"If someone had told me years ago that I would create these enormous levels of both appreciation and hostility in my ordained life, I would have been dumbfounded, shocked, and probably deeply hurt. How did it happen? What created the twin emotions of praise and anger, of gratitude and fear? What forces pushed me, compelled me, or led me to play my particular role in the struggle to make the Christian church respond to the issues of our century and indeed to open new dimensions of spirituality to the citizens of this century? That is the story I seek to tell."
John Shelby Spong has spent a lifetime struggling to discover and create a more just, loving, and authentic Christian faith. Throughout his career as an Episcopal priest and bishop, he has inspired praise and gratitude among the marginalized Christians whose causes he has championed, as well as hostile resistance from traditional and conservative Christians whom he has so boldly challenged. Here I Stand reveals the private side of this very public figure, as Bishop Spong tells the story of the people and events that shaped his thoroughly contemporary yet deeply biblical theology and his commitment to liberal Christian values.
Early in his life, Spong witnessed injustices that were instrumental in awakening his moral consciousness. Growing up in the American south of the 1930s, Spong spent his childhood in an environment of racism, fundamentalism, sexism, and homophobia. The church of his time was no exception; its exclusionary attitudes and practices struck the young Southerner as contradictory to the Christianity he encountered in the Bible and heard preached from the pulpit and taught in Sunday school.
Rather than becoming disillusioned with the church and dropping out, Spong has devoted himself to reforming it, working to integrate women, blacks, gays, lesbians, and other marginalized Christians fully into the faith community better known for rejecting or marginalizing them. In the process, he has challenged the views of leaders such as Jerry Falwell, John Cardinal 0' Connor, and his own Episcopal hierarchy. He has been honored by many as a hero, while enduring harsh reactions from fundamentalists and those wedded to the status quo. Through it all, Bishop Spong has remained committed to his role as a shepherd to every member of the Christian flock. His courageous efforts have made him an inspirational symbol of a Christian church truly worthy of Jesus and the standard bearer for those who strive to be both contemporary, thinking persons and faithful, enlightened Christians.