Skip to comments.Summer Season: Katharine Jefferts Schori
Posted on 01/01/2007 3:48:47 PM PST by hiho hiho
Stephen Crittenden: We've had many listener requests in recent weeks for an interview with the new Primate of the Episcopal Church in the United States, Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of Nevada since 2001, who is making history in more ways than one at the moment. Not only is she the first woman to be elected Primate in the Anglican world, she's suddenly right at the centre of the storm that's blowing the Anglican communion apart: the election five years ago of a gay bishop, Gene Robinson.
The Episcopal Church has since been asked to repent of that decision, but it failed to do so at its recent general convention. And if the election of a woman Primate has been seen as a sign that the Americans were digging their heels in, ironically the Church of England Synod itself voted in favour of women bishops earlier this month.
Bishop Jefferts Schori spoke to me from her hotel room in New York late at night after a long day on the road. And I began by asking whether the failure of the recent Episcopal convention to fully comply with the recommendations of the Windsor Report, to repent of its decision to 'go it alone' over gay bishops, had been a clear signal by the Episcopal church that it was walking away from the rest of the Anglican communion.
Katherine Jefferts Schori: Not at all. I think we were very clear that we fully desire to remain a full partner in the Anglican communion and that we are bending over backwards to demonstrate that desire, and to do what we feel that we can do as a church to express our desire to continue in mission together.
Stephen Crittenden: There has been some interesting discussion on Anglican websites around the world about the fact that ECUSA has changed its name. It's no longer the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, it's now just the Episcopal Church, and there have been suggestions by some Anglicans that with provinces all over the world from Taiwan to South America, the Episcopal church needs to clarify just what kind of body it sees itself as becoming.
Katherine Jefferts Schori: Well we have had overseas dioceses for a long time. We do have a diocese in Taiwan, the Diocese of Haiti, the Virgin Islands, Honduras, two dioceses in Ecuador, the Diocese of Colombia and Convocation of American Churches in Europe. So we do span a significant chunk of the globe and we are sensitive to the need to more clearly identify ourselves as being a transnational church.
Stephen Crittenden: What's that mean? There have been some suggestions this week that the Episcopal Church needs to clarify whether it intends to hang on to territories outside the United States, or perhaps risk accusations of imperialism.
Katherine Jefferts Schori: Those dioceses overseas have missionary roots in the United States and have expressed desires to continue in relationship with the church in the US. Some of them have left and come back, by their own request; Venezuela's a good example. We would I think very much love to see them become members of bodies that can support them closer to their place of existence, but we have strong ties and all of those dioceses feel that they're best served by being members of the Episcopal church at present.
Stephen Crittenden: I want to go back to the Archbishop of Canterbury's statement that this is not a dispute about the dignity and value of gay and lesbian people in the church, but that it is a question of what kind of behaviour a church can bless, or what kind of behaviour it must warn against. What's your reaction to that?
Katherine Jefferts Schori:Well I think it's interesting to note that the last three Lambeth Conferences have affirmed a desire to listen to the experience of gay and lesbian people, and it's also quite clear that that's not happened in a terribly constructive way around the communion. My sense is that when people do begin to encounter other human beings who have a homosexual orientation, they begin to experience human beings fully as complex as heterosexual human beings, who are seeking to live faithful lives in the way in which they've been created. There is a real opportunity to encounter other human beings incarnationally, and there is a sense that those listening opportunities have not been taken up.
Stephen Crittenden: Why do you think homosexuality is the issue? The issue, almost it seems, everywhere in the mainline churches at the moment.
Katherine Jefferts Schori: Well it's an issue in some parts of the mainline churches, and I would note that it is far more an issue that concerns men than it concerns women. Women tend to be far more interested in discovering whether or not their children will be fed, whether their children have access to adequate schooling and medical care, whether their families can make their way in the world in constructive and whole ways.
Stephen Crittenden: Are you suggesting it ought not to be an issue?
Katherine Jefferts Schori: I think we are being distracted from the central part of our mission which is far more about feeding the hungry and healing the ill and seeking the betterment of existence for all people around the globe.
