Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 41 Comments
Any lingering idea that the Episcopal Organization is led by a Christian has been officially and finally been laid to rest. Katharine Jefferts Schori recently gave an interview to a program called “Issues, Etc.” from Lutheran Public Radio. David Virtue posted a transcript of the interview along with his own masterful beatdown so be sure to check that out. I’ll just hit a few of the points that jumped out at me:
WILKEN: What do you mean by that phrase “Heartbeat of God”?
JEFFERTS SCHORI: That’s how I’ve talked about our understanding of God’s “mission” to heal the world and that when people-of-faith are engaged in that work they’re participating in the lively creativity of God.
Not sure exactly where Jesus fits in there but it’s still early.
WILKEN: On that issue of “people-of-faith” the subtitle of the book is “Finding the Sacred in the Middle of Everything.” so it might sound to some like pantheism. Do you believe that the “sacred”, as you define it, is found in all religions?
JEFFERTS SCHORI: Yes, I think it probably is. We’re not pantheists, many Episcopalians might be understood to as “panentheists”. The difference being that pantheists see everything as God and panentheists see God reflected in all of God’s creation. When we talk about human beings being made in the image of God that’s a piece of what we are talking about and we would extend that to all of creation.
Panentheism. I do not think that word means what Mrs. Schori thinks it means.
WILKEN: But you contrast, or appear to contrast Jesus of Nazareth with the Christ of generations and millennia to come. Is there is difference of the “Jesus of Nazareth’ and “the Christ of generations and millennia to come”?
JEFFERTS SCHORI: Christians would understand both terms. Non-Christians would not necessarily. Jesus as a human figure is someone about Whom Muslims can speak and understand and certainly recognize and revere. And people of other faith traditions would as well. They’re not going to have access or interest in “the Christ of millennia to come” the way that Christians do.
I’m a Christian and I don’t have the slightest idea what the Presiding Bishop is talking about. You know, what with having read Hebrews 13:8 and all.
WILKEN: You talk about hearing the “Voice of God”; I think you devote a whole chapter to it. Where is The Episcopal Church USA today hearing the Voice of God?
JEFFERTS SCHORI: OK, let me correct that. We are not The Episcopal Church in the USA. We’re The Episcopal Church in 16 different nations including the United States. So we’re certainly hearing the Voice of God and meeting God in Ecuador and Honduras and Venezuela and Taiwan and in Europe, as well as we are in the United States. There is an ancient understanding that God is met, perhaps most intensely in the poor and the marginalized. I know that St. Francis [of Assisi] called the poor “our treasure”; and that when we encounter the poor the marginalized, we’re more likely to meet Jesus, we’re more likely to see God present with us in the midst of suffering as well as joy.
Nice knowing you, Acts 10:34.
WILKEN: What then is The Episcopal Church hearing in that Voice of God?
JEFFERTS SCHORI: A call to attend to the people on the margins as well as creation that is being abused. Our work, as part of God’s mission, is to respond to the needs of the suffering – human beings as well as the rest of creation.
So God just made a down payment on a Nissan Leaf, did He? Interesting choice. And if you’re still wondering exactly where Jesus fits into Mrs. Schori’s spiritual weltanschauung, be patient. She’s getting to it.
WILKEN: You also talk about climate change – manmade climate change I should say – and the Church’s obligation there. Do you regard it as sinful to deny manmade climate change or to not take part in combating man’s part in that change?
JEFFERTS SCHORI: Well, human beings have certainly been responsible for accelerating the pace of climate change. I only have to look at the carbon dioxide affluent that has been produced since the Industrial Revolution to see that. I think it is incredibly short sighted, in the sense of blind, to refuse to see evidence in the change of climate. The scientific evidence is overwhelming. There are clearly people who choose not to see that. I think that is not using all the gifts that God has given us.
Then I guess claiming that man is seriously damaging the environment and then turning around and flying the entire House of Bishops to Ecuador constitutes bearing false witness. Glass houses and all that, Presiding Bishop.
WILKEN: Short sighted, but is it sinful in your opinion?
JEFFERTS SCHORI: Sin, in our understanding, is separation from God. And if you cannot see the abuse that human beings have caused to creation, I think that you are in some sense separating yourself from God’s creation.
WILKEN: So, is that a yes?
JFFERTS SCHORI: That’s certainly a way in which I would understand it.
Learned what the word “videoconference” means yet, Presiding Bishop? But someone help me out here. Sin is separation from God. Mrs. Schori understands separation from God’s creation as sin, implying that God and His creation are the same thing. QED, despite her previous denial up top there, Katharine Jefferts Schori is a pantheist. Or a really sloppy thinker; there’s always that possibility.
WILKEN: In 2003, I believe, you consented to the election of Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop in The Episcopal Church, Now that’s been almost 10 years, I think. Do you have any regrets about that move?
JEFFERTS SCHORI: I knew at the time that it would be a very difficult decision for the wider church, both in The Episcopal Church and across the world. But, no, I believe that I, and others who voted to do that, understood that we were doing that out of a sense of great faithfulness to where we are in this church and to the Call of God in the midst of it. It’s not been easy, but at the same time I think that people across the [Anglican] Communion and within this [The Episcopal] Church – a number of them who disagreed with that decision have to realize that it is not a decision that has to divide a community, that we can continue to exist together in a community even if we don’t agree.
