March 23, 2017

April 3, 2013

Nicene Creed Devotee Shannon Johnston Peacemaking With John Spong

Christian Brother, peacemaker, and Nicene Creed Adherent Shannon Johnston, participated in a series of seven Good Friday meditations with fellow Christian brother John Shelby Spong last week. Read it all here...

The three hour service featured a series of six meditations by the retired Newark bishop interspersed with prayers led by Johnston and a hymn promoted by the Center for Progressive Christianity entitled “Welcome doubt: Refine our thinking.” Johnston’s promotion of Spong, whose Newark diocese famously declined by 40 percent during his tenure, further undercuts the Virginia bishop’s claim to be creedal and orthodox.

Spong has a long history with St. Paul’s, serving as rector of the onetime “Cathedral of the Confederacy” from 1969 to 1976, before his election as bishop of Newark. The Greek revival church across from the Virginia State Capitol, which once counted Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis among its worshippers, continues to draw prominent Richmond-area figures including a former Virginia governor and first lady who offered scripture readings on Friday.

Arguing that the Gospels were not historic accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, Spong sought to isolate the fourth gospel, insisting it was not authored by John the son of Zebedee. Instead, the retired Episcopal bishop proposed that the Gospel of John was not a story of incarnation.

“This Gospel sees Jesus as a life lived so deeply that he reached mystical oneness with God,” proposed the author of the upcoming book “The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic”.

Spong argued that Jesus could say “I and the father are one” only because he was inviting his disciples “to enter a mystical reality of divine human oneness.”

During his first meditation, Spong quickly targeted the church’s historic councils and creeds. Charging that the Council of Nicea turned on an unintended and very literal reading of John, the Episcopal bishop asserted that the Nicene Creed was a “radical distortion of the Gospel of John.” more

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“A mystical reality of divine human oneness.”


[1] Posted by Greg Griffith on 4-3-2013 at 06:58 AM · [top]

More of the free to be me theology.I bet the folks there were relieved to know that they are not sinners. If this in not breaking the communion I do not know what is.

[2] Posted by Pb on 4-3-2013 at 07:15 AM · [top]

Right, see our problem isn’t sin. It’s just that we haven’t figured out just how awesome we are yet.

[3] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 4-3-2013 at 07:43 AM · [top]

‘Spong argued that Jesus could say “I and the father are one” only because he was inviting his disciples “to enter a mystical reality of divine human oneness.”’ 

Spong then exhaled broadly, with a slight cough and a grin.


(As I’ve said before, the archetype of a 1970s bishop.)

[4] Posted by tired on 4-3-2013 at 07:44 AM · [top]

“John’s gospel is about living life to fullness – not moral perfection or overcoming sin,” Spong concluded. “He [Jesus] did not die to save you from your sins. He died to free you – to empower you – to be all that you can be.” Spong is a good example of being more than you should be. It’s called the ‘Peter’ principle.

[5] Posted by Fr. Dale on 4-3-2013 at 07:59 AM · [top]

So far have fallen the mighty!  Now they dine on Spong cake and Crossants rather than the Word of God.

[6] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 4-3-2013 at 08:03 AM · [top]

Is it measure of the strength of an institution or its weakness in how it treats the miscreants in its midst?

[7] Posted by Daniel on 4-3-2013 at 08:09 AM · [top]

It took him three hours to say “It’s all fairytales, go home and eat your Easter eggs early”?

[8] Posted by Martha on 4-3-2013 at 08:36 AM · [top]

Spongianity is the appropriate word for the religion of Spong, Shori and TEC.  It’s a revival of Baal and Molech religions. 

Professor Robert Gagnon exposes the defective arguments of both Justin Lee and his predecessor, Spong:

[9] Posted by St. Nikao on 4-3-2013 at 08:40 AM · [top]

I love the mention that Spong shrunk his diocese by 40%.

BTW, he also kept me far from the Episcopal Church back when I’ve never even heard of an Anglican:

[10] Posted by Newbie Anglican on 4-3-2013 at 08:41 AM · [top]

During his first meditation, Spong quickly targeted the church’s historic councils and creeds. Charging that the Council of Nicea turned on an unintended and very literal reading of John, the Episcopal bishop asserted that the Nicene Creed was a “radical distortion of the Gospel of John.”