Stephen Crittenden: The thing I wanted to ask you about is whether at the base of this issue, there isn't a problem that goes to the heart of the gospel itself, about what it actually means to be holy, You know, whether Christ calls us to perfection and whether homosexuality is one of the many areas where people are less than perfect, I'm sure you'll have a view on, but there is a holiness tradition in the church that keeps bumping up against real people in their real lives.
Katherine Jefferts Schori: Holiness and wholeness and health all come from the same root in English, and they're related quite intimately to the word 'salvation'. Living a holy life, living a whole and full life, is one of our understandings of what salvation means, and when Jesus says 'I came that you might have life and have it abundantly', he certainly means in the fullness of our beings, and if we understand that some people are created, are born, in this world with affections ordered toward those of the same gender, then perhaps it means we need to pay attention to that.
Stephen Crittenden: Do you see a decade ahead perhaps of property battles and legal battles as being the inevitable outcome of this dispute in the church in America?
Katherine Jefferts Schori: I sincerely hope not. There certainly have been instances in which individuals in a parish have wished to leave, and sometimes large numbers of individuals, and there have been gracious accommodations achieved in a couple of places around this church. I think it would be a sorry state indeed if we got to the point of squabbling over property without paying attention to what the centre of our mission is.
Stephen Crittenden: But I think what is it? Seven diocese, or is it nine now, who have asked Rowan Williams for alternative oversight? What's going to happen?
Katherine Jefferts Schori: I believe it's six, and I think the reality is that no one knows what alternative primatial oversight means. I think one of the things that the Archbishop of Canterbury's been very clear about is that his role in the communion is as Convener, and it is not as one who intervenes. His position is to call people to continue in conversation and relationship with each other.
Stephen Crittenden: Bishop Jefferts Schori, what about the idea of the church as the mystical body of Christ, if you end up with a loose federation of churches which are more or less in communion with each other?
Katherine Jefferts Schori: This body has been evolving as long as it's been in existence. When churching in America, when we had our revolution and clergy here could no longer swear allegiance to the crown, we found ways to move beyond that, and eventually we discovered a way to have bishops in this church that didn't involve swearing allegiance to the crown. That was the beginnings of the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion has evolved in fits and starts and it's clear that in this season there's an opportunity for us to grow into a new stage of relationship. What that's going to look like ten or twenty or fifty years down the road, I don't think anyone knows. The Archbishop of Canterbury has certainly done some conjecturing about what one possible route might be, but I think he's also been very clear that he doesn't think that there's one clear answer at this point.
Stephen Crittenden: And what do you think about the idea of a covenant of beliefs that would be drawn up and that you'd all sign up to?
Katherine Jefferts Schori: I think there have been several kinds of covenants proposed. One that's more confessional, one that's based on canon law, and one the Anglican Consultative Council proposed from the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism last year that's really based on joint mission effort. I think at its best, a covenant that most of the community could agree to might contain elements of all of those.
Stephen Crittenden: I interviewed the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, the other day and his view is that there's something very American about the American church. There's an American unilateralism, that comes through here; there's a kind of a secular mission almost in terms of civil rights that comes through; that perhaps there isn't a great deal of difference between George W. Bush wanting to spread democracy to the rest of the world and the Episcopal church standing up over a gay bishop.
Katherine Jefferts Schori: No I will have a very different take on what the American church is about. Our polity is far more egalitarian and less hierarchical, less dictating than some of the portions of the communion. We're fully committed to the baptismal dignity of every human being. I think that strand of theology in our prayer book has profoundly shaped who we are as a church in the last 30 years. I would also point to the fact that our broad immigrant experience in this country and the fact that we have had to wrestle with a variety of cultural viewpoints in this church, has meant that we've had to express opinions in a very direct way. We cannot cope with cultural norms that are less than open, because of the different cultures in this country.
Stephen Crittenden: I want to talk a bit just briefly about yourself. You mentioned that you were a scientist, and I know you've talked a bit in the past about the way that science and your religious belief have influenced each other.
