Spong to speak on personal faith and reform in modern church for final lecture

Despite his desire for Christian reform, John Shelby Spong holds his faith near to his heart. At 2 p.m. Thursday, June 27  in the Hall of Philosophy, Spong will discuss his beliefs during his final lecture, titled “Universalism: The Future of Christianity and Why I Remain a Christian,” concluding the Week One interfaith theme of “Producing a Living Faith Today.”

For Spong, remaining a Christian in the modern world is challenging, but his faith is fundamental to his character. The former Episcopal bishop of Newark wants Christianity to succeed and intends to help facilitate that success.

“I’m going to try and develop a way that we can affirm the basic truths of the Christian faith inside the 21st century,” Spong said.

Spong will discuss his most recent book, Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today. The book outlines 12 concepts Spong believes will help readers reshape their faith in order for it to become relevant and meaningful.

As a scholar, Spong believes every individual is entitled to their own unique religious experience. In 2018, Christians should not confine themselves to outdated dogma and restrictive behavior.

“The whole purpose of the Christian Church is not to make anybody religious,” he said. “The purpose is to set us free to be, to give us the capacity to be human.”

Spong said this is his final lecture of his career, though he never intends to cease his mission to make Christianity modern and relevant in the changing world.

Tags : interfaith lectureinterfaith lecture seriesJohn Shelby Spong

The author Julie Ciotola

Julie Ciotola is reporting on the Interfaith Lecture Series and Sacred Song Services. She is an Akron, Ohio, native and studies journalism and history at Ohio University. Next year, she will serve as editor-in-chief for Backdrop Magazine, a student-run campus publication. This is her first time at Chautauqua. Contact her at or on Twitter.