Spong And The Resurrection, Thesis 7


In this last of our series on John Spong’s critique of credal Christianity we are taking up thesis number 5 and thesis number 7 in the Spong manifesto. Thesis 5 is:The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity. Thesis 7 is: Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.

Continue reading “Spong And The Resurrection, Thesis 7”

Dr Deming’s Main Message

W. Edwards Deming is the management thinker behind the quality revolution in Japanese industry after World War II. Many business thinkers attribute the success of companies like Honda and Toyota to the Japanese willingness to adopt the principles of this prophet without honor in his own country. I have been interested in his work for years and recently won a scholarship to a Deming Seminar. Part of the homework was to summarize Deming’s main message. Below is my attempt.

Dr. Deming’s work is as much a moral philosophy of management as it is a science of management. There is a vision of human dignity that is foundational to his work. Deming understands that the inherent dignity of human nature is honored when it is possible for people to make a contribution of intrinsic value to the common good. What Deming calls “pride in workmanship” satisfies a deep human need to be really and effectually of service to their fellow human beings and to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Deming recognizes that this intrinsic orientation toward mutuality and cooperation is a far more fundamental and dependable source of motivation toward achievement and excellence than is any scheme of carrot and stick extrinsic motivation. The job of leadership and management is to make it possible for people to participate “with pride of workmanship” in an enterprise that produces products and services that are inherently valuable and provide a positive contribution to the common good.


This requires a clear aim and the identification, development and optimization of systems of service and production that can be improved continuously and forever. Most failures in the development of quality products and services are due to problems with the system of production. Understanding and managing the system is a key management task.  The cooperative participation of workers, managers, customers and suppliers in the process of continuous improvement fulfills the inherent need for human dignity and promotes the conditions in which civil society and culture can flourish. These fundamental principles are as applicable to the government and the not-for-profit world as they are to traditional business enterprises.


Continued reliance on competition and extrinsic motivation robs people of pride in workmanship, destroys systems and leads to products and services of unsatisfactory quality. This leads to a declining quality of life that undermines civil society and culture.


The future vitality and adaptability of our civilization and society depend upon leaders of business, government and the not-for-profit world learning a new approach to leadership and management based upon this vision of human dignity and cooperation.





Spong Thesis 2 and 4


The third of Bishop Spong’s theses that we are taking up in this series includes number 2 and number 4 in his manifesto. His second thesis is:Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt. Thesis number 4 is: The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ’s divinity, as traditional understood, impossible.

Continue reading “Spong Thesis 2 and 4”

Spong Thesis 2


The second thesis of John Spong we are taking up in this series is the third in his manifesto: The biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.

Spong treats the concept of the fall and the story of Adam and Eve in a chapter in his book, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, entitled, “Jesus As Rescuer: An Image That Has To Go.” He quite accurately outlines the traditional story of salvation history which begins with a good and loving God freely creating a good creation and as the pinnacle of that creation God creates the man and the woman in his image and likeness. God places the man and the woman in the garden and gives them dominion over the earth. Then the snake appears on the scene and tempts Adam and Eve to break the one commandment that God has given them. Sin enters in and the original relationship with God is broken. From this original sin evil spreads. Traditional theology says that we are all affected by Original Sin and stand in need of an antidote for this sin. God deals with sin and evil by calling Abraham and by giving the law through Moses, by sending the prophets and in the fullness of time, Christ to be the sacrifice for sin. By his death and resurrection Jesus Christ restores our fellowship with God and gives us the gift of eternal life. This basic narrative of salvation Spong calls “Jesus the divine rescuer” which is “dead wood of the past” which “must be cleared out so that new life has a chance to grow.”

Continue reading “Spong Thesis 2”

Spong’s Theses


The first of Bishop Spong’s Theses that we will take up is thesis number 1: Theism, as a way of defining God is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.

