Katharine Jefferts Schori—The 2011 Hecker Lecture: A Shared mission beyond unitary communions

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There is also a patristic root to this sacramental understanding, particularly in the theologizing of Athanasius and Irenaeus, and the doctrine of theosis or divinization to which it gave rise. Perhaps the best shorthand summary is, “God became human in order that we might become divine.”

All those various threads are significant if we’re going to look at the current state of Anglican and Roman relationships, for the patchwork that is Anglicanism takes all those various threads and at least theoretically encourages them to find life of different colors and textures in the soil of different nations and peoples. It also forms the background on which our two communions can find common cause in joining God’s mission in this day and age and all our varied contexts. It is the ground on which we can share a catholic vocation.

Once we recognize the common ground, perhaps we may be able to move behind singular answers to highly particular challenges, at least in certain spheres. We share a common belief in the reign of God, in the sacramental presence of God in the earthly realm, and in the necessity of human participation in God’s mission.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori* TheologyEcclesiology

17 Comments
Posted January 29, 2011 at 12:07 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Rob Eaton+ wrote:

Sound check— does anyone else hear a patchwork of allusions?

January 29, 7:11 pm | [comment link]
2. Pb wrote:

Yes. The theology here reflects the thinking of the White House which also wants to heal the planet. The reign of God is where Jesus is worshipped and obeyed. It is where God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Often it is what she cannot say for whatever reason that is most striking.

January 29, 7:37 pm | [comment link]
3. Old Guy wrote:

“Jefferts Schori was elected to serve a nine year term as Presiding Bishop by the House of Bishops, on June 18, from among seven nominees on the fifth ballot with 95 of the 188 votes cast. The House of Deputies, consisting of deacons, priests and laity, overwhelmingly approved the House of Bishops’ election later that day.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katharine_Jefferts_Schori#Election_as_Presiding_Bishop_and_Primate
The main stream Episcopal Church does not seem to have any problem with her theology or her leadership.  Unless she states otherwise, I think we have to assume that she speaks for the TEC.

January 29, 11:27 pm | [comment link]
4. Old Guy wrote:

Presiding Biishop Jefferts Shori is open and consistent about her faith, seems to have wide support in the TEC and the only criticism I hear about her is from we Orthodox Anglicans.

At some point, we Orthodox need to conclude that the TEC has evolved into a different church, or even different faith, from Orthodox Anglicans.  The TEC may even agree with that conclusion.

If so, it becomes just rude and boorish for us to criticize a different church or faith, unless we have some legitimate purpose in doing so.  Maybe we are still in the stage of the divorce where anger is part of the separating process.  Nonetheless, if we are truly Biblical, I think we would be forced to admit that God only cares, in dealing with us, about what we believe, what we say and what we do.  That is where our energies need to go. 

The whole Anglican Separation just seems like a standard divorce, including a nasty fight over how to divide the property.  (Ironically, the liberal church is in the role of the one with all the money and property.  It must regret not having made the Orthodox sign a pre-nuptial agreement)  Both churches would be better off if they tried to resolve the issues as amicably and generously as possible, let go of the bitterness/hurt/blame/anger/pride and get on with our own separate lives. 

If there is still need for revenge, the best revenge always is to live well.

January 30, 12:00 am | [comment link]
5. driver8 wrote:

This amused me. It has a certain Pythonesque quality:

Creative solutions to resource challenges might define the experience of the Hebrew people wandering in the desert

January 30, 12:55 am | [comment link]
6. j.m.c. wrote:

Her speaking anywhere of course is bad news because she still claims to be a Trinitarian Christian.  This particular lecture, however, is a lot better than much that I’ve seen from her.  I suppose she’s trying to be her nicest possible for the RC’s.  What I also find interesting here are certain echoes of lines of thinking in N.T. Wright regarding temporality and gnosticism, esp. as one can hear in his Hayward lectures (a lecture which he’s given many times).

