Ten Years Ago Today: In Memoriam

It is thus, if there is any rule, that we ought to die–neither as victim nor as fanatic, but as the seafarer who can greet with an equal eye the deep that he is entering, and the shore that he must leave.” (E. M. Forster)

Ten Years Ago Today: In Memoriam

Dennis Michael Spencer of Oneida, Kentucky died at home on April 5, 2010 after a four-month struggle with cancer. He was 53.

Spencer was born September 16, 1956 in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. He graduated from Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro, Kentucky and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. Spencer served as youth minister and pastor in several Kentucky Baptist churches before becoming the Campus Minister at Oneida Baptist Institute in 1992, where he ministered the past 17 years.

Spencer was also widely known in evangelical Christian circles for his web site, “Internet Monk: Dispatches From the Post Evangelical Wilderness” (www.internetmonk.com). The site was also home to his podcast, Internet Monk Radio. His book, Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality, will be published in September by WaterBrook Multnomah.

Spencer was preceded in death by his parents, S.L. and Dorothy Atherton Spencer of Owensboro and a sister, Peggy Spencer Head, also of Owensboro. He is survived by his wife of 31 years, Denise Day Spencer; his children, Noel Spencer Cordle of Oneida and Clay Spencer of Lexington; and a brother, Dr. B.E. Spencer of Louisville.

14 thoughts on “Ten Years Ago Today: In Memoriam

  1. I’m sorry I missed this one. Hard to believe it has been so long. Michael’s writing was the most influential thing that got me to critically reevaluate my life and work, at a time of deep crisis.

    His final post haunts me to this day. It made me to see things I cannot unsee. He was a super even-handed critic, finding fault on all sides and giving credit where due. That is a spirit that is sorely missing in our day. He exposed me to a diversity of resources and perspectives I have never found elsewhere. As committed as I am to my confession now, I still find an echo chamber to be utterly tiresome, and I felt like he never tolerated it either. He helped me to ask all the right questions. I remember, when he died, beginning to feel like I was going to have to figure the rest out on my own. And I did, so far…

    When I began work at my first Lutheran congregation, our choir had a member who had just returned to the Christian faith after reading Spencer’s book. Even today, literally THIS WEEK, I found myself quoting him in some of the work I do for our congregation.

    Being almost a week late, I doubt this will be read. But I can’t imagine where my life would be today apart from his work here. I am profoundly grateful.


  2. this is another quote you might wish to explore further, if you are drawn to Michael Spencer:

    ” More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people”
    (MLK, written from Birmingham jail)



  3. In his journey to find his way towards a more authentic Christianity, fortunately for us, Michael wrote down his thoughts and shared them.
    That his writings touch so many chords in those of us who read Michael’s thoughts is a tribute to his honesty and to his gift for insight.
    We who have benefited from Michael’s work will always be grateful to him for sharing it, and also be grateful for those who help carry on his work on this blog.


  4. Ten years is but a blink. I can’t believe it’s been that long.

    I started reading iMonk about a year before Michael died. I clicked onto a link from a friend’s blog (remember blogs?) and read it a bit, but fell away until another friend (this one an atheist) emailed me a link to Michael’s article “The Coming Evangelical Collapse” in the Christian Science Monitor. After that I was hooked.

    I started my own blog ten years ago, about a week after Michael died. I had been thinking about starting one anyway (remember blogs?) and his death in large part gave me the kick in the pants. There were three friends, including Michael, who died of cancer about the same time, and I mention that in the first blog post, which was about Dylan Thomas’s poem “And Death Shall Have No Dominion.”

    I don’t know if Dylan Thomas really believed in the Resurrection, but his poem certainly does. And Michael certainly did. I highly recommend reading both Michael’s article, and Thomas’s poem.

    I haven’t written a thing on the blog in a few years. I think I got tired. There was a lot of crud coming along for a few years at church, much of it the sort of thing that Michael had foreseen and railed against, and the sort of thing well-documented over at Wartburg Watch. So when the crud came to my church I recognized it instantly, page by page, line by line, chapter and verse. Uncanny, fascinating, but exhausting.

