Katharine Jefferts Schori—The Episcopal Church’s opportunity – A Church for the 21st Century

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If we are people who value that Anglican sense of ordered freedom, then we need to learn to live in the creative tension between complete order and complete freedom, both of which are ultimately deadly – order because it’s not open to change, and complete freedom because it has a hard time with enduring relationship. Abundant life and creativity come in the dance between what is finished and utter chaos. That lively tension applies to all parts of our lives, including how we make decisions.

Our churchwide governance work is largely based on parliamentary democratic methods. We have evolved a system that gives great attention to the details of process and structure in how decisions are made. We have a representation system that has at least something to do with interest group politics. We have made legislative decisions over the last few decades that have done great good in opening us up to the movement of the spirit. We have also done damage in voting, by creating winners and losers about several hundred issues at every General Convention.

There are other democratic ways of decision-making that are more deliberative, that depend on conversation and consensus more than on up-down, yes-no voting.

Read it all.

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

18 Comments
Posted May 8, 2012 at 6:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. AnglicanFirst wrote:

I read her address about half-way-through and then my eyes started to glaze-over.

In science, when a theory begins to approach the true explanation of what scientists are trying to explain, the theory becomes simpler and more elegant in its explanation of what is being explained.

In engineering design, when a design becomes more closely ‘tuned’ to the function that the design is supposed to accomplish, it too becomes a simpler and more easily comprehended design.

When the engineer or the scientist finds it necessary to come up with a complicated or long-winded design or theory, then the listener with wisdom knows that that design or theory is a stab-in-the-dark created by a confused mind that is still a long way from knowing the truth regarding what they are trying to design or explain.

May 8, 8:27 am | [comment link]
2. BlueOntario wrote:

The knowledge that TEc wants to gift these ideas to rest of the Church is disturbing.

May 8, 8:51 am | [comment link]
3. Karen B. wrote:

I’m cross-posting below a comment I just left on Stand Firm’s “document the heresy thread.”  I confess that before writing that comment at SF I was tempted to write a long string of sarcasm and even profanity here, as I was so deeply disturbed and shocked by reading this.  (I know…. I shouldn’t be shocked, I keep expecting to be incapable of further shock, but I’m not.  Maybe that’s a good thing in that I’m still so horrified and saddened by this cr*p?).

Anyway here’s the slightly more publishable and rational comment I left at SF: http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/sf/page/13902/comment-sf/#481503

Words fail at describing this document (speech?) from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

http://episcopalchurch.org/page/episcopal-church’s-opportunity-–-church-21st-century

The whole thing is awful, but the two most glaring points of concern were:

1. her non-Christian view of the Trinity (repeated over and over again)

The ancient church likened the trinity to a dance, a moving, dynamic, interdependent community – that is at the same time one.  It’s a circle dance (perichoresis), but not simple revolution.  It’s more like a transformative and evolving spiral in multiple dimensions.

2. her stated intention to totally reinvent how we “do” church, including baptism and the Eucharist.  This passage below is just totally incoherent, but yet also horridly disturbing if she is indeed saying that we can choose what baptism and the Eucharist and belief mean totally independent of what Scripture and tradition teach:

We are a people gathered by God to join the dance.  We’re challenged to respond to God’s creative work in local contexts, in continuity with the ancient tradition of the friends of Jesus.  We’re invited to imitate his way of living, to eat and drink it in, and then to share it with others.  We have tended to describe that as a linear sequence, as in “be bathed to belong to the body, be formed by eating, and then go and live like Jesus.”  The world around us seems to be leaning toward a far less linear mode, something like “behave, be formed, co-create” – rather more like that interactive dance with God.

There is a continual meme of God still creating, still revealing new things… but that’s no surprise.

This is just astonishingly AWFUL and shocking even though I / we should have long ago have lost the capacity to be shocked by her.  But she keeps plumbing new depths of horrid “theology.”

May 8, 9:34 am | [comment link]
4. David Keller wrote:

When she says she doesn’t know what the changes to a democratic general convention will look like, she sounds to me like she wants to be an archbishop. I personally think GC is an idiotic exercise, but I certainly don’t trust the PB.

May 8, 9:36 am | [comment link]
5. In Texas wrote:

You can easily discern, midst the creative tension of the either/both , that the dancing centrifugal spiral of rumination presented herein is full of the lively tension of transliterate thought so commonly manifested amongst those who are the most learned. smile I’m always amazed when having to read a journal article or some other non-technical scholarly paper, about how many words it takes some people to state a simple thought.  Much of academia is steeped in this type of thinking – use enough large words and complex illustrations, and presto, you are a deep thinker with important stuff to say.