His Hayward lecture is perhaps the best lecture in theology I’ve heard.
Day I: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8113873774240671709#
Day II:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8113873774240671709#docid=-1170066102990742015

January 30, 9:01 am | [comment link]
7. William Witt wrote:

This is certainly written at a higher level of theological sophistication than anything I have read from KJS up to this point. Which leads me to ask the question whether she has spent a lot of time recently in a crash course in theology and church history, or whether, on the other hand, she has a ghost writer.

Sorry to sound cynical, but I find it hard to believe that KJS actually wrote this.  It just does not sound like her.

January 30, 12:37 pm | [comment link]
8. BlueOntario wrote:

I can’t help but summarize this talk so: Dr. Schori is asking the Catholic Church to accept TECs current doctrine and path as “catholic” because, after all, we are all of us just doing the work of God. At least as she defines those ideas. The cynical me wonders if this is to develop a policy of legitimization by association.

Also of interest is the paragraph on “the question of who.”

January 30, 12:38 pm | [comment link]
9. j.m.c. wrote:

#7 William Witt,
It might have been written by Canon Charles Robertson, Canon to +KJS.  An acquaintance of mine says he’s Trinitarian and quite ok in that department.  He may be helping her shape her own ideas into a form which is more acceptable to Trinitarian Christianity.  Probably as long as she’s allowed to talk about the earth as God’s body and quote Athanasius saying God became man so men could become God, she’ll be fairly happy.
To anyone who would like to alert the good Paulist fathers that inviting +KJS to speak isn’t a good idea, there are a number of email addresses on their contact page: http://www.paulist.org/about/contact.php

January 30, 4:22 pm | [comment link]
10. j.m.c. wrote:

#7 - agreed that this is a good deal better than anything I’ve seen of her so far, it’s not really “like her.”  And I’ve read quite a lot of +KJS.

January 30, 4:32 pm | [comment link]
11. NoVA Scout wrote:

Ah, the continuing, persistent, inextricable dilemma for this cleric:  If she says something that is not adequately larded with references to justification by faith or other central tenets, it is compelling evidence that she has abandoned core doctrine.  Disappointment and even anger ensue.  If she says something that is overtly linked to traditional doctrine, she is dissembling or, at best, reading something that someone else wrote and in which she undoubtedly doesn’t believe.  Disappointment and even anger ensue.

January 31, 7:50 am | [comment link]
12. j.m.c. wrote:

NoVA Scout - There are parts of this text that do sound like +KJS, but all in all, it is the best theological reflection I’ve seen emanating from her office, and parts of it are much more theologically nuanced than we are accustomed to.  There are also concerns raised which are put into terms which are far from typical from her.

I agree that the conclusion that there is likely someone else’s work here may, at first glance, seem suspicious.  First off though: Where is the “disappointment and anger”?  I am thankful that this is much better than her other stuff, though I am wary to hope that her own theology is actually better.  Also, we must keep in mind:
- She has never clearly affirmed the bodily resurrection of Christ, and has on one occasion made a statement which clearly teaches that it should be regarded as unimportant
- Though she has never clearly affirmed the bodily resurrection of Christ, she has still given Easter sermons, in which affirmation of the bodily resurrection of Christ is always conspicuously absent
- She has identified “divinity,” when speaking directly about the divinity of Christ, as something reducible to humanity and human potential.  Thus, the notion of God seems at times, for her, to merely be a metaphor for ethics and ethical demands.  Indeed, here we read about many ethical demands - very good ones - and whenever the sacred language is brought up, we are turned again to discourse about various ethical demands and activities.  This is quite inspiring, but it leaves out that very thing which Christ was most concerned about with His disciples: the question “Who am I?”

Regarding questions of authorship: Much of what Jefferts-Schori teaches - Christ who is merely human, where the word “divinity” also means merely human - albeit a kind of human being which we tend to like better than other kinds of human beings - comes from nineteenth century attempts at establishing a new kind of religion which is purged of Christ’s most important teachings; and one of the most important inspirations here is higher criticism and its acceptance that authorship of texts can be questioned based on content and context of other sources claimed to be by the same author.  But do you wish here to allow for the questioning of the authorship of works attributed to the Evangelist, while utterly excluding the same questions for your PB?  It seems to me that some Episcopalians have the tendency of exalting the PB above their respect for God Himself.  I would urge you to temper this blinding fundamentalist passion in considering the importance of Christ’s message.  Not only Christ’s message “as I interpret it” - do simply read it yourself - any of the four gospels will do.  If you read with any care at all, you will see that Jesus can’t simply be reduced to a set of ethical guidelines.  Jesus does engage in ethical teaching/discussion of ideal communities - but His passion for His disciples goes far beyond ethical teaching and is not merely a discourse on how ideal communities should interrelate.  It has something to do with who He is Himself - and the importance of recognizing this in following Him.  If we follow the ethical mandates without recognizing Him, we are falling into the same type of sin as the Pharisees.  This is very “liberal” as it is also “traditional.”

