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Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori's Aggression Against Anglican Leaders

Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori's Aggression Against Anglican Leaders
Jefferts Schori attacks Archbishop Rowan Williams with the Charge of Double-Mindedness


By Sarah Frances Ives
Special to Virtueonline
December 19, 2011

In Jeffert Schori's recent book, The Heartbeat of God, she cleverly weaves together her vision of the future Episcopal Church-interfaith communities partnered with a huge United States government. She writes, it is all about, "Mission, mission, mission", (91) and describes many different projects that parishes can start in tandem with the government and other secular groups. Jefferts Schori's underlying terror in this book is clear: create more projects at the parishes or the Episcopal Church is going to disappear. Get to work, peons. Our ship is sinking.

She tells us what to do about any problem in glib and superficial terms that include disparate advice such as to eat our protein, wash our dishes by hand, celebrate layoffs in the Episcopal Church, support the Obama health care bill, call ourselves beloved, criticize the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, make the United States government limit capitalistic profits, declare unity in the Episcopal Church, and plant gardens on the church lawns.

Jefferts Schori bounces from one subject to another with the rapidity of a writer not disciplined by transitional ideas or even rational thought. On page 23 within four sentences, Jefferts Schori drags in, with her typical pell-mell fashion, Katrina and its aftermath, genocide in Rwanda, global AIDS, torture for terrorists, and health care reform in our country. With all her vast pronouncements, she doesn't even bother with a bibliography to support her ideas and includes only seven notes for quotes (two of which are from the Book of Common Prayer).

The only really clear part of this book is that Jefferts Schori supports the Obama health care bill. She continually advocates for this bill in simplistic terms. "Providing basic health care for everyone in this country would be a relatively trivial issue economically if our defense budget went on a diet."(17)

In nearly every chapter, she works that theme and attacks those who oppose the Obama health care bill. Remember her modus operandi? Humiliate and taunt opponents rather than rationally address issues. She derides the criticism of this bill describing it as, "The ranting about health care that this country endured for months as Congress debated reform bills-the ranting that still continues on cable news shows."(27)

Mixed in with her seemingly endless stream of stereotypical political views are Jefferts Schori's odd Biblical interpretations. For example, Jefferts Schori describes Jesus' holy entry into Jerusalem for His crucifixion as the same as "the cowpoke's blessing, 'Happy Trails.'"(48) Her tasteless reference is to the Dale Evans-Roy Rogers theme song, "Happy Trails to you, until we meet again."

In yet another example, Jefferts Schori humiliates the seventy disciples sent out by Jesus. Jesus said he had given these disciples the power to tread underfoot the forces of the enemy (Luke 10:20). But Jefferts Schori mocks them as she writes, "Those seventy just go and they go ahead of Jesus. They're not following him around-they're the advance team, the roadies."(83) Hauling the rock'n roll bands equipment around, roadies (according to folklore) live a wild lifestyle. These disciples faithfully served Jesus and courageously went out into a dangerous world, yet she labels them with a term synonymous with pleasure-seeking hedonists.

Jefferts Schori also criticizes those who evangelize by telling others about Jesus Christ. She praises a man who came to her same conclusion, writing, "He said he finally learned that his job wasn't to get somebody to say a verbal formula about accepting Jesus as personal Lord and savior, but to make a space that was safe enough for others to say what they really think and feel."(75) She taunts both those who evangelize for Jesus and those who accept His ministry. She says about the leper who received healing from Jesus, "Actually, he's a bit whiny about it."(22)

Time and time again, Jefferts Schori reveals that she has no depth conception of the struggles involved with working out one's salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12) Faithful people who testify that Jesus is Lord might actually have accepted Him as their Savior, in the midst of severe hardships, and, in doing so, found the great redemption of our Lord.

That apparently means nothing to Jefferts Schori. She declares her easy Islamic theology about the Beloved by commanding everyone to claim the divine baptismal promise given only to Jesus. Beginning with the scripture from Luke 3:22, Jefferts Schori writes, "'You are my beloved, and in you I am well pleased.' If we're willing to risk hearing that and being transformed by it, we have begun to participate in Jesus' reality. It is a hopeful saying for most of us-we don't quite believe that we can be all that pleasing to God, because we think we know more about ourselves than God does. But it was also an aspiration in Jesus' ears-he aspired to live into the fullness of God's intent."(121)

Jesus aspired to live into this? I might aspire to write something like Tolstoy's War and Peace but whether this will happen is surely in question. So Jesus aspired to live into the fullness of God's intent? Does she mean Jesus maybe hoped to do something like God might have wanted? Jesus sounds like a pretty foggy character here, not anything like the powerful revelation of the Godhead the Gospels portray.

