I like Bishop Jack Spong a lot. He does chew the bone down and suck on the marrow. He is always working away at the death he has overcome - the fundamentalism of his past. Sometimes that fundamentalism seems so high, he can't get over it, so low....etc. Sometimes he seems to rant. Rants can be very entertaining and finally enlightening. We just have to be willing to hear it out.
Bishop Spong has apparently published a new Manifesto, "The Time Has Come." I say apparently because while the source of the document is attributed to him, access to the direct citation has not yet been forthcoming. Various reporters have now carried articles on the paper and it is available from Louie Crew HERE. The Pluralist has a particularly good article on the essay HERE.
It sure reads like Spong. All the stuff to love and hate about the way Spong thinks and expresses himself is there. Lots of good rant for justice, lots of over use of "I." There is plenty of uplift and downdraft.
The Manifesto is a personal one. He says, "I have made a decision." Fair enough. Still, sometimes it would be good to have a little more"we" in the manifesto. Only at the end do we finally get invited in.
"I invite others to join me in this public declaration. I believe that such a public outpouring will help cleanse both the church and this nation of its own distorting past. It will restore integrity and honor to both church and state. It will signal that a new day has dawned and we are ready not just to embrace it, but also to rejoice in it and to celebrate it."
As a sign-on document the Manifesto is written poorly. I have no reason to sign on to his rant. His rant is not my rant. What is needed are "we" statements. Spong says, " I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone." Great for him to say. But if this is a manifesto to be taken up by all of us it might be better to say, "We will no longer debate the issue..." I'd like Bishop Spong to rewrite this Manifesto, not as a personal rant, but as a statement we could affirm in a collective sense.
Spong puts the skunk on the table. It is time to move on. Moving on, however, is not as simple as declaring victory. The snakes in the orchard are still there. Spong is more than ready to end debate, declare victory and get a life. But no longer debating is not the same as no longer paying attention to the opponent or opponents.
It may not be necessary to debate the various parties that Bishop Spong is now tired of attending to, but it will continue to be necessary to be watchful. Some of the people he is finished with are not finished with us and they can do great harm to our common life as Episcopalians, they can harass gay and lesbian persons in our church, they can cast doubts on the faithfulness of any of us or our churches. They can, in other words, muck about in our lives, leaving people scared for life, much as Bishop Spong's fundamentalist beginnings have scared him. This is no time to ignore the opposition, for ignoring them will lead to ignorance and ignorance will produce forgetfulness. And we must never forget.