Katherine Jefferts Schori: Well I certainly see them as partners. I don't see them as mutually exclusive even though some people who've come out of the Enlightenment tradition would see them that way, I see that the life of faith is about questions of meaning: why am I here? What is my purpose on this earth? How am I to live in relationship to the divine and human beings and the rest of creation? And science is about asking why questions: How did the world come to be this way? What does it mean for us to be - we could ask questions that might relate to the religious realm - what does it mean for human beings to be stewards of this earth? What kind of influences do we have on the creation around us? How do these systems work, how do they inter-relate? And then we begin to ask theological questions about the meaning of inter-relationships.
Stephen Crittenden: I was almost going to suggest it may actually be far more significant than the fact that you're a woman, that here you are dealing with issues of sexuality, a bishop with a background, a serious background in biology. And what an important breakthrough that in itself is, the kind of issues that biology opens on to in terms of complexity and sexuality and so on.
Katherine Jefferts Schori: Well if one looks at the rest of creation, there are lots and lots of instances of same-sex behaviour in other species. They're generally a small percentage of the whole, but they're clearly evident. If they exist, an evolutionary theorist would say they have some kind of evolutionary benefit, or they don't have a massive evolutionary detriment, and if we can affirm that creation is good, as Genesis would say, then I think we have to take those instances quite seriously.
Stephen Crittenden: You're a big fan of Isaiah I think; you quote Isaiah a great deal.
Katherine Jefferts Schori: I am. I think Isaiah in all its richness holds up visions of what creations meant to be, how we are meant to live in a society of Shalom.
Stephen Crittenden: This of course is the basis of where our incarnational Christianity gets its roots I suppose, in the Old Testament?
Katherine Jefferts Schori: Absolutely.
Stephen Crittenden: What's your favourite passage in Isaiah?
Katherine Jefferts Schori: Well I'm very fond of the 61st Chapter of Isaiah, where it talks about the hungry being fed and the ill being healed and the blind finding their sight and the prisoners released. In the 25th chapter of Isaiah when it talks about the heavenly banquet, the banquet set on the side of a hill with rich food and well aged wine, strained clear, I think those are both images of how we are meant to live on this earth.
Stephen Crittenden: I have to ask you about your recent comment which raised hackles I'm sure you're aware, all around the world, about Jesus as mother.
Katherine Jefferts Schori: Well anyone who knows the tradition knows that it's a very popular image in mediaeval mysticism. A former Archbishop of Canterbury, 11th century Ansolm of Canterbury goes on at great length about 'Jesus, our mother'. It's a favourite image of Julian of Norwich and Bernard of Clarevaux, and countless others. It's a metaphor, as all language about God is a metaphor, and I used it in that sermon in intentional ways because it fitted the text.
Stephen Crittenden: Some people saw it as a deliberate provocation, that particularly at this moment when events and ideas in the Anglican Church are so fraught.
Katherine Jefferts Schori: Well perhaps it's a reminder of the breadth of our tradition, and I certainly didn't intend it as provocation. I was simply preaching the gospel as I saw it that day.
Stephen Crittenden: I guess we should just dwell on it a little bit more because it's not an idea we hear very often. What is it a metaphor for , Jesus as mother?
Katherine Jefferts Schori: It's a metaphor for new creation. When we insist that the Christ event in the death and resurrection of Jesus brings a new possibility of life, a new kind of life to humanity, it is certainly akin to rebirth. When Jesus says to Nicodemus You must be born again from above, what might he mean? I think it is a way of the gospel is saying that Jesus is a venue, an event, an experience, and an instance in which life is renewed, in which every human being as access to new life.
Stephen Crittenden: Katherine Jefferts Schori it's been fantastic having you on the program, thank you very much for your time on what's been a very busy week.
Katherine Jefferts Schori: Thank you, it's been a pleasure speaking with you.
Stephen Crittenden: Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori the new Primate of the Episcopal Church in the United States.
