Monday, February 05, 2007

A New Dawn

From a USA Today article on Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:

..."It's no longer the social norm to be a Christian," Jefferts Schori says. Her answer isn't to ramp up on orthodoxy but to reach out to all ages and cultures with Christlike social action.

Critics say she equivocates on essential doctrine — the necessity for atonement and the exclusivity of salvation through Christ. They cite interviews in which she has said living like Jesus in this world was a more urgent task than worrying about the next world.

"It's not my job to pick" who is saved. "It's God's job," she tells USA TODAY.

Yes, sin "is pervasive, part of human nature," but "it's not the centerpiece of the Christian message. If we spend our time talking about sin and depravity, it is all we see in the world," she says.

Here's where blood rushes into the blogs and critics pounce.

"Her theological statements are not orthodox Christian, not orthodox Anglican. Frankly, they're bizarre," says the Rev. Canon David Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council. He has aligned with a group of U.S. churches that now answer to the Archbishop of Nigeria.

Sisk disagrees sharply.

"She's profoundly faithful to the central claims of the church and the Scriptures. People who say she's not are making that up. They just don't agree with her. And the fact that she stays calm in the face of a lot of pumped-up hype, that she just doesn't buy it, irritates them."

Indeed, asked about her critics, Jefferts Schori doesn't blink. She leans in, drops her voice even lower and cuts to the chase.

She sees two strands of faith: One is "most concerned with atonement, that Jesus died for our sins and our most important task is to repent." But the other is "the more gracious strand," says the bishop who dresses like a sunrise.

It "is to talk about life, to claim the joy and the blessings for good that it offers, to look forward.

"God became human in order that we may become divine. That's our task."
This brings to mind a recent sermon by the MadPriest:

...The reason why the Church is dying in our land is because we, who call ourselves the people of God, are afraid to tell our neighbours that God loves them. We are afraid to tell them with words because we don’t want to be laughed at or thought of as strange. We are afraid to tell them in our actions because we are afraid to let go of security and luxury. And, please, believe me, I am as guilty as anybody else, which is why I can’t go down there and get Betty to dance round the church. I am afraid that I might fail and look silly in front of all of you. I am afraid that if I try to walk on the water I will sink.

But, hang on a second. Jesus didn’t ask Peter if he would consider catching people for the rest of his life or all the other stuff that Peter had to eventually face. No, as I said, it was a performative statement. Jesus simply said, “You will be catching people,” and so it came to be.

The same applies to us. Those of you who have knelt at the knees of Jesus have no option either. Those of you who have the Holy Spirit inside cannot now evict him. You will be catchers of people. You cannot stop it. It comes with the package. That is why this church, full of people who love each other and who love God, is a healthy growing church in spite of our fear. We catch people and bring them into the Kingdom of God, and life doesn’t get more miraculous than that.
Jesus said "You will do even greater things than these." Why do so many of us fail to claim this promise?

I suspect that if we are honest, it has something to do with our Christology. Of course we affirm that Jesus is fully God and fully human, but I think we actually believe that he was more like 95% God and maybe 5% human. We cannot possibly do what he did.

At least that's the excuse I use to justify my own failure to grow into the full stature of Christ. But then we commemorate a saint, one of those who did indeed do great things in the name of Christ. And I'm reminded of the potential of this new relationship with God made possible through Christ.

When will we become weary of our fixation on the depravity of humanity and instead reorient ourselves towards the glory of God? When will we who "have the Holy Spirit inside" begin to act like the Beloved of God that we have always been intended to be?


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