Spong, John Shelby

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Spong, John Shelby

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John Shelby Spong was born June 16, 1931 in Charlotte, North Carolina. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1952 from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill he earned a Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1955. He was ordained a deacon and a priest that year.

For two years, Spong served as rector at St. Joseph’s Church in Durham, North Carolina, before assuming the rectorship of Cavalry Church in Tarboro, North Carolina, in 1957. In a city that resisted integration, Spong ministered to the Black congregation at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church alongside the white congregation at Cavalry. He continued service as a rector at St. John’s Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, (1965) and St. Paul’s Church in Richmond, Virginia (1969) before being consecrated Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark in 1976. As bishop he continued to work tirelessly on behalf of those marginalized in the Church, ordaining a non-celibate gay deacon to the priesthood in 1989 and advocating for women clergy. Spong gained recognition among lay audiences for his many books on theology, which often challenged conventional doctrine. After retiring as bishop in 2000, he continued to speak on faith, modernity, and social justice.

John Shelby Spong died on September 12, 2021.

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