The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love

( 22 )

Overview

The Bible contains many passages that believers and nonbelievers alike would recognize as appalling theology. Whether these texts are used to discriminate, oppress, or condemn, they distort the truth of Christianity and cast doubt upon the love of God. Now, legendary Episcopal bishop and advocate for liberal Christianity John Shelby Spong addresses these passages, shattering our misconceptions and delivering a new vision of how Christians today can use the Bible.

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Overview

The Bible contains many passages that believers and nonbelievers alike would recognize as appalling theology. Whether these texts are used to discriminate, oppress, or condemn, they distort the truth of Christianity and cast doubt upon the love of God. Now, legendary Episcopal bishop and advocate for liberal Christianity John Shelby Spong addresses these passages, shattering our misconceptions and delivering a new vision of how Christians today can use the Bible.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Former Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong knows that religious texts that teach us to love can be used also to justify oppression, discrimination, exploitation, and violence. The Sins of Scripture is his powerful call to identify, expose, and challenges the "terrible texts of the Bible" that have been misused to denigrate or persecute others. A fearless defense of liberal Christianity.
Matthew Fox
“Spong demonstrates the prophetic vocation that prefers truth to lies, honesty to hypocrisy, common sense to sick religious ideologies.”
Robert W. Funk
“Another brilliant chapter in Spong’s quest to rescue the Bible from fundamentalism.”
Reverend - R. Robert Kimes
"Spong lifts the myths surrounding scripture, stripping away the superfluous so the kernal of truth becomes reality."
Reverend - Jarmo Tarkki
"Remarkably insightful and honest, John Shelby Spong explores some of the most compelling issues of our time."
Bill O'Reilly
“The Sins of Scripture challenges Christians to look beyond the myths of their faith into the heart of the matter.”
Spirituality and Health Magazine
"With prophetic vigor, Spong lays bare the evil done…in the name of God...[and] calls the Christian community to accountability...."
Reverend R. Robert Kimes
“Spong lifts the myths surrounding scripture, stripping away the superfluous so the kernal of truth becomes reality.”
Reverend Jarmo Tarkki
“Remarkably insightful and honest, John Shelby Spong explores some of the most compelling issues of our time.”
Spirituality and Health magazine
“With prophetic vigor, Spong lays bare the evil done…in the name of God...[and] calls the Christian community to accountability....”
New York Times
“This book is long overdue...”
Boston Globe
“A valuable modernist manifesto for progressive readers seeking a response to the conservative theology dominating the news these days.”
Spirituality & Health magazine
“With prophetic vigor, Spong lays bare the evil done…in the name of God...[and] calls the Christian community to accountability....”
Jack D. Spiro
“Spong shares his extraordinary gift of conveying the Bible’s spiritual and ethical authority…”
New York Times
“This book is long overdue...”
Boston Globe
“A valuable modernist manifesto for progressive readers seeking a response to the conservative theology dominating the news these days.”
Spirituality and Health magazine
“With prophetic vigor, Spong lays bare the evil done…in the name of God...[and] calls the Christian community to accountability....”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060778408
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/14/2006
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 343,493
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

John Shelby Spong was the Episcopal Bishop of Newark before his retirement. As a visiting lecturer at Harvard and at universities and churches throughout the world, he is a leading spokesperson for liberal Christianity. Selling over a million copies, his books include The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic; Eternal Life: A New Vision; Why Christianity Must Change or Die; and his autobiography, Here I Stand. His weekly online column reaches thousands of subscribers all over the world.

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Read an Excerpt

The Sins of Scripture

Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love
By John Shelby Spong

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright ©2006 John Shelby Spong
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060778407

Chapter One

Why This Book, This Theme, This Author

The Bible is a subject of interpretation: there is no doctrine,
no prophet, no priest, no power, which has not claimed
biblical sanctions for itself.

