Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Bishop Katharine: some recent items

First, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued this reflection “For the People of the Episcopal Church”: In this season: Christ in the stranger’s guise. In part it reads:

As the primates of the Anglican Communion prepare to gather next week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I ask your prayers for all of us, and for our time together. I especially ask you to remember the mission that is our reason for being as the Anglican Communion — God’s mission to heal this broken world. The primates gather for fellowship, study, and conversation at these meetings, begun less than thirty years ago. The ability to know each other and understand our various contexts is the foundation of shared mission. We cannot easily be partners with strangers.

That meeting ends just as Lent begins, and as we approach this season, I would suggest three particularly appropriate attitudes. Traditionally the season has been one in which candidates prepared for baptism through prayer, fasting, and acts of mercy. This year, we might all constructively pray for greater awareness and understanding of the strangers around us, particularly those strangers whom we are not yet ready or able to call friends. That awareness can only come with our own greater investment in discovering the image of God in those strangers. It will require an attitude of humility, recognizing that we can not possibly know the fullness of God if we are unable to recognize his hand at work in unlikely persons or contexts. We might constructively fast from a desire to make assumptions about the motives of those strangers not yet become friends. And finally, we might constructively focus our passions on those in whom Christ is most evident — the suffering, those on the margins, the forgotten, ignored, and overlooked of our world. And as we seek to serve that suffering servant made evident in our midst, we might reflect on what Jesus himself called us — friends (John 15:15)…

Second the American newspaper USA Today carried this interview with Bishop Katharine recently:Episcopal church’s new dawn. Some quotes from it:

“…It’s no longer the social norm to be a Christian,” Jefferts Schori says. Her answer isn’t to ramp up on orthodoxy but to reach out to all ages and cultures with Christlike social action.

Critics say she equivocates on essential doctrine — the necessity for atonement and the exclusivity of salvation through Christ. They cite interviews in which she has said living like Jesus in this world was a more urgent task than worrying about the next world.

“It’s not my job to pick” who is saved. “It’s God’s job,” she tells USA TODAY.

Yes, sin “is pervasive, part of human nature,” but “it’s not the centerpiece of the Christian message. If we spend our time talking about sin and depravity, it is all we see in the world,” she says…

…Indeed, asked about her critics, Jefferts Schori doesn’t blink. She leans in, drops her voice even lower and cuts to the chase.

She sees two strands of faith: One is “most concerned with atonement, that Jesus died for our sins and our most important task is to repent.” But the other is “the more gracious strand,” says the bishop who dresses like a sunrise.

“It is to talk about life, to claim the joy and the blessings for good that it offers, to look forward.

“God became human in order that we may become divine. That’s our task.”

Anglican Scotist rebutted some of the unwarranted attacks on her a month ago in PB Schori and Right Belief. And Jim Naughton had this piece on the same day.

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Something of a refreshing and hopeful vision of the Christian calling when compared with the gentleman currently in charge of a diocese 100m north of here.

The AAC reaction, that it's 'bizarre' to see that there's rather more to the Good News than sin, tells us more about the AAC than they might want us to know.

Frankly, their guy reminds me of the pro-Arian bishops who arraigned Athanasius on the charge of murdering Arsenius and cutting of his hand to use in the black arts ('a hand of glory' I believe it's called).

When Athanasius ran Arsenius down in the desert and brought him back to demonstrate that he'd NOT murdered him, he overplayed his hand (sic) by showing first Arsenius' left, and then his right hand. "Where," he asked, "is Arsenius' third arm, from which I have amputated his hand?"

He was met by howls of, "More sorcery, he's stuck the hand back on."

Or as Brian of Nazareth says, 'There's no pleasing some people.'

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Wednesday, 7 February 2007 at 11:15pm GMT

Wonderful ! She brings Christianity to life. Her emphasis on Frienships from the fourth gospel, is very important and timely. She makes faith seem possible. She speaks my mind.