The tragedy here is that the Episcopal Church chose to put +KJS in a position for which she was not yet ready.  It should not have made her a member of the clergy until she was able to understand who Jesus is.  This has most likely made it much more difficult for her to grow in faith and understanding that Jesus is more than a kind of mascot for the cause of liberating the poor, Palestinians, homosexuals, and persons who may need to move because of global warming.  There are fundamentalists in the church who are unconcerned with the poor and do not care for social justice; there are also fundamentalists in the church who do not care about God, and wish to see in their political ideologies a kind of god, or at least evidence that “God is on our side.”  Both types of fundamentalist are dangerous.  Our clergy need to care for the poor - but they also need to recognize the Risen Christ for who He is.  This is the only way of moving forward in the church in God’s reign without bringing into the church another gospel; and if we fail to do so, we will be slipping into our own icy conservatisms - which remain equally icy, even if they are decorated with rainbows and Palestinian flags - and we will be doing that which is most of all condemned in the New Testament.

January 31, 9:23 am | [comment link]
13. j.m.c. wrote:

NoVA Scout - you should also note the top of the page in the attribution:
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

as prepared

This might be a subtle nod to the person(s) who helped her prepare this lecture.

January 31, 9:36 am | [comment link]
14. William Witt wrote:

Nova Scout,

I noted the difference because it is a real difference.  I have read enough of KJS’s sermons and interviews to know the themes she comes back to again and again.  KJS talks about the world as “God’s body.”  She does not generally talk about the church as the Body of Christ.  KJS’s christology comes across as a combination of adoptionism with panentheism.  KJS tends to speak of Jesus as a “good example,” but not as the exclusive path of salvation.  He is “a way” or “our way” of salvation, but not the exclusive way, and to suggest otherwise is to put God in a “small box.” KJS seldom speaks of incarnation, and when she does, it is about incarnation as a general principle of God’s presence in creation—as in her 2006 Christmas sermon, when she began speaking of God’s incarnation in Christ, and ended up talking about Santa Claus, as an illustration of the same incarnational principle!  KJS’s theological mentors are people like Sallie McFague, not St. Athanasius.

So if KJS is suddenly spouting language that speaks of God as being uniquely incarnate in Christ (rather than a general incarnational principle) or of the church as the body of Christ, rather than of the world as “God’s body,” she has either had an Athanasian conversion, or she is having some help to make her views sound more ecumenically agreeable.  That she was using the “God’s body” language and positively citing Sallie McFague only a few months ago suggests the latter.

I would suggest that there is much stronger textual evidence that the apostle Paul who wrote Romans also wrote the pastoral epistles than that the KJS who talks about “God’s body” also wrote this lecture.

January 31, 10:16 am | [comment link]
15. Rob Eaton+ wrote:

Old Guy,
Indeed, that is one way to look at her election, which you have done making use of someone’s creation on Wiki.
Here is another way, in contrast to yours, and more historically valid:  first, the election part of a Presiding Bishop has everything to do with the House of Bishops (and nothing to do with a post-election affirmation by the House of Deputies), and whatever pressures were brought to bear.
second, in 2006, looking at the election itself, when the dust settled from the first ballots, there were two candidates neck and neck: Parsley and Jefferts Schori. Everyone else, including Bp Thompson of Southern Ohio, was out of the running.  She then won by a slim margin of necessary votes.  Actually, by a few votes.  That means that the House of Bishops was clearly and quite evenly divided in half.  The House of Bishops was divided, and with angst.
  You are alluding mandate; the second perspective denotes division.
  Division may in fact be an honest reflection by election of the state of TECUSA at that time.
Thus, to carry through with your perspective, +Katharine is the spokesperson of division - is that what you want to say?  And to add my perspective of what happened and what the other half of the House of Bishops feared enough to vote for Parsley, she came with the intent of creating unity at the expense of those who did not and do not agree with her or with those who backed her nomination.
We should not be expecting anything less than division in TECUSA at this time.