And this is why we don’t trust the “but we believe the creeds!” claim when it comes up in discussions.

[11] Posted by m+ on 4-3-2013 at 09:14 AM · [top]

If he were a good shepherd to his flock, Bishop Johnston would have used his crozier to yank Spong out of there.

[12] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 4-3-2013 at 09:25 AM · [top]

If you lie with dogs…

(I just realized that in this particular circumstance this old saying actually has TWO meanings…cool)

[13] Posted by B. Hunter on 4-3-2013 at 09:33 AM · [top]

There must be a special corner of hell reserved for these two false shepherds. Good Lord, deliver us!
desert padre

[14] Posted by desertpadre on 4-3-2013 at 12:28 PM · [top]

If anyone needed anymore evidence of Johnston’s heretical views, this is just one more item that raises the questions to which Jackie Bruchi is looking for answers.  She wrote:

I would hazard a guess to say that a solid majority of the bishops and priests in TEC discount the Authority of Scripture. But where does the leadership of the Anglicans in the US and UK stand?  This pewsitter needs to know.

I don’t need fancy words.  I need clear, unequivocal answers.

1. Is the issue of sexuality a matter of core doctrine?
2. If the answer is no, please give me the Scripture to support that position.
3. If the answer is that Scripture is in error, on what do you base Christology?

This battle has been too long and too hard to compromise for the sake of property or position.  The answers are too important to allow our leaders to lead us or themselves into error – regardless of how respected and loved they may be.

I agree.  Clear answers from ACNA leaders are needed.

[15] Posted by hanks on 4-3-2013 at 01:21 PM · [top]

It seems to me that Bishop Spong, Bishop Shannon Johnson, the Rev. Luis Leon, Presiding Bishop Schori and other church leaders believe that they have hit on a formula for driving faithful conservative Christians away from The Episcopal Church. How surprised they must be to find out that it is not only difficult but very expensive to dislodge Episcopalians from their pews.

[16] Posted by Betty See on 4-3-2013 at 01:32 PM · [top]

I’m kind of confused here, can some kind soul enlighten my darkness?  So if, according to Bishop Spong, the author known as “John” wrote his gospel to “wage(s) a gospel-long campaign against literalism, or as we would say, fundamentalism”  and “the author’s agenda was to capture “the meaning of Jesus” not to portray the passion narrative as history”, then what am I to make of this bit in the Passion narrative read on Good Friday for the Mass of the Presanctified?

John 19:35 This is the evidence of one who saw it—trustworthy evidence, and he knows that what he says is true—and he gives it so that you may believe as well.

I mean, this sounds as if the author known as “John” is saying all this stuff really happened, but Bishop Spong tells me that this is not what he means at all and what he is really saying is “All this is a metaphor or added in later by others and don’t take it literally because it didn’t happen like this, the people I said were there weren’t, and nobody will really understand what it means until two thousand years later anyway when smart white guys will tell you what it really actually means”.

Some of you may know that us Catholics got a new pope fairly recently, and a lot of us (at least, a set of the ones who blog in English) have been a bit concerned about him - is he the long-awaited implementer of the Spirit of Vatican II who is going to bring in all the reforms and modernisations that our few, lonely, brave progressive souls have been waiting for so long?  But by comparison, it looks like even if he may be a raging liberal by Catholic standards (and that is not proven at all yet), Pope Francis has a long, long way to go yet before he can attain the high standards of true progressive thinking.  From his first General Audience, he reveals that he actually thinks all this Easter stuff really did happen.  Oh, if only he could have had the privilege of attending Bishop Spong’s Good Friday service and learning the true facts!  Then he wouldn’t have come out with such old-fashioned backwardness as this (emphasis mine):

“Unfortunately, there have often been attempts to obscure faith in the Resurrection of Jesus, and doubts have crept in even among believers themselves. A watered down faith, as we would say, not a strong faith. This is because of superficiality, sometimes because of indifference, occupied by a thousand things considered more important than the faith, or because of a purely horizontal vision of life. But it is the Resurrection that gives us the greatest hope, because it opens our lives and the life of the world to the eternal future of God, to full happiness, to the certainty that evil, sin, death can be defeated. And this leads us to live everyday realities with more confidence, to face them with courage and commitment. The Resurrection of Christ shines a new light on these daily realities. The Resurrection of Christ is our strength!

