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Opening Statement: John Shelby Spong

Rev. Spong opened with a joke about how he always wanted to know how it felt to be Daniel in the lion’s den when he posed the question to the audience to find out their pre-supposed position in the debate before launching into some background about his experiences as a youth in North Carolina. His mother was described as a fundamentalist, and he himself grew up reading the Scriptures.

Beginning the discussion from historical grounds, he claimed that many believers are instructed specifically to not view the Bible critically or with any scholarly insight, and it was once true that Christians were not allowed to even read the Bible for themselves, but that all changed when Tyndale translated the Bible into the vernacular. This leads into his support that our understanding of the Bible is constantly changing.

We used to understand from Scripture that women were inferior to men, and we were taught to look down on and hate other religious traditions. From his background, he spent most of his energy hating the Jews, who were often referred to as Christ-killers. Sunday School lessons even supported this, because he’d never met a good Jew there. He remained ignorant of Jesus’ ethnic identity as a Jew.

Homosexuality wasn’t a part of his background because that was never discussed in his hearing until he was 18 or so, perhaps because his society didn’t allow those issues to be visible. When it was mentioned, it was slighted; as a sickness to be cured or else pitied when it couldn’t be. Persecution was justified in light of the prejudices supported by Scripture, and what we end up doing is looking at homosexuals as less than human.

His black friends challenged his racism. His daughters challenged his sexism. He is very pleased to boast that 40% of his church’s clergy is female, and especially that a female bishop is now at the head of his denomination.

He believes that out of each faith tradition, he can find something to strengthen, or rather *expand* his faith.

Out of his experience he finds that homosexuals are neither mentally ill or morally depraved. Homosexuality is not a choice one makes for himself because they simply awaken to it. Nor is it evil, nor is it unnatural, since it is present in nature. No more evil than redheads. Or freckled people. Or obese people. Besides, who would choose to be beaten up by their friends or alienated by their family? Who chooses to be left-handed?

By the time Rev. Spong retired his position, he had 35 openly homosexual clergy serving in New Jersey, where 31 of them were living openly with their partners. No one ever complained about their behavior, but he couldn’t say the same with the heterosexual clergy.

Rev. Spong believes that the Bible is not competent to make proclamations of judgment against homosexual behavior, just like it can’t make those kinds of statements against menstruating women, or that all epileptics were demon-possessed. Rather, this debate is about the battle between the love of God and the prejudice of man.

[End of Rev. Spong's opening position]

Wow... who needs to debate that? The guy starts off by destroying any rational grounds for meaning he might have.

I assume the debate only went downhill from here?

By Spong's logic one could justify violent behavior. One would simply have to awaken it. Nor is it unnatrual, since it is present in nature. I know this I watch Animal Planet. By using the term "one" in one's writing makes one sound intelligent.

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Seems as though most of his opening address was an attempt to rile emotions by speaking of his background in sunday school. Compared to DrO's intro which focused on his opponent's faulty presuppositions, I'd have to say Spong did a poor job of setting the tone he wanted for the debate.

Spong once again plays the emotional , sensitive card and as he has always done , says alot but really says nothing , even though I'm sure he thinks he is so profound.
Dr.White however , supplies a clear framework and logical progression in terms of what he will try to show in this debate. I look forward to reading the rest of what transpired.

Matthew said: "I assume the debate only went downhill from here"

Well, as far as Spong goes, yes. Hopefully Sean will post more soon (really, wi-fi is hard to come by- call me an uber-g33k but I forked over the money to use this Internet cafe connection on board ship. Basically, Dr. White couldn't get direct answers from him. More later.

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