Westar Institute

Institutional Affiliation
Charter Member

John Spong

Institutional Affiliation

Episcopal Bishop (retired)

Newark, New Jersey


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


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.

• 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

Academic Appointments

• 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