Posted by: laurence on Thursday, 8 February 2007 at 7:06am GMT

++Jefferts Schori quotes a Celtic prayer with a beautiful trinitarian reference; but, sadly and predictably, it will be grist to the mill of her self-styled orthodox detractors who accuse her of being a pagan or a New Age wiccan priestess. Never has anyone had so many detractors among so-called Bible-believing Christians, claiming to sit on the righ hand of God judging the "quick and the dead".

Posted by: John Henry on Thursday, 8 February 2007 at 8:42am GMT

As Christians we are commanded to love the World God gave us contra mundum. However, the forces of darkness are strong and ever-rising:

(I pinched this link from the mailing-list of the House of Bishops & Deputies)

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 8 February 2007 at 8:44am GMT

There's a real sense, isn't there, that whereas all around people seem to be losing their heads, Katharine Jefferts Schori is keeping hers.

Posted by: Pluralist on Thursday, 8 February 2007 at 11:49am GMT

Goran - thanks for the link. Very interesting -and worrying.

Pluralist - that's IT --she keeps a clear head. She keeps her head under pressure. What an evangelist is she !

Posted by: laurence on Thursday, 8 February 2007 at 12:34pm GMT

"++Jefferts Schori quotes a Celtic prayer with a beautiful trinitarian reference; but, sadly and predictably, it will be grist to the mill of her self-styled orthodox detractors who accuse her of being a pagan or a New Age wiccan priestess"

Or a Pelagian. We all 'know' that Celtic spirituality is thinly-disguised neo-Pelagian nature-worship!

Seriously, I emailed ++Katharine's complete piece to a friend who has been away from TEC for some years, discouraged by what she sees as its lack of spiritual direction and mealy-mouthedness. She emailed me back saying, 'Wow! THIS is a breath of fresh air!" I'm hoping she'll be back in the pews.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday, 8 February 2007 at 2:00pm GMT

Yes ++Katherine is wonderful. Let us hope she can use her considerable clarity of thought and warmth with the hard-hearted Primates beginning next week. She is speaking at our church here in Oregon in early March - I can't wait!

Posted by: Byron on Thursday, 8 February 2007 at 5:46pm GMT

"she has said living like Jesus in this world was a more urgent task than worrying about the next world."
This, or course, is an utterly shocking statement. I mean, Redemption is really all about getting into Heaven when we die, right? Otherwise, why obey? +Akinola himself has said that human suffering doesn't matter, so it doesn't matter, simple. Besides, living like Jesus means obeying, right? Tongue out of cheek, I think she's terribly refreshing. I would really like it if one of her detractors would tell me where it is she repudiates Christian orthodoxy, as they claim. Statements have been made that she denies the Creeds. Where? She seems to be quite orthodox in her thinking as far as I can see, but I haven't read all she has written or heard all she has said.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 8 February 2007 at 5:49pm GMT

I am not going to leave the church because of Bishop Schori--but I don't agree with her theology. I think it's flakey and new-agey and not particularly orthodox, but probably too ill-defined to be heresy. The fact that I support staying in TEC is not a vote of support for her or her theology. I really hope she comes away from this meeting with a realization that life is not just a bowl of cherries, and the problems facing the Global South, or anywhere, can't be solved with nicey-nice pictures of Jesus singing Kum-Ba-Yah.

Posted by: James on Thursday, 8 February 2007 at 6:14pm GMT

David Virtue is ranting and raving against PB Schori's post-modern theology that calls for compassion toward the poor, while, allegedly, denying Christ's atoning death on the Cross. In support of his reading of ++Schori's theology, Mr. Virtue quotes the Rev. David C Anderson, no longer a member of TEC but of the schismatic CANA Club headed by the Primate and Metropolitan of the Church of Nigeria.

May the good Lord deliver us from the "evangelical" gospel of indifference to plight of the poor, ignoring as it does our Lord's teaching in Matthew 25!

