“You don’t resist consciousness, nor do you turn it around. Nobody would contemplate re-segregating; no one would contemplate taking the vote away from women. Nobody will contemplate forcing gay and lesbian people to go back into the closet today – we just passed that, and consciousness doesn’t go in a two-way street; it’s always a one-way direction. You’re always more open to the future.” – Bishop John Shelby Spong
I first met Jack Spong in 2008 when he travelled to what he called “the frozen north” to help us launch our Re-Thinking Christianity Speaker Series at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Newmarket. At that time, from the confines of my church imposed closet, I and many others were working together to end the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s discrimination against LGBT members. The terms of my closeted existence meant that I could not speak publicly about who I am lest my denomination take actions against me because of who I love. So, Jack and I spoke privately about the struggle that my life had become. His gentle encouragement “to be all that I am created to be” together with the love and support of so many others gave me the courage to come out into the struggle in more public ways as Holy Cross defied the discriminatory policies of our denomination.
Jack has returned to Holy Cross several times over the years and each time his love and support has been a blessing to our congregation and to so many people in our part of the world. A great deal of water has flowed under a good many bridges since our first meeting. Over the years, our community has continued to be blessed by Jack’s visits and his considerable support. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada has removed constitutional barriers to the full inclusion of LGBT members and we continue the work of living into our vision of equality for all. Even though I have married the love of my life, I continue to serve as the pastor of what Jack has dubbed “the jewel of the north” and surprise, surprise, the sky has not fallen in. My wife Carol and I are both grateful to Jack and his lovely wife Christine for their ongoing love and encouragement!
The interview below took place on June 26th, 2013, the day the U.S. Supreme Court announced its monumental decisions on the Defence of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8. As I watched it, I was reminded that the struggle for the rights of LGBT folk is only one of many human-rights struggles that Jack has engaged in during his long and distinguished career. Jack is a giant among men; and not just because of his great height or his former office, but because he lives the benediction he teaches: “If God is the source of life, I worship God by living. If God is the source of love, I worship God by loving. If God is the Ground of Being, I worship God by being more fully human; the embodiment of the Divine.” Thank-you Jack for all you’ve done to help so many of us to embrace our humanity and thereby embody our Divinity!!!