Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Head of Episcopal Church Jefferts Schori To Lutheran Public Radio - We Are Panentheists ( Updated)

The Head of Episcopal Church USA made some rather interesting statements to Lutheran Public Radio that someone has now transcribed. MCJ, who is needless to say not a fan of the Primate , goes to town on her here at DROPPING THE MASK. I thought her description of Episcopalians as Panentheists interesting. I will let other debate if she has a good understanding of that term.

I find some of what she said to be a tad sketchy. However two parts I wanted to focus on:

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.

It's always interesting and indeed important how Schori is quick to point this out all the time. In the sort of battle of influence that is happening between Canterbury and New York I think it's important.

At the end of the interview we have this:

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.

I have no idea what the age of communion for Children have to do any of that. There has always been room for differences as to when Children can come to communion. In the Church's of the East the custom to give communion to infants has been retained forever. However in these Churches there is no tradition of ordaining women to the Priesthood. Of course there is no "impediment" of ordaining a gay person either to the Priesthood. Though there is really no tradition of ordaining a man to the priesthood that is an open Gay union or "marriage". Again not sure what this has to do with anything. Also is it really correct that before 1970 children were not regarded as "full members of the community" ?


Kurt , a regular reader of this blog thankfully, asked in the comment section what does the fact that the Episcopal Church USA s international have to do with Panentheists? Well not much and I did not mean to make that link. I mentioned the panenthiests angle because it was one of the more controversial things she said.

I noted her comments on the international nature of her faith community because she makes such a point of it all the time and there are reasons for that.

First; it is not an secret that many Anglican in the "Global South" are not too happy with Episcopal Church USA. Many view it for it's membership to be too powerful, to have too much influence because of it's money, and sees some of it's aggressive positions in the Anglican communion as a form of American / Western imperialism.

Thus what the Primate is doing here is a little bit of push back on that topic. But it is more than just a position of Church power that the Primate is addressing here. It is indeed a theological concept and role she proclaims the Holy Spirit has given the Episcopal Church USA in the worldwide Church.

Pope Benedict noted this tension when he was in New York and I am still of the opinion he was mainly talking to the Episcopalians in the room when he said:

Too often those who are not Christians, as they observe the splintering of Christian communities, are understandably confused about the Gospel message itself. Fundamental Christian beliefs and practices are sometimes changed within communities by so-called “prophetic actions” that are based on a hermeneutic not always consonant with the datum of Scripture and Tradition. Communities consequently give up the attempt to act as a unified body, choosing instead to function according to the idea of “local options”. Somewhere in this process the need for diachronic koinonia – communion with the Church in every age – is lost, just at the time when the world is losing its bearings and needs a persuasive common witness to the saving power of the Gospel (cf. Rom 1:18-23).

From what I have read I think the current leader of Episcopal Church USA has embraced this Local option view.

There was very well done document recently that presented to the Episcopal Bishops of the USA a back and forth on the liberal versus traditional view on same sex relationships.

Around the page 41 of the document seem to endorse the theological viewpoint of the Primate with great force. In fact it is what they start their argument with:

The full name of the Episcopal Church is "The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America." Our polity and ethos still reflect the character of a missionary society, and our theological tensions arise, in part, from different senses of how our church should bear witness (page 41 )

Churches must discern their way into mission because it does not originate from the church, but is first the activity of the triune God—missio Dei—in which the church seeks to take part. Mission begins with the Father sending the Son and the Spirit to bring into the feast those different from himself. "For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven." In Acts we see the church hastening to follow the Son by the leading of the Spirit: "we are witnesses to these things and so is the Holy Spirit" (5:32). The Spirit leads in showing the church how to bear witness to Christ. In mission, the Trinity goes out from itself, in that the Father sends the Son for the sake of communion with the world .. (page 41)

As a "Domestic" Missionary Society, the Episcopal Church must seek to proclaim the gospel to its neighbors in its cultural context. Those neighbors include same-sex couples in a culture obsessed with sex and confused about marriage. The Song of Songs has long been interpreted as a parable of the love between God and God’s people, and Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son" (Mt 22:2). Yet proclaiming the love of God for God's people in this culture has pressed the Episcopal Church to attend, with pastoral care and evangelical attentiveness, to the testimony of same-sex couples.There it has discovered, in those couples who desire to give their lives in self-donation to one another, movements of the Spirit within same-sex relationships. "God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit" (Acts 15:8). So, while the Episcopal Church was considering how to offer the work of God to non-heterosexual persons, it has found itself standing witness to the Spirit already making community, already on mission beyond the bounds. While we have equivocated, the Spirit has been expanding the church.

As a "Foreign" Missionary Society, the Episcopal Church must also give account of its domestic mission to its companions in mission around the Communion and to the universal church. Zeal for mission may divide the church, but while the Spirit may move wildly and diversely, it always moves within the missio Dei. Much as Acts 15 describes a council in Jerusalem to discuss how Gentiles should be welcomed into the church's universal mission, so does the church today hold theological council. And in a similar pneumatological pattern, it seems the Spirit has preceded us, transforming the church and its mission. In the self-donation of same-sex couples to one another and to the church, some leaders of the church see surprising gifts of the Spirit. Even when same-sex couples were in the wilderness, God "gave his good Spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold manna from their mouth, and gave them water for their thirst" (Neh. 9:20, para. Acts 10:47). Can anyone withhold the rite for blessing these couples “who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:47). (page 42)

Now you can read for yourself how this argument is pushed more and more in the text.

The traditionalists push back against this argument in a huge way starting at page 69. I think they have a point.

Regardless, the truly Global witness and command that the Primate is saying the Holy Spirit has given mostly American Anglicans I think is central to why she always points out that they have some Faith communities outside the United States.

As to the other point in the comments I think the Episcopal Church should be very proud they ordained a African American early one. Much before the Catholics sadly as he noted. My point was I did not see how a Church discipline on when Children received communion was very germane. One is a discipline and the other issue is a more essential doctrine that touches on a Sacrament itself.


Kurt said...

I'm totally missing your point. The Bishop noted that the Episcopal Church,which she heads, is not just present in the USA but other countries as well, where the Word of God is preached and hard. How is that pantheism?

Also, I commend the Episcopal Church for ordaining an African American in this country before our own Catholic Church in the United Strates was willing to.

James H said...

Let me try to clarify why I picked thoses portions in a update to the blog post in a hour or so.Since I think it will be too wordy for the commnet section

James H said...

Kurt I updated