Theism is the belief that there is a God who is distinct from and not dependent on the cosmos. Christian Theism is the belief that this God has revealed himself in creation and history and perfectly in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who has taught us to call this God,” Our Father.” In order to understand more clearly what John Spong means by his theses I have consulted his book, Must Christianity Change or Die? Harper Collins, 1998

Continue reading “Spong’s Theses”

Christianity And The World Religions

A Reflection On Christianity And The World Religions
The Rev. Leander S. Harding, Ph.D.
Lent, 2002

Much of what I have to say in this talk I have learned from the work of the great missionary thinker, Bishop Leslie Newbigin. There is a branch of study called the sociology of knowledge. Sociologists of knowledge, such as Peter Berger, talk about the “plausibility structure” of a society. In every group, in every society, every civilization there are things which “everybody knows” and which are accepted uncritically and in which the rational and conceptional framework of the society are embedded. Recently we have been stunned by polls that show that many people in the Muslim world do not accept that the September 11 terrorists were Muslims but in that world “everybody knows” that Muslims do not do such things. Either they were not really Muslims or they didn’t really do what they are said to have done. It is not that people are being illogical or irrational it is just that they are thinking within the plausibility structure of their own world view. There was a time when everybody knew that the world was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth. From time to time things happen which call into question that which everyone knows. The important thing to understand is that there is not such a thing as a pure and neutral rationality and that all reason is carried by a community of understanding and is rooted in fundamental convictions which must be taken on faith, on premises which can not be established on any other basis.

Continue reading “Christianity And The World Religions”

The Power And Dignity Of The Priesthood

This was published in an edition of the Sewanee Theological Review devoted to ministry. It touches on the discussion on this site about the priesthood.

The Power and Dignity of the Priesthood

A Talk given at the Annual Meeting of The Society for the Increase of the Ministry
At Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, November I, 1995, By the Rev. Leander S. Harding, Ph.D.

Copyright © 1994

Much has been written about the perception of a crisis in the priesthood. The Cornerstone Project was developed by the Episcopal Church Foundation in order to help strengthen ordained leadership at a time when clergy are reporting themselves to be discouraged, confused and highly stressed. One of the most recent findings of the Cornerstone Project is that the parish priests in the project had difficulty articulating a theology of priesthood. The staff found that the priests in the project could discuss theological readings with competence but that when they spoke about their parish ministries they did not tend to speak in theological categories. I was one of a group of clergy, theologians and Cornerstone staff who attended a conference at the College of Preachers in June of 1995 to attempt to understand the meaning of this finding and to suggest a course of action. The thoughts that I am going to share with you tonight represent my contribution to that discussion.

Continue reading “The Power And Dignity Of The Priesthood”

Being A Priest In A Difficult Time: A Response

This essay was originally published as part of a SEAD series which included Christ Seitz and Phillip Turner on “Being A Priest In A Difficult Time” Some of the essays are published on the ACI site here. [Editor’s note: this link is broken. We apologize for the inconvience.]

A Response By Leander Harding, To Reflections On Being A Priest In A Difficult Time by Philip Turner and Christopher Seitz

In my neck of the ecclesiastical woods there is a standard format for sermons at ordinations, celebrations of new ministry and Holy Week meditations on the renewal of priestly vows. The speaker is obliged to give a passing nod to the event at hand and then devote the rest of the agenda to a discussion of the preeminence of baptismal ministry. The hoary bogie man of clericalism is trotted out and denounced to the satisfaction of all present. Patriarchalism, hierarchalism are said to be bad and collaboration and mutuality are said to be good. Something is often said about the ministry belonging to the people and not the priest and about looking to the members of the congregation who are the “real” ministers.

Continue reading “Being A Priest In A Difficult Time: A Response”

Been There

Mediation Or Adjudication– Notes On Parish Conflict
A Report For The Bishops Of Connecticut
by The Rev. Leander S. Harding, Ph.D.
November 28, 2000

1. My experience with parish conflict. I have been ordained for 20 years and have led 4 parishes of which three have had a history of conflict. I was a diocesan consultant in Maine and Massachusetts and spent over a year working in one highly conflicted parish in which fist fights had been a feature of previous parish meetings. I was an early advocate of applying Family Systems Theory to parish life before this perspective was made famous by Edwin Friedman’s great book. As an adjunct professor I taught Family Theory and Therapy at Andover Newton Theological School and was a supervisor of field education supervisors at Episcopal Divinity School. My most profound experience of parish conflict was the first three years of my tenure at St. John’s in Stamford which culminated in the vestry asking for my resignation and my request for a Godly judgment under the canons from the Bishop. I participated in an ongoing group for survivors of extreme parish conflict held at E.D.S. in 1992-1993. Of the dozen or so members at the time I attended, including a bishop who was forced to resign his see, I was the only person who ultimately stayed in place and continued in office. During my eleven year tenure at St. John’s I have had three of the most difficult years in the priesthood and eight of the best.

Continue reading “Been There”