The Episcopal Church: A New Religious Movement. TEC Leaders in their Own Words

† “I am the way, and the truth and the life…”

“‘I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to God ex­cept through me.’ The first thing I want you to explore with me is this: I simply refuse to hold the doctrine that there is no access to God except through Jesus. I personally reject the claim that Christianity has the truth and all other religions are in error… I think it is a mistaken view to say Christianity is superior to Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism and that Christ is the only way to God and salvation.” The Rev. Dr. George F. Regas, Rector Emeritus All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena, California, April 24, 2005, guest sermon at Washington National Cathedral

“My understanding of idolatry includes the assumption that I can know and comprehend the way in which God saves people who are not overtly Christian. I understand that Jesus is my savior, I understand that Jesus is the savior of the whole world. But I am unwilling to do more than speculate about how God saves those who don’t profess to be Christians. I look at the fruits of the life of someone like Mahatma Ghandi and the Dhali Lama and I see Christ-like features …” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Virginia Theological Seminary, May 25, 2007

“And what was God thinking … when the Angel Gabriel was sent by God to reveal the Law to Moses? And what was God thinking … when the Angel Gabriel was sent by God to reveal the sacred Quran to the prophet Muhammad? And what was God thinking … when the Angel Gabriel was sent by God to reveal the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God? Were these just random acts of asso­ciation and coincidence or was the An­gel Gabriel who appears as the named messenger of God in the Jewish Old Testament, the Christian New Testa­ment Gospels, and the Quran of Islam, really the same miraculous messen­ger of God who proclaimed to a then emerging religious, global community and to us this morning that we are ALL children of the living God? And as such we are called to acknowledge that as Christians, Jews and Muslims we share a common God and the same divine messenger. And that as children of the same God, we are now called to cooperatively work together to make the world a haven for harmony, peace, equality and justice for the greatest and least among us.” The Rt. Rev. John Chane, Bishop of Washington D.C., Washington National Cathedral, December 25, 2003

KJS: Christians understand that Jesus is the route to God. Umm — that is not to say that Muslims, or Sikhs, or Jains, come to God in a radically different way. They come to God through… human experience… through human experience of the divine. Christians talk about that in terms of Jesus. RY: So you’re saying there are other ways to God. KJS: Uhh… human communities have always searched for relationship that which is beyond them.. with the ulti­mate… with the divine. For Christians, we say that our route to God is through Jesus. Uhh.. uh..that doesn’t mean that a Hindu… uh… doesn’t experi­ence God except through Jesus. It-it-it says that Hindus and people of other faith traditions approach God through their… own cultural contexts; they relate to God, they experience God in human relationships, as well as ones that transcend human relationships; and Christians would say those are our experiences of Jesus; of God through the experience of Jesus. RY: It sounds like you’re saying it’s a parallel reality, but in another culture and language.KJS: I think that’s accurate… I think that’s accurate. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori, interview by Robin Young on NPR’s “Here and Now”, Oct 18, 2006

“I certainly don’t disagree with that statement that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. But the way it’s used is as a truth serum, or a touch­stone: If you cannot repeat this state­ment, then you’re not a faithful Chris­tian or person of faith. I think Jesus as way – that’s certainly what it means to be on a spiritual journey. It means to be in search of relationship with God. We understand Jesus as truth in the sense of being the wholeness of hu­man expression. What does it mean to be wholly and fully and completely a human being? Jesus as life, again, an example of abundant life. We un­derstand him as bringer of abundant life but also as exemplar. What does it mean to be both fully human and fully divine? Here we have the evidence in human form. So I’m impatient with the narrow understanding, but cer­tainly welcoming of the broader under­standing.” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori, interview in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Jan. 7, 2007

Arkansas Democrat Gazette: Well, the rest of the verse, that no one comes to the Father except by the son. KJS: Again in its narrow construction, it tends to eliminate other possibilities. In its broader construction, yes, hu­man beings come to relationship with God largely through their experience of holiness in other human beings. Through seeing God at work in other people’s lives. In that sense, yes, I will affirm that statement. But not in the narrow sense, that people can only come to relationship with God through consciously believing in Jesus. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori, interview in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Jan. 7, 2007

“I don’t think God cares if we are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Bud­dhist and so forth. What matters is a deepening relationship with God.” Dr. Marcus Borg, Co-Director of Center for Spiritual Development at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral Portland, and former President of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars, St. Petersburg Times, February 9, 2005

† Who is Jesus?

