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Bishop Spong to deliver Phi Beta Kappa Day address at Wofford

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

SPARTANBURG, SC – Wofford College will celebrate its annual Phi Beta Kappa Day on Thursday, April 15, when Dr. James E. Proctor (Class of 1967) of the faculty and 26 new undergraduate members-in-course will be inducted into the prestigious liberal arts honor society.

The Right Reverend John Shelby Spong will address the Wofford and Spartanburg communities on the topic “The Church’s Struggle to Worship with Integrity in the 21st Century" at the annual Phi Beta Kappa Day annual convocation at 11 a.m. in Leonard Auditorium. Admission is free and the public is invited to attend.

Phi Beta Kappa is devoted to the principles of “friendship, morality, and literature (or learning).” Founded at the College of William and Mary in December 1776, it was the first of the Greek letter fraternities. John Quincy Adams, Edward Everette and Joseph Story, members of the Harvard chapter, are credited with making the fraternity a public literary and honor society for undergraduate men and women in the 1830s. With almost 400,000 members across the country, Phi Beta Kappa today sponsors numerous programs to encourage scholarship and learning, including the Phi Beta Kappa Book Awards, visiting scholars, academic fellowships, and leadership programs. The society's official journal is The American Scholar, a quarterly magazine featuring articles of cultural and intellectual interest.

At the end of the last academic year, there were approximately 3,500 colleges and universities in the United States. Only 270 of them have the right to induct their graduates into Phi Beta Kappa. Independent colleges and universities in the Carolinas with chapters are Wofford, Davidson, Duke, Furman and Wake Forest.

One of the featured scholars in the April 5 ABC television special: Jesus and Paul: The Word and the Witness, Spong once said, “I write as a believing skeptic inside the structures of the church for those who have drifted outside these structures. I try to keep one foot in tradition and one in the radical secularity of the 21st century. I seek the inner meaning of the Christian symbol beyond the literal words of scripture and creed.”

He has written 16 books on various socio-religious issues and subjects, beginning with Honest Prayer in 1973. His especially influential books include Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks for Believers in Exile and a memoir, Here I Stand: My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love, and Equality. He has won numerous awards over the course of his distinguished career, including Humanist of the Year (1999) and the Brotherhood Award from National Conference of Christians and Jews (1974).

Spong, a native of Charlotte, N.C., and a member of Phi Beta Kappa, received his A.B. degree at the University of North Carolina and his M.Div. at the Virginia Theological Seminary. He was ordained as an Episcopal minister in 1955 and served parishes in North Carolina and Virginia before becoming a bishop for the Northern New Jersey Episcopal Church in Newark. In 2000, after almost 25 years in that post, Spong retired and became bishop emeritus. He now teaches at Harvard University. Spong is married to Christine M. Spong and is the father of three children.