Saturday, July 19, 2008

Is This Woman a Heretic?

[I composed this before arriving in Canterbury, but wanted to wait for the Conference to begin before publishing it.]

by Bishop Whalen

In the run-up document to the Global Anglican Future Conference entitled “The Way, the Truth, and the Life,” there is a remarkable statement:

“ English and American Anglicanism fell victim to certain bishops – ...who questioned the very ‘substance’ of orthodox Christianity: the transcendence of God, the possibility of miracles, the Virgin Birth and Bodily Resurrection of Christ and, underlying all, the authority of the Bible... such ‘prophetic’ views were stamped as mainstream with the election of Katherine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop in 2006.” (page 39)

So, is she a heretic? That is, does she advisedly hold to teachings that contradict the Church’s clear witness to Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose again from the dead? He who is truly human and truly divine, yet one person? In interviews with her, this is clearly not the case!!!

Now, there are those who think that Bishop Katharine is a heretic because she supports the “full inclusion” of gay people into the Church—that is to say, that it is possible for gay people to lead holy lives as Christians, as long as their sexual expressions of love take place within a covenant bond, just as with straight people.

But there has always been a clear distinction between faith and morals, between doctrinal theology and moral theology. That distinction is formal: the doctrines of the Church may be developed but they may not be denied. If Bishop Katharine denied the tenets of the Creed, or that Holy Scripture does contain all things necessary to salvation, she would be a heretic, and I would most certainly resign my office as Bishop In Charge of the Presiding Bishop’s jurisdiction.

On the other hand, the moral teachings of the Church have always reflected the context in which the Church found itself. In times past, it has been taught that widowed people could not re-marry; that Christians could own slaves as long as they treated them correctly , that Christians could not charge interest on loans. It has never been heresy to disagree with such teachings. Bishop Katharine may turn out to be wrong about changing the traditional teaching on homosexual people. But that is not heresy.

Very interesting take on the Presiding Bishop's progressive views in reference to contemporary topics of faith and practice in the Episcopal Church.

Having had the privilege of hearing our Presiding Bishop preach in several ocassions I can say she is definitely not someone you can neatly tag and place in a box. A quiet speaker, she is uncompromisingly an advocate for those who are needy, marginated, siolated, the immigrant and infirm. Often her words remind the church that the good news are not just to be believed and talked about but lived in love and service to God and our fellow man!

God bless and guide The Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schorri as she leads the Episcopal Church in this complicated century, let her be a voice for Christ proclaiming the good news of his love for all.



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