So...there! If beasts do it then, by God, it's OK for us, too!
Some say homosexuality is bad because it's unnatural.. Now you suggest it's bad because it's bestial and humans are above it.. Seems to me both arguments are weak and arbitrary.
So is it natural or unnatural? And how does that matter?
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Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15
I'm sure, and God is just a pipe dream. Exactly.
Well, FWIW, I believe gay/lesbian sex is bad because first and foremost it never has been, is not now, and will never be a (re)productive action on its own. God's very first commandment was to "be fruitful and multiply." I simply do not see how gay/lesbian sex can fulfill this commandment. If anything the action thwarts the commandment. Purposefully and unrepentantly repeating the act is not just an oops of nature.
I could say more, but I cannot without getting preachy.
Even if "be fruitful and multiply" is meant as a duty for every single person, then this would not make the act of homosexual intercouse itself bad unless engaged in exclusively.
Anyway, it makes more sense to me to view that as a command to all mankind, because nature itself precludes some from obeying it, whether though poverty or infertility or even an asexual or homosexual sexual orientation (if they exist). Despite some individuals being unable to obey the command, humankind would nevertheless continue to be fruitful and multiply.
I'm well aware that "be fruitful and multiply" is not the only relevant scripture; I figured I'd address what you said. Anyway, scripture doesn't relate much to the topic of this thread. Plus, it won't convince anyone who doesn't believe.
I didn't mean to say scripture isn't relevant to the topic.. I meant to say it wasn't relevant to the question of whether homosexual patterns in lesser animals is pertinent to homosexual patterns in humans.
Something else to add. Ansolm of Canterbury was 11th century.
Anselm of Canterbury was only "of Canterbury" because he was the archibishop. He was born in Italy, and was an educated philospher in the Roman Catholic Church. While he was ABC, he was never Anglican.
According to what I have read, some historians think that he was a celibate homosexual. I wouldn't know since I haven't read any of the letters Anlsem wrote (to male friends and relatives). Apparently, though, the argument is over the translation of the phrase "Dilecto dilectori." I assume this is Latin? Anyone know how this translates?
I still haven't found anything of him referring to "Mother Jesus."
Thus far, everything I have read says he was a man of reason. He tried to demystify so to speak. His goal seems to have been to make it possible to understand by reason, faith in God. It makes my head hurt to follow his logic (not a difficult thing to do right now - I have been sick with a hellacious sinus infection for the past two weeks.)
My opinion on Anselm was that he was a great thinker of the Church. I have no idea where the "Mother Jesus" comment that Schori attributes to him came from.
If she is going to make a claim like that, she needs to back it up with attainable sources. It seems she is picking an obscure reference that cannot be verified easily and holding it up as tradition.
blech. She sickens me. I love the local church, and really would hate to leave it. However, I do not wish to be apart of anything tainted by this womans' hands. Some, including our current priest, have referred to the coming "split" as a divorce - saying that they do not believe that ECUSA is ready for a divorce. I say that it was never a marriage in the first place, except in the imagery of Christ and the Church. Which, if we are going Biblical here let's be consistent, if your eye causes you to sin, then pluck it out (Mt 5:29).
Okay, my head hurts again. Sermon over for now.
She must mean Anselm, not spelled "Ansolm," and I have his works. I've read most of them...and I don't recall anything about "Jesus our mother," I honestly think she's fudging there....
Anselm's biggest contribution, besides his ontological proof of God, the work Cur Deus Homo, fully and logically understands and describes the substitutionary atonement of Christ, an idea I'm certain, good liberal that she is, Schori rejects.
A professor I know says that Cur Deus Homo is still the best work available on the substitutionary atonement--written 900 years ago....
That's just it though, isn't it? Gays and lesbians do practice homosexual intercourse exclusively.
One can also go to creation, as Jesus did when asked about divorce, to show it is a member of the opposite sex which properly fulfills human sexual desire.