January 31, 6:16 pm | [comment link]
16. NoVA Scout wrote:

William Witt:  I did not argue for her authorship of this or that address.  I simply observed that whatever she says, it will either be decried as unorthodox, or it will be assumed that it is not a reflection of her beliefs.  I have no particular reason to dispute your forensic analysis.  Nonetheless, I think it not a bad thing if she is comfortable with advancing a well-forged utterance, even if its authorship did not emanate from directly under one of her controversial mitres.

February 1, 7:42 am | [comment link]
17. Rob Eaton+ wrote:

Hmmm…I let sneak in my own hope for PB when not Jefferts Schori was elected, but when Griswold was elected, at my first General Convention in Philadelphia:  Herb Thompson.  Sorry.  All the other commentary in my post stands, as noted in the following.
(I’ll just finish this analysis out here, since no one is reading any more).
  I found a ballot tally for Jefferts Schori’s election.  I’ve adjusted the official ballot order in order to show front-runners and ballot trends:
    BALLOT   1 2   3 4 5
Schori         44 49 68 88 95
Parsley       36 49 63 79 82
Jenkins       29 30 24 5 3
Alexander     26 26 22 12 2
Sauls         20 17 6   2 0
Duque-Gomez 18 10 4 2 6
Gulick         15 7 1 0 0
After the initial surprise to see Schori as the front runner, the Duque and Gulick voters made a 16 vote shift and all primarily to Parsley.  As you can see, the Jenkins and Alexander blocks held or even increased by a vote (my hope at that point, being there in Columbus, had been for a surge to Jenkins, which could have made the day, and so my memory reversion to Thompson).
The Duque-Gomez block held quite a few of the reasserter bishops, not having much else to gather behind.  The realists in the group made the shift immediately seeing no hope for Duque’s election after the first and second ballots, to Parsley, holding their nose.  The other reasserters in that block just couldn’t see themselves to vote for either of the front runners, nor the second tier guys, and held out.  A couple came back to Duque at the end as a matter of principle.
After the second ballot the Sauls group finally broke and went to the front runners.  The results of that shift after the third ballot caused the Jenkins block to finally break, and they went to Schori.  The Alexander block also lost half of their votes.  I’ve heard different stories on that one.  It is too easy, though, to simply say the 20 votes went to Schori on the next ballot.  It seems to have been a mixed bag of loyalites, aversions, sympathies, and rebellion.  What does seem clear at this point is that people voted for Parsley because they loathed seeing Schori elected, and there were those who had been so repulsed by Parsley that they voted for Schori (apparently not knowing any better).
Finally, the left-over Alexander voters went to Jefferts Schori for the win. The election would be accomplished with 95 votes, a simple majority, and that’s what she got on that ballot.
Rumors swirled for a year or so that the election was actually accomplished by 3 reasserter bishops who had voted for her, believing her election would be the demise of TECUSA eventually, and perhaps ouster from the AC as a result, giving justification for their departure from TECUSA.  Or they figured it would be the lesser of two evils.  Two of those had stated they would absolutely not vote for Parsley.  On the final ballot there were three votes that came back to Duque-Gomez, which apparently came from Parsley’s total.  After the 4th ballot they moved back to Duque realizing that their votes were not going to affect the outcome.
In the end there were 13 votes separating Schori and Parsely; as well, there were 11 trailer votes for other candidates, which, although loyalty and principle votes, I believe - push coming to shove - would have gone to Parsley, rather than any to Jefferts Schori.
  The end result - and not just in terms of there being a winner and a loser - was a House completely divided.  There’s more analysis that could be done, but that’s enough for me for now.

February 2, 4:51 am | [comment link]
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