Jesus did not have a goal to live into this, but had the full powers of God within his heart and soul. As very God of very God, begotten not made, he did not have a goal to be the beloved Son but was already both God and man.

Jefferts Schori's Islamic theology directly results in her ordination of Rev. Bede Parry. She probably told this sexual predator he was God's beloved, if her book is any indication. She tells the reader continually that all are beloved and have the same reality as Jesus. (pp. 121, 140-142, 155-156 and many more)

In another one of her Biblical distortions, she changes "Blessed are the peacemakers" to "Blessed are the Change Makers."(67) She does indeed truly qualify as a "change maker" for, as we have seen, her desire to destroy the scriptures appears to know no bounds.

This event of an entirely non-Christian theology from a Presiding Bishop might be unprecedented in the history of the Christian faith and bears watching.

The roots of Jefferts Schori's theology lie in mystical Islam called Sufism, although she might have picked up her odd theology from some New Age appropriations of this. The most famous expressions of her Islamic theology are the whirling dervishes, solitary dancing in a circle done in a group with their minds seeking ecstasy. They spin and spin until full of some spirit, they fall into high giddiness.

And toward the end of this book, spinning wildly in her theology without a Savior, Jefferts Schori begins a series of swipes at Anglican and Episcopal priests, bishops and archbishops who oppose her. The great fallacies exhibited in her thinking are Jefferts Schori's Great Spins.

Ordaining Gays and Lesbians

Jefferts Schori's first Great Spin is her claim that the Episcopal Church has found unity about the ordination and consecration of gays and homosexuals, even though she acknowledges that most places in the Episcopal Church "are shrinking, either slightly, or precipitously." (187) She writes about the decision to ordain gays and homosexuals, "The Episcopal Church recognizes that these decisions are problematic to a number of other Anglicans. We have not made these decisions lightly. We recognize that the spirit has not been widely received in the same way in other parts of the Communion."

What she doesn't mention is that the decision to ordain gays and lesbians has not been widely received in the Episcopal Church and many internally complain about this decision. Indeed, tremendous unrest and turmoil exists within the Episcopal Church. Look at the rapidly declining numbers to see that many are fleeing from this church.

There is no unity in the Episcopal Church and what does exist comes at least partially because of social and canonical pressure placed on people by some bishops, including Jefferts Schori. With its heavy-handed legal action against priests that speak out, the ordained ministry is full of anxious men and women with suppressed words and contagious fear. Who will be the next victim in the frequent accusation of abandoning the communion? How secure is any ordination anymore with the new disciplinary canons granting more power to authorities? Any perceived unity exists because tremendous effort has been put into silencing those who support the Anglican Communion yet stay within the Episcopal Church.

Jefferts Schori also lashes out at unidentified church leaders. She describes a person and then opens it up to multiple people writing, "Congregations wracked by the misbehavior of leaders know something about that, and in The Episcopal Church in the past few years there's been a fair amount of that....A petty tyrant claims the divine right of judgment, power over life and death. . . It happens all around us all the time, when some human tyrant resolves to control other people's lives...Maybe the local bishop decides that he'll only permit priests to move into the diocese who agree with him on every important issue, no matter what their other gifts or shortcomings might be."(207) In her use of an exclusive male pronoun, Jefferts Schori shows her belief that only male bishops do these actions and she targets only them.

We can only speculate to whom she is referring, but that in itself is unprofessional. Why talk about tyrants in leadership of the church and leave everyone around her to fill in the blanks? That's the definition of gossip. Anyway, Jefferts Schori's tyrants might be those in the episcopate who have left the Episcopal Church or could be the Church of England leaders that she recently attacked.

In Jefferts Schori's second Great Spin, she claims that the Episcopal Church has, in solid unity, rejected Archbishop Rowan William's Covenant, as well as the Lambeth 1998 decision of the Anglican Communion about the consecration of homosexuals and lesbians.