Paul Tillich

It is a mysterious book, this Bible. It possesses a strange kind of power. It has been the best-selling book in the world every year since printing began. It comes as no surprise to recall that when the Gutenberg press was invented, it was the Bible that first bore the imprint of its metal letters. There is hardly a language or a dialect in the world today into which the words of the Bible have not been translated. Its stories, its words and its phrases have permeated our culture, infiltrating even our subconscious minds. One thinks of motion picture titles that are direct quotations from scripture: Lilies of the Field (Matt. 6:28), a 1968 film that earned Sidney Poitier an Oscar for best actor; Inherit the Wind (Prov. 11:29), the classic film about the Scopes trial set in the Tennessee of 1925 with Spencer Tracy starring as Clarence Darrow and FredricMarch as William Jennings Bryan; and Through a Glass Darkly (1 Cor. 13:12), an Ingmar Bergman masterpiece. Beyond these titles there have also been motion pictures dramatizing biblical epics, frequently in overblown Hollywood style: The Ten Commandments, Samson and Delilah, David and Bathsheba, Barabbas and in more recent days The Passion of the Christ.

Beyond overt references, biblical allusions are constantly used in literature. Without some knowledge of the sacred text, many expressions in our language would be meaningless. John Steinbeck's novel East of Eden comes to mind, along with Exodus by Leon Uris, The Green Pastures by Marc Connelly and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Vicente Blasco Ibanez, which became a motion picture directed by Vincent Minnelli.

The words of the Bible enrich our everyday speech whether we are aware of it or not: "for crying out loud," which refers to Jesus on the cross; "land of Goshen," a reference to that section of Egypt which housed the Jewish slaves; "sour grapes," a phrase which derives from Jeremiah 31:39 that is widely used to explain behavior; and "the olive branch" as a sign of peace, which comes from the story of Noah. Far more than anyone realizes, all of Western life has been deeply shaped by the fact that the content of this Bible has washed over our civilization for more than two thousand years. Biblical concepts are so deeply written into our individual and corporate psyches that even nonbelievers accept them as both inevitable and simply a part of the way life is.

In the history of the Western world, however, this Bible has also left a trail of pain, horror, blood and death that is undeniable. Yet this fact is not often allowed to rise to consciousness. Biblical words have been used not only to kill, but even to justify that killing. This book has been relentlessly employed by those who say they believe it to be God's Word, to oppress others who have been, according to these believers, defined in the "hallowed" pages of this text as somehow subhuman. Quotations from the Bible have been cited to bless the bloodiest of wars. People committed to the Bible have not refrained from using the cruelest forms of torture on those whom they believe to have been revealed as the enemies of God in these "sacred" scriptures. A museum display that premiered in Florence in 1983, and later traveled to the San Diego Museum of Man in 2003, featured the instruments used on heretics by Christians during the Inquisition. They included stretching machines designed literally to pull a person apart, iron collars with spikes to penetrate the throat, and instruments that were used to impale the victims. The Bible has been quoted throughout Western history to justify the violence done to racial minorities, women, Jews and homosexuals. It might be difficult for some Christians to understand, but it is not difficult to document the terror enacted by believers in the name of the Bible.

How is it possible, we must ultimately wonder, that this book, which is almost universally revered in Western religious circles, could also be the source of so much evil? Can that use of the Bible be turned around and brought to an end? Can the Bible once again be viewed as a source -- even an ultimate source -- of life? Or is it too late and the Bible too stained? Those are the themes I will seek to address in this volume.

My qualifications for telling this story are twofold: first, I have had a lifetime love affair with this Bible; and second, I am a church insider, who yearns to see the church become what it was meant to be. I will not give up on the Bible or the church easily, but I will insist that the Bible be looked at honestly in the light of the best scholarship available and that the church consciously own its historical destructiveness.

I do not know exactly when my love affair with the Bible began. Perhaps its first seeds were planted when I was a child and began to notice that the family Bible was displayed prominently on the coffee table in our modest living room. I do not recall my parents ever reading it, but there was no question that it was revered. I did see it used to record the family's history in a special section that bore titles like "Births," "Deaths" and "Marriages." Nothing was ever to be placed on top of that holy volume -- not another book, not a glass or a bottle, not even a piece of mail. This sanctified book could brook no cover, nor could it be seen as secondary in any way to any other entity ...

Continues...


