Attribution: Scott Greissel

Editor’s Note: News has come to us that Westar scholar Bishop John Shelby Spong died peacefully in his sleep at his home this morning, September 12, 2021. His work and witness have inspired and freed many Westar members and a generation of thoughtful people. 

John Shelby Spong retired as Episcopal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, in February 2000. Raised a fundamentalist in North Carolina at a time when the Bible was quoted to justify segregation, Bishop Spong came to believe that insistence on an inerrant, literal view of the Bible obscures truth and destroys faith. His subsequent challenges to the Church’s position on human sexuality, the virgin birth, and the physical nature of Christ’ resurrection had made him the target of fundamentalist hostility and fear. At the same time, it has offered hope to countless others who yearn to believe in God but reject premodern literalizations masquerading as faith.
Bishop Spong is the author of several bestselling books, including Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Born of a Woman, Living in Sin, and Resurrection: Myth or Reality and is the recipient of three honorary doctorates.


  • A New Christianity for A New World. Why Traditional Faith is Dying & How A New Faith Is Being Born, 2001
  • Here I Stand: My Struggle for Christianity of Integrity, Love, and Equality, 2000.
  • The Bishop’s Voice: A compilation of articles by John S. Spong, 1999
  • Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers in Exile, 1998
  • Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes, 1996
  • Resurrection: Myth or Reality? A Bishop’s Search of the Origins of Christianity, 1994
  • Born of a Woman: A Bishop Rethinks the Birth of Jesus, 1992
  • Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture, 1991
  • Living in Sin? A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality, 1988
  • Consciousness and Survival: An Interdisciplinary Inquiry into the Possibility of Life Beyond Biological Death (editor), 1987
  • Beyond Moralism: A contemporary View of the Ten Commandments (with Denise G. Haines), 1986
  • Into the Whirlwind: The Future of the Church, 1983
  • The Easter Moment, 1980
  • Life Approaches Death: A Dialogue on Ethics in Medicine (with Daniel H. Gregory), 1976
  • Dialogue: In Search of Jewish-Christian Understanding (with Rabbi Jack D. Spiro), 1975
  • Christpower, 1975
  • This Hebrew Lord, 1974
  • Honest Prayer, 1973

Academic Credentials

  • A.B., University of North Carolina
  • M.Div., Virginia Theological Seminary

Special Study

  • University of Edinburgh, 1997
  • Christ Church, Oxford University, 1997
  • Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, 1992
  • Magdalen College, Oxford University, 1991
  • Harvard Divinity School, 1990
  • Yale Divinity School, 1989
  • Union Theological Seminary, New York, 1988
  • St. Luke’s School of Theology, Sewanee, Tennessee, 1961

Awards and Honors

  • D.D., St. Paul’s College, Lawrenceville, Virginia
  • D.D., Virginia Theological Seminary
  • D.H.L., Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania
  • Humanist of the Year, 1999
  • Scholar in Residence, Christ Church, Oxford University, 1997
  • Fellow, Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, 1992
  • Quatercentenary Scholar, Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, 1992

Professional Career

  • William Belden Noble Lecturer, Harvard University, 2000
  • Bishop, Diocese of Newark, 1976–2000
  • Rector, St. Paul’s Church, Richmond, Virginia, and Chaplain, Medical College of Virginia, 1969–1976
  • Rector, St. John’s Church, Lynchburg, Virginia, and Chaplain, Randolph Macon Woman’s College, 1965–1969
  • Rector, Calvary Church Traboro, North Carolina, 1957–1965
  • Rector, St. Joseph’s Church, Durham, North Carolina, 1955–1957

Professional Service

  • Member, Executive Council of the National Episcopal Church, 1973–1976

Other Career

  • Play by Play Radio Sportscaster, WCPS-FM, Tarboro, North Carolina, 1959–1965
  • Play by Play Radio Sportscaster, WLVA, Lynchburg, Virginia, 1965–1966
2 replies
  1. David Robinson says:

    Just want to say ‘THANK YOU’ to Bishop Spong for everything he has contributed to the cause of genuine spirituality. My writings have been, to a large degree, influenced by such books as “Rescuing the Bible…, A new Christianity, and This Hebrew Lord


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