Jefferts Schori continues with her pompous use of the royal "we" as she addresses Rowan Williams with these challenging words, "As Episcopalians, we note the troubling push toward centralized authority exemplified in many of the Archbishop of Canterbury's statements." (169) She-still using the "we" pronoun-complains bitterly about sanctions the Episcopal Church could suffer because they consecrate noncelibate gays and lesbians. "We are further distressed that such sanctions do not, apparently, apply to those parts of the Communion that continue to hold one view in public and exhibit other behaviors in private-a wink and a nod to things that go on but are not publicly recognized-such as partnered same-sex clergy in the Church of England." (170)

Taunts Rowan Williams

She then taunts the leaders in the Church of England, and more specifically Archbishop Rowan Williams, by saying that "ignoring that sort of double-mindedness is usually termed a 'failure of nerve.'"(170) She strengthens her attack on Williams by writing, "Why is there no sanction on those who continue with a double standard?"

Her use of the term "double-minded" (not one in common parlance) makes the reader wonder if Jefferts Schori is strengthening her statement by reference to scriptures using this phrase. One of these scriptures reads, "Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind." (James 4:8)

The Jefferts Schori Great Spin is now that the Episcopal Church has allowed open homosexual and lesbian relationships for priests and bishops, the church has found purity and strength. She implies that because Church of England have closeted homosexual partners with a "wink and a nod," these United Kingdom church leaders are behind the time and ineffective.

Jefferts Schori's Great Spin says to the Church of England, recognize noncelibate gays and lesbian priests and you will have spiritual, emotional and social purity and strength.

Don't believe it, Archbishop Williams. Ordaining and consecrating sexually-active gay and lesbian priests has unleashed a destructive force in the very midst of the Episcopal Church from which it will likely not recover.

Jefferts Schori Attacks Bible

Jefferts Schori's Great Spin creates many victims, with the Bible itself as among its first victims. The Church overlooked Paul's Letter to the Romans and then soon the Bible faded away in the minds of the priests to a secondary source pulled out to help us understand New Age writers such as David Whyte.

Indeed in this 2011 book, Jefferts Schori has intensified her attack on the scriptures through her non-orthodox interpretation of Biblical scriptures.

Jefferts Schori hopes that the Episcopal Church will achieve this destruction of the scriptures and even the orthodox Christian faith without repercussion. The church has brushed past Lambeth 1998, yet danger now lurks for those who stay in the Episcopal Church, yet respect the spiritual authority of the Anglican Communion. Bishops who defy Lambeth 1998 already label negatively anyone who questions the ordination of sexually active gays and lesbians. Formerly those who do not endorse the ordination of gays and lesbians were called homophobic, but now in The Heartbeat of God Jefferts Schori says those remain loyal to the Anglican Communion have "colonial attitudes." (169)

Now the litmus test in the Episcopal Church is not whether salvation can be found in the Bible, but whether you believe in the consecration of gays and lesbians. Priests are encouraged to force back concerns and sign on the dotted line, or they might end up like the priest from Accokeek, Maryland, Rev. Samuel Edwards, defending himself in federal court against an outraged Bishop Jane Dixon.

Other issues also have come rolling out. Some gay and lesbian priests first shed the heterosexual marriage and the kids, but then start shedding the first committed homosexual relationship because there were mistakes made. Then the Episcopal Church wonders, how many homosexual relationships are allowed? The answer seems to be as many as they want.

Some believe we have the bishop or priest in a committed heterosexual or homosexual relationship with some sexual activity on the side.

Jefferts Schori ordained a sexual predator, Rev. Bede Parry, and left him in the midst of the Episcopal Church. The Presiding Bishop defends herself by saying she only knew of one of his multiple victims. She knew of only one mangled and pain-filled life? Only one life that will remember the horror of an older man forcing himself on him before the victim had a developed will? The horror exists in that Jefferts Schori didn't recognize that one victim is more than enough to know that this predator should not be ordained.

No, recognizing homosexual and lesbian committed relationships does not lead to social peace or spiritual purity. No, we just increase the "winks and nods" until the mangled Bible lies destroyed and the oppressed Episcopal Church cries out for relief.

In her latest book The Heartbeat of God, Jefferts Schori is spinning out of control with her Biblical interpretations and idiosyncratic pronouncements about the Episcopal Church. It is as if Jefferts Schori warbles "Happy Trails, Beloved." to hedonists and a sexual predator, yet unleashes a tirade against bishops she calls "tyrants" who support Archbishop Rowan Williams and the Anglican Communion. And in Jefferts Schori's book The Heartbeat of God, we have a wink and nod about what is really happening in the Episcopal Church.


Sarah Frances Ives is a regular contributor to Virtueonline. She lives in Washington DC with her husband and two children

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