Posted by: John Henry on Thursday, 8 February 2007 at 7:11pm GMT

"I think it's flakey and new-agey and not particularly orthodox"

How so?

"David Virtue ...... allegedly, denying Christ's atoning death on the Cross."

This, as far as I can see, means she has her doubts about Penal Substitutionary Atonement, probably linked to her unwillingness to state that if you ain't Christian, you are going to Hell. The first time I expressed my doubts about PSA, I was accused of denying the need for atonement at all, as though 1500 years of Christian ideas about the Atonement meant nothing, if it ain't PSA, it ain't atonement! How did this one particular piece of Reformation theology get to be the only way of looking at the Atonement? And beware of Virtue Online, it's a dangerous place for the soul!!

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 8 February 2007 at 8:15pm GMT

She is a breath of fresh air. With a theology that looks at the implications of Jesus' intent and actions for THIS world, her foot keeps open a door that others would like closed. May her respect for the souls of this world (Christian or otherwise, liberal or otherwise) inspire others.

This inclusive, compassionate, accountable kind of theology has hopes of bringing God's life to parched lands.

My prayers are that in making a stand against Schori, those who dismiss the needs of this world are as discredited when they tried to stop the greening of the evangelical movement last year. e.g.

I loved this quote from Rich Cizik, who said, “I don’t think God is going to ask us how he created the earth, but he will ask us what we did with what he created.”

Similarly, for these times, God will not ask us how war and famine and power mongering became the entrenched paradigms. But God will ask what we did to fix it. Or as Jesus points out in Luke 12:57-58, instead of pointing the fingers of accusation at each other and history, get on with trying to sort out the problems. Many of the world's current problems necessitate reconcialation if there are to be long term sustainable solutions.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Thursday, 8 February 2007 at 8:20pm GMT

On another site last night I was defending ++Katharine from the charge of gnosticism because she said, "God became human that human might become divine." That is, of course, a quatation from St. Athanasius "the Apostolic" (as the Copts call him -- "Raisuli" in Arabic) -- you don't get more orthodox that "Athanasius contra mundum!"

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Friday, 9 February 2007 at 12:36am GMT

Talking about other views, I think Ruth Gledhill's latest journalism in her "wow" about Zimbabwe and the Mothers' Union fighting the evils of homosexuality is a new low in her stir-it journalism.

She sees it simply as added pressure, of mothers adding pressure to primates in Anglican affairs. This is in Zimbabwe for goodness sake, a nasty, failed, hungry country if ever there was one, and all it can come up with is a demo on anti-homosexuality - no doubt approved of by its embarassing fascist leader Mugabe to gain the approval of this Nigerian-Anglican led drive.

She should know better. The report, like the demonstration to come, should be treated with contempt.

Posted by: Pluralist on Friday, 9 February 2007 at 1:06am GMT

Far from being a breath of fresh air, Bishop Schori is a breath of that tired old "Jesus-is-my-buddy" 70's theology. I would like a Presiding Bishop who realized the atonement was best expressed in our Prayer of Humble Access. I would like a Presiding Bishop who believed that Jesus was God's Only Son, God's unique and complete revelation of Himself. I am an inclusivist, but one who believes all roads lead to Jesus. (As Stephen Colbert so wittily put it, "I think there are a thousand different paths to accepting Christ as Savior.") I think she needs to stop dressing like a sunrise and maybe wearing a little more red for the blood of the martyrs who gave their lives for Jesus as Lord of the Universe, not Jesus as James Taylor singing You've Got A Friend.

But I think her theology is wearing itself out, so I don't think it's worth leaving the TEC. There are aspects of the Global South we should listen to--even if, in our culture, we are called by the Spirit to an openness to gays. We still have to hold gays (and straights) accountable, even as we offer them acceptance. We need to bring gays into lifelong, sexually exclusive relationships--which, again, Bishop Schori doesn't seem to discuss. Acceptance without accountability is not a complete account of salvation.