I believe the bottom line of the talk is that TEC needs to change its structure, and we need to change our governing structure to something more collaborative.  Of course, this probably means more centralized power, with something like indaba, where those in power can guide the end result towards the desired end.  I believe the Presiding Bishop would like 815 to be the main holder of power, but there will probably be a challenge for that power from the other governing bodies like the President of the House of Deputies, the Executive Council, and the lay deputies of the General Convention.  The upcoming GC should be very interesting as the different interest groups maneuver to maintain or increase their own power.

May 8, 10:01 am | [comment link]
6. Undergroundpewster wrote:

I never did like to dance. I guess I am just a fossil stuck in her “tar pit” of traditionalists.

May 8, 10:12 am | [comment link]
7. Sarah wrote:

I think the poor woman longs to communicate in an artistic way, but her thinking is so turgid and labored and incoherent that the whole point or theme just gets lost in the attempts at being creative and developing some sort of metaphor, albeit one that has been so beaten to death by far greater lights than she that it is no longer even close to original.

May 8, 10:19 am | [comment link]
8. Pigeon wrote:

Lest anyone doubt that the Presiding Bishop is serious about enacting this agenda, note that she has delivered the same address to each of the various Provincial Synods this spring.

May 8, 10:38 am | [comment link]
9. Ian+ wrote:

Maybe some LSD would help understand it. Problem is that “the ancient tradition of the friends of Jesus” is precisely what she and her ilk are moving away from. For an interesting take on what she proposes from a bishop very unlike her, check this out: http://cariocaconfessions.blogspot.ca/2012/04/i-agree-with-presiding-bishop.html

May 8, 10:59 am | [comment link]
10. Dan Crawford wrote:

But she was the “dean” of a “theological school”. She’s done a lot of perichoresing.

May 8, 11:09 am | [comment link]
11. JBallard wrote:

An Open Letter to the General Convention:
http://atribecalledanglican.wordpress.com/

May 8, 11:47 am | [comment link]
12. Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

I think yesterday’s Dilbert cartoon summed up this trendy new “We Need to Restructure the Episcopal Church” buzz quite well: http://www.dilbert.com/strips/comic/2012-05-07/

May 8, 1:01 pm | [comment link]
13. bettcee wrote:

“Everyone needs to be formed as partners in that creative Trinitarian dance – as members of communities who learn shared stories, shared values, and shared dreams.”

“Abundant life and creativity come in the dance between what is finished and utter chaos.”

“If we want to save the life of this Church, we’re going to have to lose it. If we want to find life within this body, we’re going to have to give it away. We are once again being invited to let go of our idols and turn to God – to drink from the well and join the dance.”

“There are other democratic ways of decision-making that are more deliberative, that depend on conversation and consensus more than on up-down, yes-no voting.”

I realize that the Presiding Bishop may only be using metaphors but her frequent references to dance and her opposition to “up-down, yes-no voting” give me the impression that she envisions a General Convention handled and facilitated in the INDABA fashion by Liturgical Dancers who provide alternate decision making techniques to those who are prepared only for “up-down, yes-no voting“.

May 8, 3:36 pm | [comment link]
14. Sacerdotal451 wrote:

Her model of “consensus” must consist of making the Church so inhospitable to anyone who holds even a moderately orthodox theology that they all leave thereby giving her a homogeneous body of progressive, Episco-Unitarians.  Don’t laugh….it seems to be working.

Fr. Michael+

May 8, 5:36 pm | [comment link]
15. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

I can’t add much more than what I wrote on MCJ:

I thought I was reading something by the Druid at first and it is certainly on one of his favorite forms of church abuse – the subversion of democratic governance and its replacement by facilitated and manipulated small groups with ‘reflections’ collected and disseminated by the spider at the center of the web – in other words it is all about replacing open and accountable decision-making with the Delphi Technique. What does she have in mind – General Convention, or has she set her sights with her chum Rowan on the next ACC meeting?

May 8, 7:30 pm | [comment link]
16. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

The Delphi Technique a.k.a. as used by Rowan and the ACO, Indaba.

The Delphi Technique is being used very effectively to change our government from a representative form in which elected individuals represent the people, to a “participatory democracy” in which citizens selected at large are facilitated into ownership of preset outcomes. These citizens believe that their input is important to the result, whereas the reality is that the outcome was already established by people not apparent to the participants.

It stinks!

May 8, 7:36 pm | [comment link]
17. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:

#7 the word for that is probably “pseudointellectual” and #9 I was thinking quaaludes myself.  grin

May 8, 9:54 pm | [comment link]
18. Formerly Marion R. wrote:

Pageantmaster—

Please post a link to your favorite charity so that I can send them a check.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I have been looking anxiously for years for information such as that at the “Delphi Technique” link you posted. As I started to read it, my heart leapt to my throat: will the article provide countervailing tactics?  YES!

All:  Have you also noticed the spreading use of behavior to destroy civil intercourse such as the Delphi?  Do you know of techniques for countervailing them? If so, please post them here!

May 8, 10:00 pm | [comment link]
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