Stephen Crittenden: I guess we should just dwell on it a little bit more because it’s not an idea we hear very often. What is it a metaphor for, Jesus as mother? Katherine Jefferts Schori: It’s a metaphor for new creation. When we insist that the Christ event in the death and resurrection of Jesus brings a new possibility of life, a new kind of life to humanity, it is certainly akin to rebirth. When Jesus says to Nicodemus You must be born again from above, what might he mean? I think it is a way of the gospel is saying that Jesus is a venue, an event, an experience, and an instance in which life is renewed, in which every human being as access to new life. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori, interview by ABC Radio, “The Religion Report,” July 26, 2006

“If you begin to explore the literary context of the first century and the couple of hundred years on either side, the way that someone told a story about a great figure was to say ‘this one was born of the gods.’ That is what we’re saying. This carpenter from Nazareth or Bethlehem – and there are different stories about where he came from – shows us what a godly human being looks like, shows us God coming among us.” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Parabola, Spring 2007

“Because each and every one of us is an only begotten child of God; because we, as the church, are invited by God to see all of creation as having life only insofar as it is in God; because everything, without exception, is the living presence, or incarnation, of God; as the Diocese of Northern Michigan, We affirm Christ present in every human being and reject any attempt to restructure The Episcopal Church’s polity in a manner contrary to the principles of the baptismal covenant;” Statement by the Diocese of Northern Michigan Standing Committee, Core Team, Diocesan Council, and General Convention Deputation, August 11, 2007

“I see the pre-Easter Jesus as a Jew­ish mystic who knew God, and who, as a result, became a healer, wisdom teacher and prophet of the kingdom of God. The latter led to his being killed by the authorities who ruled his world. But I do not think he proclaimed or taught an extraordinary status for himself. The message of the pre-Easter Jesus was about God and the kingdom of God, and not about himself.” Dr. Marcus Borg, Co-Director of Center for Spiritual Development at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral Portland, and former President of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars, Washington Post, December 30, 2006

“Rather, I see the grand statements about Jesus — that he is the son of God, the Light of the World and so forth — as the testimony of the early Christian movement. These are nei­ther objectively true statements about Jesus nor, for example in this season, about his conception and birth. To speak of him as the son of God does not mean that he was conceived by God and had no biological human fa­ther. Rather, this is the post-Easter con­viction of his followers.” Dr. Marcus Borg, Washington Post, December 30, 2006

† The Resurrection

“The story of Jesus’ bodily resur­rection is, at best, conjectural; that the resurrection accounts in the four Gospels are contradictory and confusing… the significance of Easter is not that Jesus returned to actual life but that even death itself could not end the power of his presence in the lives of the faithful.” The Rt. Rev. John Chane, Bishop of Washington, D.C., Easter sermon in 2002

“Asked about the literal story of Easter and the Resurrection, Jefferts Schori said, ‘I think Easter is most profoundly about meaning, not mechanism.’” Episcopal Life on line, April 8, 2008

† Heaven and hell

TIME Question: Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven? Katherine Jefferts Schori: We who practice the Christian tradition under­stand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori, TIME Magazine interview, July 10, 2006

CNN Question: So what happens after I die? Jefferts Schori: What happens after you die? I would ask you that ques­tion. But what’s important about your life? What is it that has made you a unique individual? What is the pas­sion that has kept you getting up every morning and engaging the world? There are hints within that about what it is that continues after you die. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori, interview by CNN Live, June 19, 2006

“‘Public Answers to Private Ques­tions’ got off to a quick start as an anonymous audience member bluntly asked, ‘If God is supposed to be all-forgiving, why do some people end up in hell?’ Shaw responded by saying, ‘I’m not sure that I believe in hell,’ pointing out that there are places in the Scripture where no hell is men­tioned and concluding that the subject is open to interpretation.”Bishop of the Episcopal Archdiocese of Massachu­setts, the Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, speaking to students at Boston College, Dec. 5, 2007

Arkansas Democrat Gazette: So does that mean that in your view there is no afterlife? KJS: That’s not what I said. I said what I think Jesus is more concerned about is heavenly existence, eternal life, in this life. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori, interview in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Jan. 7, 2007

† Salvation

“That’s one of the tragedies afflict­ing the church right now,” he said. “So many of us seem to think that salvation depends on our theological correctness.” The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Lee, Bishop of Chicago, Chicago Tribune, Feb 3, 2008

