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|Living in Sin?
A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality
Bishop John Shelby Spong
Is celibacy the only moral alternative to marriage? Should the widowed be allowed to form intimate relationships without
remarrying? Should the church receive homosexuals into its community and support committed gay and lesbian
relationships? Should congregations publicly and liturgically witness and affirm divorces? Should the church's moral
standards continue to be set by patriarchal males? Should women be consecrated bishops? Bishop Spong proposes a
pastoral response based on scripture and history to the changing realities of the modern world. He calls for a moral
vision to empower the church with inclusive teaching about equal, loving, non-exploitative relationships.
John Shelby Spong was the Episcopal bishop of Newark before his retirement in 2000. As a leading spokesperson for
an open, scholarly, and progressive Christianity, Bishop Spong has taught at Harvard and at the Graduate Theological
Union in Berkeley, California. He is the author and co-author of over 24 books.
Thinking Christians - if you are a thinking Christian, or you want to be, read this book. It is filled with insight and love. I
highly recommend this book. Reviewer, December 6, 2005
“Noted for his liberal stands on sexuality, Newark's Episcopal Bishop argues with "passion and provocation" that
traditional Christian views on sex represent patriarchal prejudice rather than God's will and invites readers to "enter the
uncertainty of not knowing" and to free the Bible from "literalistic imprisonment" as they entertain possibilities like
services blessing divorce, "betrothal" ceremonies (celebrating exclusive but temporary unions), and rituals sanctifying
gay and lesbian partnerships.” Review by “EC” Reed Business Information, Inc.
“Spong's 'Living in Sin' is more profound as a challenge to prejudice than it is as a manual on sexual ethics. He opens
up possibilities, refuses to swallow ancient and baseless dogma, and calls for the church to be radically inclusive. He
yet again helpfully draws together that which has for no good reason been separate for far too long. Christian faith and
The sections on sexual revolution and Bible interpretation are convincing. Yet the book is at its best towards the end
as it opens up the possibilities for the church to practice the gospel of grace and acceptance. Fear and insecurities
are challenged, and the church called to view varying life choices from the grid of the Bible's love ethic; that is it is
other person centred and life affirming?
Sexier than thou has a limited life span for even the luckiest amongst us. Holier than thou has outlived its life span by
far too long. Far better is the inclusive church of human beings which this Bishop has given his career to nurturing. He
has left it now to congregations such as ours to continue this vision.” Ian Lawton, Vicar - St Matthew-in-the-City
"Probably the most radical pronouncement on sex ever issued by a bishop."
— Time magazine
"John Shelby Spong…is a brave churchman. He has the guts to tell it like it is."
— National Catholic Reporter
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