Friday, August 28, 2009

Presiding Bishop Defends ‘Heresy’ Address

From The Living Church-

Asserting that the task of Christians is “to be in relationship with God and with our neighbors,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori offered a detailed defense of her July 7 opening address to General Convention, in which she called individualism the “great Western heresy.”

Writing for Episcopal Life, Bishop Jefferts Schori said the address had received “varied reactions from people who weren’t there, who heard or read an isolated comment without the context.”

Bishop Jefferts Schori said her definition of individualism is “the understanding that the interests and independence of the individual necessarily trump the interests of others, as well as principles of interdependence.” This she called “basically unbiblical and unchristian.”

“The spiritual journey, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition, is about holy living in community,” she said. Pointing to Jesus’ summary of the Torah in Matthew 22, Bishop Jefferts Schori suggested that “this means our task is to be in relationship with God and with our neighbors.”

“If salvation is understood only as ‘getting right with God’ without considering ‘getting right with all our neighbors,’ then we've got a heresy on our hands,” she said.

“In my address, I went on to say that sometimes this belief that salvation only depends on getting right with God is reduced to saying a simple formula about Jesus,” the Presiding Bishop continued. “Jesus is quite explicit in his rejection of simple formulas: ‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven’.”

“He is repeatedly insistent that right relationship depends on loving neighbors,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said. She also cited examples from the Epistles “that our judgment depends on care for brother and sister and that we eat our own destruction if we take Communion without having regard for the rest of the community.”

Saying that “salvation depends on love of God and our relationship with Jesus,” the Presiding Bishop asserted that “we give evidence of our relationship with God in how we treat our neighbors, nearby and far away.”

“Salvation cannot be complete…until the whole of creation is restored to right relationship,” she said, adding, “we anticipate the restoration of all creation to right relationship, and we proclaim that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection made that possible in a new way.”

“At the same time, salvation in the sense of cosmic reconciliation is a mystery,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said. “It is about healing and wholeness and holiness, the fruit of being more than doing. Just like another image we use to speak about restored relationship, the reign of God, salvation is happening all the time, all around us.”

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