Monday, February 05, 2007

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and Grace under Fire

From Cathy Lynn Grossman's article for USA Today:

"Since her election in June and installation in November, a tiny but influential number of churches from Virginia to California — "one-half of 1% of the 7,200 congregations," she says — have spurned her leadership and the liberal direction of the Episcopal Church to align with Southern Hemisphere traditionalists.

The long-simmering tensions between those who adhere to a strict interpretation of the Bible and those who read it less literally came to a boil in 2003. That's when the church's governing body approved the election of the church's first openly gay bishop, the Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

Jefferts Schori has been excoriated by conservatives for her theological views. Some primates say they won't sit in the same room with her at her first meeting of the primates in Tanzania next week.

Yet, despite "white-hot animosity thrown at her, she's unflappable," New York Bishop Mark Sisk says.

Confronted with seemingly intractable conflicts, Jefferts Schori smiles like someone well versed in Matthew 6:25's refrain: "Be not anxious." The world is all of God, she says, so go forward.

"I'm no Pollyanna. I just try to look at the world with the expectation that I will find signs of God. The burning bush is an invitation, if we are willing to engage it.""

"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.

Here's where blood rushes into the blogs and critics pounce.

"Her theological statements are not orthodox Christian, not orthodox Anglican. Frankly, they're bizarre," says the Rev. Canon David Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council. He has aligned with a group of U.S. churches that now answer to the Archbishop of Nigeria.

Sisk disagrees sharply.

"She's profoundly faithful to the central claims of the church and the Scriptures. People who say she's not are making that up. They just don't agree with her. And the fact that she stays calm in the face of a lot of pumped-up hype, that she just doesn't buy it, irritates them."

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.""

No comments: