Thinking Anglicans

Salvation's goal

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote an essay at Episcopal Life Online under the title Salvation’s goal: returning all to right relationship.

I always am delighted when people listen to what I say in a sermon or address. Sometimes I am surprised by what they hear.

In my opening address at General Convention, I spoke about the “great Western heresy” of individualism (see the full text here). There have been varied reactions from people who weren’t there, who heard or read an isolated comment without the context. Apparently I wasn’t clear!

Individualism (the understanding that the interests and independence of the individual necessarily trump the interests of others as well as principles of interdependence) is basically unbiblical and unchristian.

The spiritual journey, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition, is about holy living in community. When Jesus was asked to summarize the Torah, he said, “love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” That means our task is to be in relationship with God and with our neighbors. If salvation is understood only as “getting right with God” without considering “getting right with (all) our neighbors,” then we’ve got a heresy (an unorthodox belief) on our hands…

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Erika BakerChristopher ShellFather Ron SmithTundedrdanfee Recent comment authors
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Göran Koch-Swahne
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Amen!

(especially since today’s Rubric was about the aspect of Community called Freedom in Christ)

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

One thing I admire about the Presiding Bishop of TEC, Katherine Jefferts-Schori, is her refusal to be cowed by the constant stream of vitriol poured over her by dissident groups of ex- Episcopalians in North America who seek to bring her down. One only has to tap into the oxymoronic ‘Virtue-on-line’ site to realise how desperate are her detractors. Truth is; Bishop Katherine has become the prelate in the Anglican Communion world-wide whose prophetic voice is most powerfully heard in the present lock-down that has threatened to overcome our traditionally inclusive ethos within the Church. Her insistence on the Church… Read more »

drdanfee
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drdanfee

I always get lots of positive clarifications, all food for thought and deeper reflection, when KJS speaks up. I wistfully wish, on passing occasions, that our beloved Big Anglican Brain in Canterbury would do a externship with her for a while. Proud to be Anglican, then, in that rough and ready Yankee TEC Mould. If this is what global second track means, oh well. Funny how Canterbury is so quiet when preachers like Akinola or Orombi or Nazir-Ali carry on spouting culture war and weaponized theologies; and so easily put off kilter when TEC or Canada shares what people are… Read more »

Tunde
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Tunde

I still think the following quote of hers is clearer… “The overarching connection in all of these crises has to do with the great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God. It’s caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of being. That heresy is… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

My only response to Tunde (above) is that Jesus himself seems to have taught salvation in the context of community; re Saint Paul’s written understanding of the complementarity of the Body of Christ (not one part being independent of any other). Jesus also spoke of one’s need to love God and one’s neighbour – surely a community ethic if ever there was one. Individualism can be the enemy of the ethic of co-dependency in God’s calling of all people in the Gospel. Bishop Katharine is right about that.

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

Individualism is unchristian, but being an individual as well as part of various collectives is a fact of life. Salvation must be individually appropriated/accepted – it’s no good saying ‘my gran (or my chief) is a Christian, so that makes me one’ – just as forgiveness very often (not always) takes place between individuals rather than collectives.

Conclusion: KJS is confusing two separate issues.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Off topic: Christopher, good to see you back! I may have missed a relevant post, but I hope the birth of your second child went without a problem and that you are all safely home getting used to life with a new member in the family!