But how was the truth of faith in Christ’s Resurrection transmitted? There are two kinds of witness in the New Testament: some are in the form of the profession of the faith, namely, synthetic formulas that indicate the center of the faith. Instead, others are in the form of an account of the event of the Resurrection and the facts connected to it. The form of the profession of faith, for example, is what we have just heard, or that of the Letter to the Romans where Paul writes: ” for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved “(10.9). From the earliest days of the Church, faith in the Mystery of Death and Resurrection of Jesus is steadfast and clear.

...In the professions of faith of the New Testament, only men are remembered as witnesses of the Resurrection, the Apostles, but not the women. This is because, according to the Jewish Law of the time, women and children were not considered reliable, credible witnesses. In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role. Here we can see an argument in favor of the historicity of the Resurrection: if it were invented, in the context of that time it would not have been linked to the testimony of women. Instead, the evangelists simply narrate what happened: the women were the first witnesses.”

[17] Posted by Martha on 4-3-2013 at 02:30 PM · [top]

“Clear answers from ACNA leaders are needed. “

These clergy are not members of ACNA.  Therefore ACNA has no obligation to comment on every pronouncement by members of the organization calling itself “The Episcopal Church”.

[18] Posted by RalphM on 4-3-2013 at 02:49 PM · [top]

Ralph M, if you go back to the post by Jackie linked in my comment #15 above, you will see that she is referring to the failure for a year for Bishop Guernsey to address the Baucum-Johnston relationship—before the invites to Crossan and Spong.  The question she asks is where ACNA (and other Anglican conservatives) are on “the issue of sexuality as a core doctrine.”

I would agree that the over-the-top heresies of Spong and Crossan and various TEC leaders does not require comment.

[19] Posted by hanks on 4-3-2013 at 03:15 PM · [top]

moving beyond self-consciousness to universal consciousness

How about, “ now losing consciousness”?

[20] Posted by driver8 on 4-3-2013 at 03:17 PM · [top]

“moving beyond self-consciousness to universal consciousness” - a consequence of the error that MY consciousness is all there is and resulting in the limitation of the universal to the individual with the mirage, thereby, of universality - works until another consciousness reveals the self-delusion.

[21] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 4-3-2013 at 03:27 PM · [top]

You know, underneath that surplice, he’s got a kaftan on.

[22] Posted by driver8 on 4-3-2013 at 04:08 PM · [top]

Larry “Pinto” Kroger: “you mean, one little atom in my fingernail….”
Prof. Jennings: “could be a whole universe.”
Pinto: Whoa!...(giggles)... man….... Could I buy some pot from you?”

Did this Spong guy never watch Animal House?  Does he really not know what a cliche’ he is?  Does he really not get that he is the Donald Sutherland creepy English Lit prof character? 

Man, these people really need to age out of the system.

[23] Posted by Looking for Leaders on 4-3-2013 at 04:18 PM · [top]

#22, perhaps a saffron robe rather than a kaftan:  “he was inviting his disciples “to enter a mystical reality of divine human oneness.”  This is Jesus the Buddha.  Spong himself merely got his brain fried somewhere along the way.

[24] Posted by Katherine on 4-3-2013 at 05:22 PM · [top]

“John’s gospel is about living life to fullness – not moral perfection or overcoming sin,” Spong concluded. “He [Jesus] did not die to save you from your sins. He died to free you – to empower you – to be all that you can be.”

Poor John Shelby Spong is now reduced to borrowing US Army recruitment slogans to further his gozpell.  I suppose he thinks it “fresh and new and appealing” in his dotage.  A retention of the P.T. Barnum tactics of the Jesus Seminar in securing popular press attention, no doubt.

