Campus & Community

Rev. Spong To Present 101st Annual Noble Lectures

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Right Rev. John Shelby Spong

The future of Christianity will be the subject of a three-part lecture series by the Right Rev. John Shelby Spong, author, theologian, and former Episcopal bishop of Newark, N.J.

Spong, who is well known for his controversial views on human sexuality, the virgin birth, and the physical nature of Christ’s resurrection, will give the 101st annual William Belden Noble lectures. Titled “Developing a New Christianity for a New Millennium,” the lectures take place on March 6, 7, and 8 at 8 p.m. in Memorial Church, and are free and open to the public.

The author of 18 books, including Why Christianity Must Change or Die and Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Spong has aroused controversy with his belief that the relationships of homosexuals and nonmarried heterosexuals should be affirmed, just as those of married heterosexuals are.

In his lectures, Bishop Spong will analyze the birth, life, and demise of theistic thinking, and will describe a God beyond theism and a Christ beyond incarnation. He will seek to sketch out a portrait of a new humanity grounded in the spiritual reality of self-giving love, which he will argue is the next step in the evolutionary struggle to become fully human.

“Bishops today are thought to be harmless ceremonial figures who do little, say less, and exhibit a modicum of administrative skill. Once upon a time, however, bishops were the spiritual and intellectual artillery of the church militant,” says Peter J. Gomes, the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church. “With a courage and an imagination unintimidated by conventional wisdom, Bishop Spong has chosen to fight for the reconciliation of the mind and heart of the church in the contemporary world.”

Spong was ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in 1955 and served churches in Durham and Tarboro, N.C., and in Lynchburg and Richmond, Va., before being elected bishop of Newark in 1976. He is a former president of the New Jersey Council of Churches and served on the House of Bishop’s Theology Committee. He is in residence at Harvard University as the William Belden Noble lecturer and is teaching a class on preaching during the spring term.

Three scholars will respond to Bishop Spong’s lectures. Owen Gingerich is professor of astronomy and the history of science at Harvard. A former vice president of America’s oldest scientific academy, the American Philosophical Society, Gingerich is considered a leading authority on the 17th-century astronomer Johannes Kepler and the 16th-century cosmologist Nicolaus Copernicus.

The Rev. Titus Presler is rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Cambridge. During his rectorship the parish has reversed a membership decline, and revitalized its worship, community life, education programs, and community outreach. Until 1997, he was a lecturer in Anglican, Global, & Ecumenical Studies at the Episcopal Divinity School.

The Rev. Dr. Leroy Rouner is professor of philosophy, religion, and philosophical theology, and director of the Institute for Philosophy and Religion at Boston University. The author of three books on religion and philosophy, he planned and edited 14 volumes in the Boston University Studies in Philosophy and Religion, and serves as general editor for the series.

The Noble Lectures were founded in 1898 through a bequest of Nannie Yulee Noble in memory of her husband. Past lecturers include Theodore Roosevelt, Harvey Cox, Eugene McCarthy, former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Runcie of Cuddesdon, Hans Küng, Paul Tillich, and Dr. Armand Nicholi.