The release of this hard-hitting and large-souled memoir comes after John Shelby Spong has retired as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark. Raised in a dysfunctional family and a fundamentalist church in Charlotte, North Carolina, the author has spent 45 years in the ministry advocating an inclusive vision of Christianity. During the 1950s and 1960s, he was branded a "nigger lover" by racists in Tarboro, North Carolina, and Lynchburg, Virginia, where he served parishes and stood up for integration. Spong's leadership on the issue of homosexual rights and the ordination of women has made him the target of attacks by conservative Christians in the Episcopal Church, the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and the religious right.

Is he a new Luther leading the next reformation? It is too early to tell. One of the most disconcerting revelations in this memoir is Spong's commentary on what he calls the evangelical fundamentalist takeover of the church internationally: "It is not, I am confident, that this right-wing form of Christianity is growing, as they claimed, so much as it is that thinking people in the mainline churches are departing, leaving these distorted evangelicals as the sole remaining voices of Christ in the public arena." The major expressions of Christianity at the dawn of the twenty-first century are mainly conservative.

It will be interesting to see what prophetic voice Spong assumes in his new job as the William Belden Noble lecturer at Harvard University.