Raymond E Brown, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW TESTAMENT (1st Edition, 1997), page 822, footnote 11:
“Some are not formally scholars, e.g., Episcopal Bishop John Spong, whose works stripping Jesus of christology Johnson REAL JESUS, treats under the heading of ‘Amateur Night.’ ...
“G. O’Collins a withering review of Spong’s RESURRECTION: MYTH OR REALITY? ... points out extraordinary inaccuracies and ends: ‘My advice for his next book ... is to let some real experts check the text before publication.”

Shannon Johnston apparently has enough “creedal content” to allow the word Nicene as a descriptor of the “creed” he alleges belief in, but one must wonder frankly if it’s the one of the Fathers or John
Spong.  Since the consequences are merely eternal, his behaviour suggests he doesn’t think it a matter of significance.  Spong does think it matters if you let it keep you from being all you can be.  Do these two also square the circle?

[25] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 4-3-2013 at 08:57 PM · [top]

The picture appears to show a young Bishop of Newark not a young rector.

Tom Rightmyer Asheville NC

[26] Posted by TomRightmyer on 4-3-2013 at 09:12 PM · [top]


The whole problem with the former Episcopal Church IS/ARE the 1970’s bishops!  And those who choose today to emulate them.

[27] Posted by Fr. Chip, SF on 4-3-2013 at 10:35 PM · [top]


I’m very well aware of the controversy regarding the Baucum-Johnson relationship and of Ms. Bruchi’s post.  The phrase “failure for a year to address” assumes there were no private discussions and it also implies that because no public statement was released to satisfy critics, that somehow it indicates a soft position on sexual morality.

I will take the Rev Baucum at his word - that he was trying to bring +Johnson to embrace the guidance of scripture.  It has obviously not borne fruit yet.

Seems I recall Jesus associating with sinners….

[28] Posted by RalphM on 4-4-2013 at 09:20 AM · [top]

Hi RalphM

It is precisely because Jesus loves sinners and wants to be with them that he calls his church to beware of wolves, silence them, and refuse to lend them any credibility or legitimacy. Heretics are not merely “sinners” they are those who lead the Lord’s little ones into sin, so we are commanded not to allow them any access to the flock.

I agree that there may have been things taking place behind the scenes so I would not want to accuse any bishop of anything.

But with regard to the relationship in question at Truro, taking people at their word is precisely what you should do. And when you do that you will see that the actions in this case went far far beyond personal friendships and private attempts to seek repentance. Rather Johnston was embraced as a Christian brother, his ministry was promoted, his status as a Christian leader upheld, and cooperative “Christian” mission efforts were engaged in.

All of these actions publicly legitimized a leader who is actively leading souls to hell, endangered the Lord’s “little ones”, and constituted a participation in his wicked work.

[29] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 4-4-2013 at 09:31 AM · [top]

#24 I agree. I thought he was talking about getting rid of bad karma.

[30] Posted by Pb on 4-4-2013 at 01:12 PM · [top]

Ralph M—I concur in what Matt Kennedy wrote regarding your comments to me.

And, yes, Jesus spent a lot of time with sinners—and it was always with a message of repentance.  Baucum embracing Johnston as a Christian brother is quite a different thing.

As to the “failure for a year” comment, I agree that I do not know what happened privately during that time.  The point that Jackie was making (and I agree) is that the letter made public after that year addressed the Crossan invitation—but did not answer the question she asked:  “Is the issue of sexuality a matter of core doctrine.”

[31] Posted by hanks on 4-4-2013 at 02:46 PM · [top]

Has Ms Bruchi asked the question of Archbishop Duncan or Bishop Guernsey?

[32] Posted by RalphM on 4-4-2013 at 06:59 PM · [top]

Hi RalphM,

Why should she have to do that? These men are public leaders and the actions in question have been public actions?

[33] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 4-4-2013 at 08:14 PM · [top]

Hey, hey, hey!  Girl bishops can do it too!  See here: .  Golly, gee, Johnnie and Shannon have some competition in unbelief.

[34] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 4-4-2013 at 09:10 PM · [top]

Hello Matt,
They are public figures, therefore it should not be difficult to address the question to them directly. 

This was a situation that bothered many people, including me.  Critics responded with an implied accusation that ACNA does not consider sexual morality a “core” issue.  Would it not have been better to go to a Christian brother and ask that question directly than to publish the accusation to the blogosphere?

