and how that boded well for beer sales. I’m sure he’ll want me to start booking venues right away!

  • Andie Redwine via Facebook

    Beer sales. Yes.

  • Go for it, John. I’d buy a ticket. I admire your and his commitment to salvaging Christianity from what it’s become in 21st century America.

  • Bruce Shaw via Facebook

    Come to Canada

  • Anne

    Doesn’t get much better than this. John – you rock! And you are changing the world.

  • Joshua Erni-Salmans via Facebook

    Come to Greenville, SC

  • Joshua Erni-Salmans via Facebook

    Or at least Asheville, NC.

  • Palm Springs please!

  • Sign me up! Two heroes of mine, John Shelby Spong and John Shore. JohnSsquared, do it gents!

  • Please!!!!

  • JohnSsquared! I wonder if it’s too late for me to cancel my order of “Two Johns: No Waiting” tees?

  • Oh he is my absolute favourite other John! Someone needs to write a song…

  • It’s Fall and the Johns are spronging / In my heart I feel such longing / Will the Johns come to town? / Or will they let me down? / In which case I’ll continue not belonging. (Rippin’ guitar solo.) How I long to believe in God / Though the Christian God’s such a wad / At least that’s what I’ve heard / But maybe that’s absurd / Could it be that I could still be awed?”