Posted by: James on Friday, 9 February 2007 at 5:21am GMT

"Bishop Schori is a breath of that tired old "Jesus-is-my-buddy" 70's theology"
Actually, I see this more clearly in Evangelicalism, what some younger Evangelicals have referred to as the "Jesus is my boyfriend" phenomenon. Can you please explain how she denies the uniqueness of Christ, since what I read seems to be the "all roads lead to Jesus" idea that you find so acceptable. I've read this charge a hundred times, no-one has ever backed it up. I know people who read what the AAC prints like to trumpet it quite loudly but the ACC's ability to distort reality to suit their angry assessment of the world puts a whole new definition of the term "false witness".

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 9 February 2007 at 11:53am GMT

She has said things to the effect that for her, Jesus is the Savior, but God is not limited to Jesus. I believe that God is limited to Jesus as a means of salvation--though Jesus might be at work invisibly in other religions. But whenever someone is saved, it is because of Jesus' finished work on the cross. That is what inclusivism is--and I don't see that Bishop Schori is an inclusivist.

I really see her brand of theology as Jesus playing a white piano, singing, "Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try/no hell below us, above us only sky/imagine all the people sharing all the world" while she walks slowly around the room opening the windows. A nice image and a nice sentiment, but it's not a Christian one. A later song expresses it this more orthodox way--"The real battle yet begun, to claim the victory Jesus won, on a Sunday Bloody Sunday."

Posted by: James on Friday, 9 February 2007 at 4:04pm GMT

I have three issues with the Anglican Scotist analysis of PB Schori's statements:

1) If we accept that there are multiple paths to God, then what is the point of Jesus's death and resurrection? We can say its a demonstration of God's love, but is it a reasonable demonstration? Is it an effective or relevant demonstration when we are left with so many problems? We claim God gave us reason and that He is the source of reason, therefore His actions should be reasonable ; a meaningless, ineffective demonstration of love does not seem reasonable. Self sacrifice to the point of death is not reasonable unless there is NO OTHER WAY to accomplish your goal. If we serve a reasonable God how do we explain an unreasonable act such as this?

2) If we can't take Jesus at His word in John 14:6, where else have we been tricked? If His teaching on how to pattern our relationship to God is wrong why should we care what he has to say about how we relate to each other?

3) This explanation tends towards a works-based salvation. Instead of simple faith we work towards salvation through our spiritual journey, seeking relationship with God and seeing God at work in others. These are all vital elements of our relationship with God and evangelism, but the method of justification has become so elastic as to make working our way to God the same as faith so that even an atheist who denies Jesus's divinity can be justified. Bringing in the questions from #1 and #2, this explanation means we can work our way to God based on unreliable instructions from an unreasonable source. Doesn't sound like anything I want to be a part of.

Of course, I take John 14:6 as being a straight forward and plain spoken truth about who Jesus is and our relationship to God. There are some issues I struggle with as to what that means and how Christians should react to it, but the central truth is that Jesus was a necessary sacrifice for our reconciliation to God.

Posted by: Chris on Friday, 9 February 2007 at 4:18pm GMT

Dear Chris,

your point one is the Great Neo Platonist Error.

God is not The Highest Being. He did not give y o u His Reason.

Nor for you to judge what is "reasonable". Read Job!

Nor for you to judge at all, actually. Read the rest of the Bible!

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 9 February 2007 at 4:38pm GMT

James do you relish the thought of 'the sufferings of the damned' then ? If you leave out the 'Evangel', you are left with 'icalsim'.
The white piano is your picture, a product of your mind--not the PB's. Yes, I'm afraid it seems to be a case of :-


Chris you might want --eventually to branch out from your chosen verse. No hury. Meanwhile, here's another for you (same page, so no pages to turn ! : - )

IT is : -
John 14: 1

Posted by: seeker on Friday, 9 February 2007 at 6:12pm GMT

"She has said things to the effect that for her, Jesus is the Savior, but God is not limited to Jesus."

