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The Heresies of Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

The Heresies of Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue
August 12, 2009

Article XVIII. Of obtaining eternal Salvation only by the Name of Christ. For Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.

The Lambeth Quadrilateral. The Lambeth Conference of 1888. Resolution11. (a) The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as "containing all things necessary to salvation," and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.

On the Consecration of a Bishop. Are you persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain all Doctrine required as necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? And are you determined out of the same Holy Scriptures to instruct the people committed to your charge; and to teach or maintain nothing, as necessary to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the same?

Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6 (NIV)

"... If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9

Recent statements, comments and interviews by the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, reveal a common theme: she no longer (if she ever did) believes in the unique claims of Jesus Christ as both savior and Lord resulting in a poor if non-existent Christology.

In a recent video, Jefferts Schori openly and publicly denied that Jesus is the only way to salvation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IxG96wpx60

She has publicly said that Muslims do not need converting to Christ and that she would never tell them they do, or that Jews are saved under the first covenant. In her most recent statement, uttered publicly at General Convention in Anaheim, she stated that personal or individual conversion (to Christ) is a Western heresy and likened it to "work" rather than that of free grace.

In a video, she clarified her views on salvation saying, "In some parts of Christianity we have turned salvation into a work, you have to say that I claim Jesus as my Lord and Savior in order to be saved and that turns it into a work and it denies the possibility of grace."

The retired Bishop of South Carolina, The Rt. Rev. Dr. C. FitzSimons Allison expostulated that Mrs. Jefferts Schori's remarks are not a distortion of Christology, the Trinity or even the Creed, but are the announcement of a different religion. "It doesn't measure up to heresy. She is trying to reduce Christianity to the blank space in the creed between the Virgin Mary and Pontius Pilate."

The former Suffragan Bishop of Albany, The Rt. Rev. David Bena blasted Jefferts Schori at a recent CANA Council in Herndon, VA, where he is now a full bishop in communion with the Anglican province of Nigeria, saying that Jefferts Schori's rejection of personal salvation is a heresy that insults our Heavenly Father, who wishes each one of us to have a personal, saving relationship with his Son.

"Perhaps this leader has not read, marked, heeded and inwardly digested Romans 10:9, 'because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved' and a thousand other passages from the scriptures covering the same subject are there," he cried.

Jefferts Schori argues that God made promises to the Jews that have not been broken. "God made promises to Ishmael (Muslims) and I don't believe God has broken them, either." She then said that other faith traditions, which include men like Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and Thich Nhat Hanh, show what look like fruits of the spirit through their godly behavior. "If I deny they have access to God...then it is a sin against the Holy Spirit."

That is not what Jesus taught about the sin against the Holy Spirit. In Mark 3:28-30 Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven all their sins and all the blasphemies they utter. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin." He said this because they [the Pharisees] were saying, 'He has an evil spirit'."

It was the religious leaders of his day who Jesus accused of blasphemy. Might not the same condemnation apply to the likes of Jefferts Schori for her blatant denial of the unique claims of Christ?

She concluded her ad hoc remarks by saying, "It is not my job, and it is God's job to figure out who is going to be in the Kingdom." While it is true that we do not know WHO will be in the kingdom, there is no doubt about HOW one obtains entrance into the kingdom. The Presiding Bishop is not free to pronounce on the sovereign "work" of grace what God does in the lives of people who often privately repent, seeking his forgiveness away from the bright lights of public crusades, weepy public confessions and much more. God works in the heart, far from human observation.

Mrs. Jefferts Schori's blunt universalism does not sit well with Scripture. No serious Christian theologian, excluding Arius, in twenty centuries has challenged the unique claims of Jesus being fully divine, that he is fully God and fully man, the Savior of the world, Messiah (that one's for the Jews), prophet, priest and king who will one day spread his rule over all the kingdoms of the earth, and of His kingdom, there will be no end.

Unpacking Jefferts Schori is a bit like unpacking a boat load of bananas from Chile only to discover that most of the bananas had rotted en route, but on further search discovering that one or two had made the trip intact, but had been contaminated beyond edibility.