“I would choose to loathe rather than to worship a deity who required the sacrifice of his son.”The Rt. Rev. John Spong, retired Bishop of Newark from Why Christianity Must Change Or Die, 1998

“The question is always how can we get beyond our own narrow self-interest and see that our salvation lies in attending to the needs of other people.” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori, Parabola, Spring 2007

† Other tenets of our faith

“It’s not about having answers as much as it is about engaging a sto­ry. It is about your story and how your story connects to an ancient story of desert wanderers that, in time, came to see that humanity and this energy they called God mingled and existed through Christ and thus, exists in all of humanity.” The Episcopal Church web site, Visitors Center, “Spiritual but not Religious”

“Because we live in different cul­tural situations, not all biblical commandments or proscriptions apply simply or in the same way to any one person or situation.” The Episcopal Church Center, To Set Our Hope on Christ, 2005, authored at the invitation of Presiding Bishop by a commission of six theology professors from four theological seminaries, and a bishop

“So I think there is no question of devaluing Scripture; I think it’s a question of accepting the fact that Scripture doesn’t presuppose every eventuality, nor does it transcend be­ing in some ways historically limited by those who wrote the words — their worldview, their understanding of hu­man reality. Jesus in the Gospel of John says, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now; however, the spirit of truth will come and will draw from what is mine and reveal it to you.” So it is clear as I read the Bible that truth is an unfolding reality and is not simply fixed or circumscribed at a particular moment or by the pages of Scripture itself. The Holy Spirit can transcend the words that the Holy Spirit has in­spired and lead us to new understand­ings and new appreciations.” Former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, Comments following the House of Bishops meeting January 2005, Religion and Ethics Newsweekly

“There is no single biblical moral­ity. Few biblical scholars would claim that a monochromatic approach to ethics and human behavior exists in the Holy Scriptures…The Holy Scrip­tures, written in antiquity, could not and did not foresee many of the ethi­cal questions we face in our age.” A Statement from the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, March 13, 2007

“Christians talk about the body of Christ. A theologian named Sally McFague talks about the body of God as being all of creation. When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. That’s an essential piece of Paul’s theology. If we’re not caring adequately for the other parts of the body, we are not only destroying ourselves, but we’re destroying our neighbors here and across the world. The fact that, you know, how I use carbon might have some impact on a poor person in China. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori, PBS, The Bill Moyers Journal, June 2007 [ed.: The body of Christ is the Church, Eph. 5:23 ]

“Those creeds are not about check­ing off a bunch of propositions. They are about giving our heart to a sense that Jesus shows us what it looks like to be a divine human being.” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori, Parabola, Spring 2007

“You don’t all have to profess ex­actly the same understandings of the central tenets of the faith,” she added. “What’s important is to worship together.” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori, San Diego Union-Tribune, April 5, 2008

† Sexuality

“Holiness and wholeness and health all come from the same root in English, and they’re related quite intimately to the word ’salvation’. Living a holy life, living a whole and full life, is one of our understandings of what salvation means, and when Jesus says ‘I came that you might have life and have it abundantly’, he cer­tainly means in the fullness of our be­ings, and if we understand that some people are created, are born, in this world with affections ordered toward those of the same gender, then per­haps it means we need to pay atten­tion to that.” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori, ABC Radio, The Religion Report, July 26, 2006

“For almost forty years, members of the Episcopal Church have discerned holiness in same-sex rela­tionships and, have come to support the blessing of such unions and the ordination or consecration of persons in those unions. Christian congrega­tions have sought to celebrate and bless same-sex unions because these exclusive, life-long, unions of fidelity and care for each other have been ex­perienced as holy. These unions have evidenced the fruit of the Holy Spirit: “joy, peace, patience, kindness, gen­erosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Episcopal Church Center, To Set Our Hope on Christ, 2005

“The Holy Scriptures do not speak of what we describe in The Episcopal Church as loving, faithful, monogamous, life-long commitments of two persons of the same sex, nor do they speak of the intimate sexual lives such committed persons may express with one another in their re­lationships. We must therefore look more deeply within as well as beyond the Holy Scriptures for guidelines that may be brought into dialogue with those passages of Scripture usually employed to address matters of sexual intimacy.” A Statement from the Episcopal Diocese of Utah.

Source: The American Anglican Council’s booklet “Equipping the Saints”