Presiding Bishop … ‘Jesus is not the only way to God’: CEN 4.17.09 p 7 April 17, 2009Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Syncretism, The Episcopal Church.
JESUS is a way, but not the only way to salvation, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev Katharine Jefferts Schori has told members of the Diocese of Quincy.
At a special convention called by the Presiding Bishop to reconstitute the diocese around the four congregations that did not secede to the Province of the Southern Cone last year, on April 4 Bishop Jefferts Schori spoke of her own theological views at a question-and-answer session.
Approximately 300 people gave the presiding bishop a “rousing greeting on her first visit to Peoria and the Diocese of Quincy. In stark contrast to the previous synod meeting, at which she was vilified as the chief architect of what former leaders claimed was the Episcopal Church’s departure from traditional Christian beliefs, [Bishop] Jefferts Schori received a warm and jubilant welcome,” Episcopal News Service reported.
In response to a question from the audience about her personal beliefs, the presiding bishop said that to insist Jesus is the only way to God is to “limit God.” She said that God was at work in the lives of other faiths. “God is, at the very least, a mystery,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said.
“God’s intention is for a restored relationship with all humanity. My job is to proclaim the good news of Jesus, but I cannot deny God is not at work in other ways,” she said, according to ENS.
While the presiding bishop’s views on the uniqueness of Christ are considered by evangelicals outside the mainstream, they have their antecedents in Bishop John AT Robinson’s Honest to God. In the preface to his 1963 book, Bishop Robinson stated that “it is going to become increasingly difficult to know what the true defence of Christian truth requires.”
While some sought to seek a “firm reiteration, in fresh and contemporary language, of ‘the faith once delivered to the saints’,” others felt “a more radical recasting” was demanded wherein the “most fundamental categories of our theology — of God, of the supernatural, and of religion itself — must go into the melting.”
The way forward for Bishop Robinson was an end to Christian Theism, replacing it with a modern form of Modified Monism, which called for a rejection of Christian exclusivism, seeing behind all religions a Monistic oneness.
In an Oct 18, 2006 radio interview Bishop Jefferts Schori stated, “Christians understand that Jesus is the route to God. 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.”
“We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine,” the presiding bishop told Time magazine in its July 10, 2006 issue. “But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.”
Protestant and Catholic Church leaders have largely rejected these views, from the Council of Florence’s 1438 declaration that there was “no salvation outside the church” to the 1974 Lausanne Declaration by evangelicals that there was “no salvation outside a personal and explicit confession of faith in Jesus Christ.”
In 1994 evangelical scholar JI Packer defended the exclusive role of Jesus in Jesus Christ the Only Saviour, while Cardinal Ratzinger, the current Pope Benedict XVI, in 1996 called interreligious relativism “the fundamental problem of faith in our time.”
In 2000, the Roman Catholic Church in Dominus Iesus stated “the thesis that the revelation of Jesus Christ is of a limited, incomplete, and imperfect character, and must be completed by the revelation present in other religions, is contrary to the faith of the Church…. This position radically contradicts the affirmations of faith according to which the full and complete revelation of the salvific mystery of God is given in Jesus Christ.”
“If Billy Graham or Pope Benedict” were asked the questions the presiding bishop were asked, they would respond that “Jesus is the way, the truth and light,” South Carolina theologian Canon Kendall Harmon said. In a time of doctrinal confusion, “good leadership claims its particular identity from the stability of its historical faith,” he argued.
“It’s the leadership of this church giving up the unique claims of Christianity,” Canon Harmon said. “They act like it’s Baskin-Robbins. You just choose a different flavour and everyone gets in the store.”