Well, unless I miss my guess, the Church's attitude to other religions is that they are not incorrect, but incomplete. The pagans saw some of the Light, the Jews were allowed to see more of it, we see it in its fullness. So I don't really see that saying God is not limited to Jesus is heretical. "whenever someone is saved, it is because of Jesus' finished work on the cross" I don't see this as contradicting the above quoted statement.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 9 February 2007 at 7:32pm GMT

The salvific effect of the Incarnation, all of it, is not because we believe it. God becomes a created being so He can restore all of Creation to the state of Grace it existed in before the Fall, the result of our disobedience, corrupted it. Creation is redeemed whether WE believe in Christ or not. For a reason only God knows, He could only redeem His creation by becoming part of it. Our faith is our assent, our acknowledgement of what He has done, and our statement that we want to walk in the light, not in the darkness. The church has always acknowledged that there are those who walk in the Light without recognizing it, or only while seeing a small part of it. This doesn't contradict John 14:6. And far from works based salvation, it means we actually do "work out our salvation in fear and trembling", I'm sure you can give me chapter and verse for that one. It means that we are saved through faith, but have the rest of our lives to understand what that actually means, to continually examine ourselves to make ourselves more Christlike, to work towards what we are promised, that He became as we are so that we might become as He is. Salvation is none other than theosis, and "getting into heaven" is certainly a part of that, but only part.

"the central truth is that Jesus was a necessary sacrifice for our reconciliation to God."
I agree entirely, and I don't think I've said one thing above to contradict this.

Now, I'm no theologian, no doubt my understanding is flawed, but "believe or roast" is certainly NOT the Catholic faith. As an example, read St. John Crysostom's Easter sermon. The Cosmic greatness of the Resurrection for him means that ALL may share in the feast, regardless of their preparedness, or of how holy they have tried to be. It's an attitude towards Redemption that you won't see in most modern Protestantism.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 9 February 2007 at 8:05pm GMT

Brilliant ! Ford. Tanks

Posted by: seeker on Friday, 9 February 2007 at 10:18pm GMT


I believe that it is God-in-Christ Who saves: some way, some how, some time/all-the-time.

It is not the human action of BELIEVING in God-in-Christ (much less, a *particular* belief) which saves.

I stand w/ ++Katharine (and, IMHO, the Christian faithful of the ages): your God, James, is TOO SMALL.

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 9 February 2007 at 10:28pm GMT

What is admirable about Bp Jefferts Schori is her policy of bringing love to bear on her worst enemies -- she wants to educated them in the ways of dialogue and acceptance, and that is indeed the attitude of a mature Christian pastor. I was very disappointed with Bp Wright's recent rants -- they savour of ideology rather than of comprehensive pastoral vision.

Posted by: Fr Joseph O'Leary on Saturday, 10 February 2007 at 1:36am GMT

Goran - I am not judging people I am critiquing an idea someone prospered. No, God did not give us - or me - His reason, but He did give us reason and expects us to use it.

seeker - thanks....

Ford - Yes, we do agree and that was very well said. I heed Paul's call to the Philippians; I do struggle with how God will judge those who either don't hear the Gospel or are unable to construct a response to it (i.e. the very young or mentally challenged, etc.). I'm not a theologian either so I'm sure my understanding has errors as well.

Posted by: Chris on Sunday, 11 February 2007 at 2:50am GMT

Chris confessed:
I do struggle with how God will judge those who either don't hear the Gospel or are unable to construct a response to it (i.e. the very young or mentally challenged, etc.).

Don't struggle: it's God's problem, and if he wants to set up unjumpable barriers he can do, I suppose. Makes him a pretty rubbish Saviour, though.

That well-known scourge of Conservatives JPII had something to say on the subject, I recall, which implied that he didn't think scripture had the last word on the fate of those who trespass on the more exclusive bits of GJ.

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Sunday, 11 February 2007 at 12:27pm GMT
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