Excerpted from The Sins of Scripture by John Shelby Spong Copyright ©2006 by John Shelby Spong. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Sect. 1 The word of God
Ch. 1 Why this book, this theme, this author 3
Ch. 2 A claim that cannot endure 15
Sect. 2 The Bible and the environment
Ch. 3 The ethics of overbreeding 29
Ch. 4 The virtue of birth control 41
Ch. 5 The earth fights back 49
Ch. 6 Bad theology creates bad ecology 59
Sect. 3 The Bible and women
Ch. 7 Creation : the woman is not made in the image of God 71
Ch. 8 Sexism in Christian history 79
Ch. 9 The woman as the source of evil 87
Ch. 10 Menstruation and the male fear of blood 95
Ch. 11 Recasting the negativity 101
Sect. 4 The Bible and homosexuality
Ch. 12 The ecclesiastical battle over homosexuality : intense, irrational, threatening and hysterical 113
Ch. 13 The holiness code from the book of Leviticus 121
Ch. 14 The story of Sodom 127
Ch. 15 The homophobia of Paul 135
Sect. 5 The Bible and children
Ch. 16 The appeal in the text "spare the rod" 145
Ch. 17 Violence is always violent, whether the victim be a child or an adult 151
Ch. 18 God as judge : searching for the source of the human need to suffer 161
Ch. 19 God as divine child abuser : the sadomasochism in the heart of Christianity 169
Ch. 20 Moving beyond the demeaning God into the God of life 175
Sect. 6 The Bible and anti-Semitism
Ch. 21 Searching for the origins of Christian anti-Semitism 183
Ch. 22 Anti-Semitism in the Gospels 193
Ch. 23 The role of Judas Iscariot in the rise of anti-Semitism 199
Ch. 24 The circumstances that brought Judas into the Jesus story 205
Sect. 7 The Bible and certainty
Ch. 25 The symptoms : conversion, missionary expansion and religious bigotry 213
Ch. 26 Creedal development in the Christian church 219
Ch. 27 Since I have the truth, "no one comes to the father, but by me" 231
Ch. 28 My vision of an interfaith future 239
Sect. 8 Reading scripture as epic history
Ch. 29 The Hebrew scriptures come into being 247
Ch. 30 Escaping the limits of the epic : the prophets, the writings, the dream 267
Ch. 31 Jesus and the Jewish epic 277
Ch. 32 Jesus beyond religion : the sign of the kingdom of God - the epic universalized and humanized 285
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 22 )
Rating Distribution

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(12)

4 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 15, 2010

    How did the Bible get written

    This book gives an in depth look into the story of the Bible and questions its integrity. The story is known to be incomplete and ocasionally contradictory. Filling in the incomplete story and exposing the contradictory story elements is the mission of this book. John Shelby is a Christian scholar and has put the time and effort into looking into this story with a critical eye toward spin control.

    There are modern relidious groups that are seen as "defenders of the faith" who seek to prevent critical thinking and the personal freedom to question religious dogma. If you wish to know the answers to the questions of what was missing in the stories in the Bible and how do we reconsile the state of faith with our knowledge of what is written then get this book.

    The author is clearly skeptical that the Bible was written with devine gudance from its rather diverse origens, internal political issues, and clear attempts to rewrite elements of the true story and cover up the truth. We have all encountered the closed mindededness of church officials and lay people seeking to limit our knowledge and confine our faith to match theirs. If you are comfortable having your options limited by the decisions of others and you don't want to know more, then don't read this book. Otherwise, enjoy the depth of Spong's studies and the insightful appreciations that he has written into this naritive.

    The history of the Christian church to dimish the value of the faith of outsiders, to create divisions and excommunicate their own people as heretics, and to revile others as hated even unto those that espouse their own origins as Jews is well documented. The debate over the issue in the Catholic church over pedophile preists is just a current debate over who is actually favored by the church and who is the despised minority. It is painfully clear that these ancient attitudes of sinful religious divisiveness continue even today.

    If we wish to eliminate the seductiveness of these sins from our future, we will have to learn to think clearly and with full knowledge of the situation. We will also have to continue to question rigid beliefs and to keep those beliefs that pass the test of time. I can assure you that God does not suffer from an insecurity complex and he will be happy to forgive you and keep his word to mankind in doing so.