She said the whole world has access to God. That statement is true. The whole world does. John 3:16 (NIV) confirms that. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Access is indeed universal. Scripture is equally clear however that "no man comes to the Father except by me" (the Son). The full text reads, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, nobody comes to the Father except through me." (John.14:6) One wonders how she parses such verses, of which there are a number, that indicate the exclusivity of revealed truth. "He that seeks me will find me." (Jer. 29:13)

In some parts of Christianity, we have turned salvation into a work that denies the possibility of grace, according to Jefferts Schori. Really. I wonder what 40 million evangelical Anglicans in the Global South, Evangelicals in Sydney and Nelson (NZ), Southeast Asia and the Southern Cone would make of that statement? Do you have wonder why GAFCON exists?

Jefferts Schori is right on one point. She said comments like these "drive some Christians nuts." In this, she is absolutely correct, it does, including this writer, every Evangelical in America associated with unnumbered Christian churches, every orthodox Anglican in the Global South and every catholic Christian on the planet whose numbers reach into the hundreds of millions.

Clearly God made promises to the Jews that have not been broken, she said. Jefferts Schori needs a refresher in OT theology. God established a new Covenant, Jeremiah 31:31-40, "I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts." The old covenant was broken, broken by sin. It ceased to have any redeeming value. Furthermore covenants were made to be broken. At least you would think that was the case, if you tracked the history of all the covenants God established in the Old Testament. Each covenant's basic structure is, "I, God, will do X and you, human, will do Y." From Adam to Moses, when a covenant was broken, it was always broken in the same way - people failing.

In what is likely the theological highlight of Jeremiah, and arguably the theological high point in the OT, Jeremiah declares the new covenant, "Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah." (31:31) The covenant promised in Jeremiah 31 is not only new, it is different from the others.

Would Jefferts Schori say to my neighbor, a converted Jew and an Episcopalian, that his desire to honor Messiah Y'shua is a mistake? What would she say to the hundreds of thousands of Jews who over the centuries have acknowledged the messiahship of Y'shua? "He was our Messiah before he was yours," a converted Jew once told me. He is correct.

God made promises to Ishmael that God has not broken, said Jefferts Schori. "Other Abrahamic faiths have access to God the Father without consciously going through Jesus," she has stated. Note the word "consciously". Is she suggesting they are going through Jesus unconsciously? "I also look at people in other faith traditions, Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, who show the fruits of the Spirit...which we see as godly behavior."

If she honestly believes what she says she does, she should stand up and say that the Buddhist-leaning wannabe Bishop of Northern Michigan, Thew Forrester who got deep-sixed when he failed to obtain the required consents, was acceptable to her and go ahead and consecrate him, any way. Furthermore, she should over rule the decision to toss out a former Episcopal woman priest from TEC who announced, "I am both Muslim and Christian" and allow her to continue her ministry in The Episcopal Church.

Is Jefferts Schori saying that there is another name under heaven whereby we must be saved? If so, who?

If the HOB had any theology at all, it would bring her up on heresy charges. That will not happen, of course, because most bishops, who have gone through the church's liberal Episcopal seminaries in the last 30 years, don't believe much differently than she. After all, if Walter Righter could take a walk over heresy charges that he ordained an avowed non-celibate homosexual man to the priesthood, and if no one is going to bring presentment charges against Bishop John Shelby Spong whose 12 theses deny every vestige of historic Christianity, why bother going after Jefferts Schori? If the HOB were to do so, there would be cries of feminist outrage ranging from charges of sexism and exclusivity to fundamentalism.

Mrs. Jefferts Schori needs to be reminded of Jesus' words in Matthew 12:30-32, "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." The Episcopal Church is being scattered to the four winds by moral relativity, blatant theological apostasy and much more. One day, the Presiding Bishop will have to give an account of her stewardship to the Lord of the Church. Among the issues she will answer for is who gave her the right to exchange the call of The Great Commission (to preach the gospel to all the world) for Millennium Development Goals, why she said personal salvation was a "Western heresy" and a "work", why millions of dollars were spent on litigation expenses that in no way advanced the Kingdom, and why the apostasies of TEC went unchecked resulting in millions leaving the church.

On "that Day", it might be too late for "personal salvation" for Katharine Jefferts Schori.


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