I want to marry my best friend’s smokin’ hot 22-year-old daughter. My best friend believes that my marrying his smokin’ hot 22-year-old daughter is a horrible idea. But that’s not a decision that has to divide us. We can continue to be best friends even if we don’t agree. Because I said so, that’s why. SHUT UP!!
WILKEN: You said that the issue of whether or not to ordain active lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgendered persons should not be a “church dividing issue”. But, Bishop, as you know, many disagree entirely. Dioceses, parishes, many individuals have left The Episcopal Church for that and other reasons believing that they are “church dividing issues”.
JEFFERTS SCHORI: Some people have left some congregations and some people have left some dioceses over this issue, that’s correct. And, yes, they do believe that it is a “[church] dividing issue”. At the same time, many people who disagreed with the decision – most people who disagreed with the decision – have remained in The [Episcopal] Church and continue to make common cause with their fellow Episcopalians in the work of healing the world. They believe that our engagement in mission together is more important than disagreement about that [homosexual] issue.
“Most people who disagreed with the decision have remained” Episcopalian? Running a little smack there, Presiding Bishop? Because ever since 2003, every statistic I’ve seen, including from TEO, indicates that the Episcopal Organization is, as they say, trending downward. Either that or conservative Episcopalians have decided to attend church disguised as empty pews.
WILKEN: Do you see a connection the early 70s ordination of women [the Philadelphia 11 on July 29, 2974] to the priesthood of The Episcopal Church and the early 2000’s ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons to the priesthood?
JEFFERTS SCHORI: Yes, and I would certainly take it farther back. I think it is deeply connected with the ordinations of the first African-Americans [Absalom Jones in 1804] to this tradition and the first Native Americans [Enmegahbowh of the Ottawa Tribe in 1867] in this tradition and the first Asians [Wong Kong-chai in 1863] in this tradition. The challenge particularly in the United States, a part of our context has been expanding the understanding of what a normative human being is. And it is not just a “white man”. It includes people of other ethnic origins, includes people of the other gender, it includes people of other sexual orientations. One of the significant changes in our prayer book of the late 1970s was our admission of children to [Holy] Communion before they were confirmed. You use to have to wait until you were a teenager and had been confirmed before you could come to Communion. We said: “No, children as soon as they are baptized are full members of this community.” I don’t know what the next iteration of that journey will look like. But I think there will be one.
Sigh. Here we go again. Presiding Bishop? It is not a sin to be a member of a particular ethnic group. It is a sin to engage in the sort of activities Gene Robinson and Susan Russell do in their off-hours. Look it up.
And what does our “understanding of what a normative human being is” have to do with anything at all? Most Christians understand all they need to know about themselves and have understood it for a very long time. We are sinners in desperate need of a Redeemer, something the leader of an allegedly-Christian church can’t seem to grasp.
WILKEN: What do you see the central message of Scripture is, Bishop?
JEFFERTS SCHORI: Love God and love your neighbor.
On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. Anything else?
WILKEN: I think that the central message is: of man’s sin …his fallen condition – alienation from God, thereby loss of the image of God, thereby… And it’s complete restoration in the Incarnation … the perfect life — sinless life … death and resurrection … the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And I think that is the central thread of Scripture. Am I wrong?
JEFFERTS SCHORI: I think that is a piece of it. But clearly God is at work communities and contexts beyond the Christian one. If you see that as the primary thrust of the Jewish Scripture I think that is a misreading. Certainly the Jews are understood as “Chosen People” in our Biblical texts. God is clearly at work in all of creation and part of our task as Christians is to discern and affirm at where we find God at work beyond our comfortable places.
Really? So this way, truth, life stuff is passé then? Pretty much.
WILKEN: The passage that I guess I go to repeatedly in taking that position is to Jesus, Himself, where He says: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Me.” [John 14:6] Jesus is claiming to be the ONLY revelation of God; the ONLY revelation of the sacred in His Incarnation; and most certainly, the ONLY way to the True God. What are your thoughts there?
JEFFERTS SCHORI: He also says in another place [John 10:16] that He has flocks, that He is called to care for flocks – sheep that aren’t already in a particular fold, and that He has words of truth for them as well.
WILKEN: So what do you think He is referring to there, specifically?
JEFFERTS SCHORI: I think He is referring to people beyond our comfort zone.
WILKEN: Beyond Christianity?
JEFFERTS SCHORI: Could be…
WILKEN: Well, do you think it is beyond Christianity?
JEFFERTS SCHORI: I think the work of Jesus has changed reality for all human beings whether they acknowledge themselves Christians or not.
Actually, Presiding Bishop, John 10:16 reads as follows:
And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
Those other sheep are not people beyond our “comfort zone,” Presiding Bishop(and man is “comfort zone” a really stupid phrase). Those people are you, me and everyone else. Jesus must bring those other sheep into His fold, He will make them one flock and He will be the one shepherd.
ONE shepherd, Presiding Bishop.
Unless, of course, you believe that Jesus didn’t really utter those words, that He really wasn’t who He said He was, that He was just another “prophet” like Mohammed or the Buddha and that He was capped by the Romans because for reasons known only to them, the Romans regularly took out unknown religious leaders in really obscure parts of the Empire, in which case I have absolutely no idea why you do what you do for a living.