    So, here lies more truth and some supposition about how the Bible was written. And a good deal of real world insight into troubling parts of the Bible. This is a very thoughtful read and should satisfy those of you who are thinkers about the derivations of the Bible without comitting yourself to reading the original in Greek.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2005

    I nominate Bishop Spong for a Pulitzer Prize!

    I am a liberal in my Christian religious beliefs. I know there must be millions of people like me who are drifting away from the Christian church! For 30+ years I've been searching for 'like-minded' religious thinkers and questioners. Bishop Spong answers so many of my questions with reasoned, biblical-based explanations. I am amazed by the scope of his knowledge...of the Bible, of biblical history, of biblical languages, of archaeology, of other religions, etc. His chapters on Anti-Semitism were especially enlightening! I am eagerly awaiting his next book! With insights gained from reading the works of such writers as Bishop Spong and Marcus Borg, I can attend church services with an open heart AND an open mind.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2012

    Thoughtful insight - though opinionated

    I was encouraged to consider scripture differently- this is good

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    WOW, reshaping and turned me down, up, and sideways.

    This book is not for light of heart Christian. It will truly contest anything you have though whether you believe or do not believe in Christianity or Christ. There is so much validity, but it is also coupled with some areas for concern. John certainly puts his spin on it, but I would hope we can reform Christianity with more open minded, liberal, Democratic Christians alike. God bless this book. It is beautiful although challenging.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Sins of Scripture

    In "The Sins of Scripture," Bishop Spong looks at Biblical passages that have been variously interpreted over the past two thousand years. Among the passages Spong covers are original sin, homosexuality, Christian exclusivism, and so on. Spong tries to show that these scriptures were written during a cultural epoch vastly different from our own and that as citizens of the twenty-first century, it's impossible to take these scriptures literally; to do so will invite disaster not only for men and women (especially women) but also for the earth. This book will be welcomed by those Christians who feel isolated from the faith and who are looking for a fresh way to understand the Bible in today's world.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2006

    a breath of fresh air

    The Sins of Scripture is the third book by Spong that I've read. The themes he covers are much the same: that the bible isn't the infallible Word of God that theism, where God is understood as a person-like being who interacts with the world, is no longer believable that we should focus on this life, instead of the life hereafter, becasue God isn't the kind of God who literally raises people from the dead and that the true test of a religion is its ability to engender love in a person's life. The bible, as Spong shows, is a cultural artifact written by humans at a paticular time and place they didn't know everything about the world and thus couldn't make 'absolute' truth statements for all time and space. The Jews held certain assumptions about the world and the human person that, in turn, shaped their theology and ethics. But we don't live in that first-century world anymore. If we take the bible literally--with its culturally conditioned ethical and theological pronouncements--we end up with a lot of absurdities, even immoral behavior. Since the world can no longer wear those old Christian clothes, Spong offers an alternative theism that he thinks is a better 'fit' for the world. Bishop Spong is a good man and a good theologian. I've met the bishop, even had dinner with him at Boston University. We talked for an hour, and even though our faith journeys have taken different routes, I still admire his honesty to say things that many Christians don't want to hear but that will eventually make the world a place that God wants it to be.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2005

    A must read for all serious Christians

    This book is a breath of fresh air for those who want to keep Christianity as a viable religion into the 21st century. The author shows how morality evolved through the Bible and explains how and why the 'terrible texts of the Bible' are used to promote homophobia, sexism, anti-Semitism, and a multitude of other evils. Only by recognizing that these text exist in the Bible and coming to terms with the fact that they do not represent the unerring word of an unchaning God, but rather the efforts of a people growing over time, can we hope to find truths relevant to today's world in scripture. This is an excellent discussion of the Bible for Christians and non-Christians alike, but required reading for all believers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2005

    A must read

    I've read three books by Bishop Spong. He tackles questions that many people are not willing to tackle. The Sins of Scripture shows that the Bible isn't the Word of God in any literal sense (as thought by Fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals). If this is true, then Christian doctrine and ethics will change. Many greet this with dismay, others with joy. Still, the conversation must happen--we've learned too much about the bible and the world and thus are unable to hold a literalist view of the bible, which often results in immoral behavior, both to other humans and the environment. The issue of biblical authority is a complex issue and must be dealt with patiently and seriously. This is a fine book and will add much to the ongoing conversation.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2005

    It's About Time!!!