    I didn’t feel that I could write about the church crud on the blog. I have friends at that church. So when people ask me why I haven’t written lately I reply, “I got nothing to say anymore.” And there was still the possibility that I could be wrong in my opposition to the change. Maybe I was over-reacting.

    I don’t think I over-reacted. In either case, I haven’t recanted. I’ve simply left that church, not with a bang but a whimper. It’s partly Michael’s fault. Thanks, buddy. I guess.


  5. I am not a long time reader but I think M. Spencer would be well pleased with this reflective reminder of his honest , sincere work done with honest love. I was not aware of the quote from E.M. Forster, but it is so fitting. and I will explore it further. I think it is quite fitting for a believer and just a lovely an to me that are comforting words.


  6. How can it have been so long? I am very glad, Chaplain Mike, that you, and others, have kept this site alive, without losing sight of Michael Spencer. He wrote with such an honest, distinctive, and eloquent voice of the evolution of his faith and his struggles with how that evolution changed his life, that it’s always good to read those posts again. I wonder what his thoughts would be on where we are today?


  7. I became acquainted with iMonk only after Michael Spencer’s passing. I know that this blog has changed dramatically since he presided over it. From what I’ve learned about Michael in the last few years of reading his regularly revisited posts, he would not have expected it to remain what it was under his management. He himself seemed to change dramatically and dynamically, often painfully, over the years. One of the things that seemed to change most with him — not without great and constant struggle — was his compulsion to be in control. I hope and trust that he is now going from glory to glory, transformation to transformation, under the guidance of our loving God on the further shore. May it be so for all of us.


  8. But the righteous man, though he die early, will be at rest.

    There was one who pleased God and was loved by him, and while living among sinners he was taken up.
    He was caught up lest evil change his understanding or guile deceive his soul.
    For the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
    Being perfected in a short time, he fulfilled long years;
    for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took him quickly from the midst of wickedness.
    Yet the peoples saw and did not understand, nor take such a thing to heart, that God’s grace and mercy are with his elect, and he watches over his holy ones.
    The righteous man who had died will condemn the ungodly who are living, and youth that is quickly perfected will condemn the prolonged old age of the unrighteous man.
    For they will see the end of the wise man, and will not understand what the Lord purposed for him, and for what he kept him safe.

    Wisdom 4:7,10-17


  9. Yes, the concern is valid, and I do think we’ve been more careful, yesterday being a notable exception. But that’s all I’ll say for now. The rest of this day is for Michael. Anything off that subject will be deleted.


  10. Radagast,

    I appreciate your comments here, and I do agree.

    I banned political comments from my last post, and will probably do so going forward.

    I have exited Facebook for the most part for the reasons you state above.

    Perhaps Chaplain Mike can chime in here as I think your concern is valid.


  11. I remember when Michael died, it was ten years already and now I am as old as he was. I remember how it shook me, I did not know him personally, only an email between us and a few posts. Rest in peace Michael.


  12. I much miss Michael and his writings. I enjoyed following his journey and that of his wife and this site really gave me insight into what was happening outside of my Catholic world from one who did not have my catholic bias. I felt I could trust that.

    I have decided to take a break from this site during the COVID-19 crisis. I am sure all folks here have great hearts, but the political bashing at a time when we should be coming together is too much for me right now. I am watching folks on my street from both sides of the political spectrum come together during this time. I am not seeing this here. As I believe that America gives us the ability and right to state our opinions, a right I fully support, it also gives me the choice to participate or not. At this moment in time I don’t believe this site is fruitful for me personally, and having been through other pandemics I don’t remember there ever being this much unjust discourse (my perception anyway). Instead of engaging in endless negativity from my conservative perspective, I am choosing to devote that energy to help those around me. Please have a great Easter and stay safe.


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