Best though, and I really can't understand why more don't use it, are the specific commands of Lev. 19, commonly called the "holiness code." This passage is a mixture of Jewish religious purity laws (which Christ and the Church clearly abrogated...as has been known and taught since the first generation of Christians) along with moral laws...still in effect today.
Sex between men and men, (which would also include sex between women and women, in the Hebrew understanding) men and animals, and all the various forms of incest are described as an abomination. The language indicates these are the most disgusting and despicable kinds of sins....and Hebrew Civil code (also abrogated by Christ) demanded the death penalty for them.
Various forms of the condemned sexual acts have been accepted and practiced all over the world in pagan societies...only in the Judeo/Christian world, with the acceptance of the Bible, have incest, beastiality, and yes homosexuality been uniformly condemned.
A question to ask Schori and her fans is whether they believe there can be loving consensual monogamous sexual relations between blood family members, or between humans and their pets? If you throw out Lev. 19 as the authority to call homosexual acts moral perversion, you also throw out its authority in calling incest and beastiality moral perversions.
And yes, Jesus is never mentioned to have commented about incest or beastiality...so it must be fine, right? (please forgive the nausea there)
I would be very careful here, as we know, "some historians" particularly of the pro-homosexual variety, have a huge axe to grind. The homosexual lobby--which has academia by the ummm, well, tied to it's apron strings (seems a fitting analogy) would have us believe all kinds of famous historical people were homosexuals...starting with our Lord Jesus, and the Apostle Paul! I sincerely doubt there is serious evidence Anselm was homosexual....900 years is a long time ago, after all--and I think moderns just cannot conceive of a dedicated life of celibacy.
Please see my post above about Anselm. The man has made MAJOR contributions in both the philosophy of God, and, understanding how Christ the God-Man (Anselm's term) paid our debt to God for our sins....(substitutionary atonement).
It's ironic she brings St. Anslem up, as his idea of Christ dying to pay for our sins is considered "bloody child abuse" by the likes of Schori and friends. I consider it the most precious truth of the Gospel!
I agree, and had in my post stated something to that effect before actually posting, and then I deleted it because I thought I might not be coherent anymore.
I need to get off of this computer and get some sleep - maybe my headache will go away?
Homosexual behavior is "bad" because it is described in scripture as an abomination. The "badness" is God's judgment not ours and does not depend on any sort of human ratiocination. To say it is "unnatural" has no bearing on the moral judgment, although anal sex for example is "unnatural" in the sense that it clearly violates the natural ecology of the body.
Animals and human beings can perform any number of more or less equivalent behaviors, including attacking and killing members of their own species. But this fact contributes nothing to the debate about any given behavior. We do not set animals up as moral arbiters.
For Schori to suggest otherwise "because animals do it" is more or less a reflection of what happens when a squid expert tries to play anthropologist when she is supposed to be playing theologian but has not the education or the temperament for it.
Schori's most bottom line error is she clearly does not accept creation as FALLEN, a very fundamental Christian concept. As a thorough going evolutionist though, I'm sure she see's Adam and Eve as purely mythological, and hence the Fall of man (and creation...) as fiction as well.
Unless one understands we live in a fallen creation, one cannot properly understand the world at all...with its mixture of very bad and very good.
The frustrating thing is even given her worldview, its folly to consider inherited issues as automatically good, or a part of affirming "creation is good." We all know nearsightedness or an affinity to heart disease or cancer are inherited....but NOT a part (except in His providence) of God's "good creation." Problems we inherit are things to be corrected...and this would include things like perverted sexual desires--if they were ever able to be proven to be inherited.
Bottom of it all is folks like Schori, for whatever their reasons, have chosen to call perversion good--and they simply flounder around seeking for rationalizations to justify their choices.
"To say it is "unnatural" has no bearing on the moral judgment"
"We do not set animals up as moral arbiters."
I agree with both those statements. I won't bother to argue theology, as I'm not much of a believer.
Well, if it doesn't matter, then I guess it's all moral relativity. And if that's so, I'd say majority rule (state vote) will have to be the arbiter on the legality of gay marriage/unions.
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