    This book brings to 'light' everything I have felt about conventional religions, and the heterosexual societies, since the young age of five. Find out the true meaning of Jesus and set yourself free from all that GULIT that is spoken as The Word Of God. One God,One Love,One Race! John Shelby Spong... may the God continue to guide you on your journey surrounded with love and in good health. Light,love, and blessings, Melinda

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2005

    Compelling read indeed!

    This fascinating look at the abuse of the bible is well worth the price af admission. I feel the author makes a compelling counter argument to the hypocrites who have hijacked 'faith' and the good wishes of a lot of sincere people and twisted it to a dogmatic, bigoted end. I'm sure I'm sure Bishop Spong will be ignored or shouted down by the theocracy that has the bully pulpit

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 29, 2014

    Another enlightening book an a brilliant theologian working hard

    Another enlightening book an a brilliant theologian working hard to keep Christianity relevant in today's world. So many prejudices continue to plague our daily lives due to absolute  authority of the literal belief in and reading of scripture. Thankfully theoloians such as Spong continue to educate laity and clergy alike with writings such as this. As a minister myself I find so much in these pages to help me address common attitudes and beliefs among my congregatin. However if I told them some of my information came from Spong their own prejudice against a liberal theologian would prevent their hearing. Thank you Dr. Spong for annonymously helping me offer information that might open minds and hearts to let a little more of God's love shine in the darkness.
    For those who choose not to read Spong's books and review them with 1 star because he is a liberal theologian, please try reading one first. God is bigger than the Bible you so fiercely believe you must defend and God might help you find something  within its pages to illuminate your faith while taking nothing important away. The Bible is not God and must not be worshiped as such. In these pages Spong has again helped me that God is more than all the words that have ever been written. Yet is words, as do those of beloved scripture, can give us glimpses of the Divine.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2005

    Another downfall 0 stars

    I did not quite get the point of this book. For saying that the bible is twisted and used wrongly today there sure is a lot of hypocracy seen here. There is truth and there is twisting the truth to fit an agenda. Some people dont like that they are wrong about the things that they do, but that doesnt give them the right to take the Bible, the Holy Word of God, and distort it. Sorry but this was a painful read.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2005

    This book is Anti-Christian

    This book ignores everything in scripture in order to validate the personal opinions of the author. It is a horrible book to give to anyone who takes the Lord seriously!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2005

    DaVinci code clone

    I gave this book 1 star only because I didn't have the choice to give it a 0. A better score would be -100. Why do people insist on trying to re-create God? These 'liberal Christians' (I do believe that's an oxymoron) seem set on discrediting the Word of God because it doesn't agree with the way they want to live. I don't think the Creator of the universe is going to change His view of His creation just because it doesn't fit in with your whims. What part of '...the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.' don't you understand? It's odd, too, that Mr. Spong did whatever it took to attain the title of 'Bishop' and now turns on the very same belief system. Isn't that like someone who goes to college, earns a PhD, then starts doing everything in his power to discredit the school and his course of study? Wait a minute....he didn't help write 'The DaVinci Code' did he? Anyway, I'll be praying for you Bishop Sprong and for all those who believe the same, misguided way that you do. Remember Romans 12:2 - 'Do not be conformed to this world...' May the Holy Father of us all show you the way to Jesus: the way, the truth and the light.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2005

    What we've come to expect.

    A book better left on the shelf. Those wishing to know more about the Bible would do well to simply read it. If for no other reason, than to know that what the Bible says is 'One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism'.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2005

    Another intriguing book from Bishop Spong.

    With great wisdom Bishop Spong continues to bring us intriguing insight into the Bible.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2005

    Spong started and now continues the diminishment of the American Episcopal Church

    Bishop Spong's writings continue to substatiate the liberal agenda of the American Episcopal Church that has kept both him an his successor Bishop Griswold in the headlines. His new translations of the bible and it's intended message don't come close to most all modern scripture translators version of the intentions of the original writers. He speaks only for the Liberal portion of Episcopalians and definitely forgets the uproar of recent months that contradict his views and puts him at odds with Orthodox Episcopalians and the Anglican Communion. He is definitely outnumbered by the conservative views of most all Anglicans

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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