Are we becoming politicians and playing Gotcha! instead of looking for facts?

[35] Posted by RalphM on 4-4-2013 at 09:19 PM · [top]

RE: “They are public figures, therefore it should not be difficult to address the question to them directly.”

They are public figures and leading a public organization. Therefore it should not be difficult for them to make public statements in response to public questions.

RE: “Would it not have been better to go to a Christian brother and ask that question directly than to publish the accusation to the blogosphere?”

Public questions do not constitute “accusations.”  They constitute public questions to which organizations may choose to respond publicly—or not.

And the answer to the question is “no, it would not have been better.” 

It would not have been better, any more than it would have been “better” for us to not blog publicly about events and actions that take place in another public organization called “TEC” and ask public questions.

Shockingly, we plan to continue to blog about events and actions within TEC, within ACNA, within AMiA, within the COE, within other provinces, within the UN, within Congress, within various states, within the RC church and other denominations, and within a wide variety of other organizations.

[36] Posted by Sarah on 4-4-2013 at 09:30 PM · [top]

At this point, the question RalphM asks has been answered with clarity and consistency for at least six months straight. The premise of the question is that we should not blog anything that seems negative about organizations or individuals that the questioner likes or thinks are above public questioning.

I’m going to treat such questions as what they are: objecting to the subject matter of a post, rather than engaging in the topic, which is not in keeping with our commenting protocol.  Since everybody now knows the answer to that question—and our repudiation of its false premise—I’m moving right to “instant bannings” mode regarding it.  It’s nothing more than off-topic trolling, since the questioners now know the answer to the question.

Commenters who wish to ask off-topic and trolling questions like “what about Matthew 18,” knowing the answer already as they do, are more than welcome to ask it via Private Messaging, so that we can stay on topic.

[37] Posted by Sarah on 4-4-2013 at 09:45 PM · [top]

RE: “Would it not have been better to go to a Christian brother and ask that question directly than to publish the accusation to the blogosphere?”

Haven’t we been through this before?

I can only refer to my last unanswered letter to my bishop. I gave him plenty of time to respond before opening it up for the blogosphere. No, my letter was deep-sixed.

The blogosphere is an open forum to discuss these questions, and this thread and its similar ones here at SF are trying to address the question of how one should commune with those who preach a different Gospel yet who claim to be “creedally” united with you.

Bishop Johnston and Tory Baucum are welcome to weigh in as well as simple folk like you and I. Their silence does not mean that we should not continue the debate.

[38] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 4-4-2013 at 09:47 PM · [top]

Would it not have been better to go to a Christian brother and ask that question directly than to publish the accusation to the blogosphere?

I am the one you should direct your indignation to.  I wrote the article - not Matt+.  Aren’t we mere pewsitters entitled to question that which appears to be against Biblical teaching?  And it was not accusations but honest questions. 

We make it really easy for people to contact us here at Stand Firm.  I know my email box routinely overfloweth. 

Is there a reason the leadership should have been silent on such a critical issue?  I could understand the silence if it were just a run of the mill endorsement of someone who had not publicly rebuked the Authority of Scripture in such a way as to cause a painful and expensive and very public break up - but that is not the case. 

Can one of you holding (wrongly, I might add) Matthew 18, are you implying that we should take this same stance on every public article upon which we comment?  If not, could you help me understand where you draw the line because from this angle it sure looks to be arbitrary and capricious.

[39] Posted by Jackie on 4-5-2013 at 02:00 PM · [top]

If anyone qualified as a scholar, in my mind, it would NOT be Bishop Spong. When I think of a scholar I think of Will Durant, author of “The Story of Civilization”.
For years I have taken these heavy volumes off the shelves when I wanted to look up some historical fact but now I am able to read these books on my NOOK without getting a neck or back ache. I just downloaded Volume 3, “Caesar and Christ” and I am thoroughly enjoying reading this “History of Roman Civilization and of Christianity from their beginnings to A.D. 325”.
It seems to me that Durant’s version is more believable than Spong’s version and it certainly treats Christians more fairly.

[40] Posted by Betty See on 4-10-2013 at 05:13 PM · [top]

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