Bishop Jefferts Schori rebuffs Dr. Williams’ call for restraint: The Church of England Newspaper, June 18, 2010 p 1. June 18, 2010Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has offered a scriptural defence for her church’s embrace of gay bishops and blessings. Writing in response to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Pentecost letter, on June 2 Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori asked the Anglican Communion to engage in dialogue with the leaders of the Episcopal Church as “we believe that the Spirit is always calling us to greater understanding.”
The June 2 public letter follows upon private communications between Bishop Jefferts Schori and Dr. Rowan Williams about her continuing role in the councils of the Anglican Communion.
The press officer to the Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council has confirmed to The Church of England Newspaper that Canon Kenneth Kearon hand delivered a letter from Dr. Williams to Bishop Jefferts Schori at the April 17 consecration ceremony of Bishop Ian Douglas of Connecticut.
The chancellor to the Presiding Bishop, David Booth Beers, told bishops attending the May 24 to 28 Living Our Vows bishops’ training programme at the Lake Logan Episcopal Center in North Carolina that in this letter Dr. Williams had asked the Presiding Bishop to consider absenting herself from meetings of the Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee and the Primates Meeting in light of the Episcopal Church’s violation of the moratoria on gay bishops and blessings, those present tell CEN.
Speaking to a group of bishops during an informal after dinner session, Mr. Beers stated the Presiding Bishop had rejected the Archbishop of Canterbury’s suggestion, observing that he had no authority to remove her from the Primates Standing Committee as she had been elected by the North and South American primates. She also objected to Dr. Williams’ claim to have the authority to ban her from the councils of the church.
One of the bishops at the evening encounter told CEN that speculation on the future structures of the Communion was also shared by Mr. Beers with the bishops. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s press office did not respond to requests for clarification on Mr. Beers’ comments, while a spokesman for the Presiding Bishop declined to comment on “speculation and conjecture.”
The Presiding Bishop’s press officer Neva Rae Fox stated she was “not confirming the existence of a letter,” but “if there was a letter, then it was a private correspondence and I will not address anything that is private, because that is what it is – private.”
In her public response to the archbishop’s Pentecost letter, Bishop Jefferts Schori said Dr. Williams’ understanding of Acts 2 and Pentecost was insufficient. “Pentecost is most fundamentally a continuing gift of the Spirit, rather than a limitation or quenching of that Spirit.”
“The recent statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury about the struggles within the Anglican Communion seems to equate Pentecost with a single understanding of gospel realities. Those who received the gift of the Spirit on that day all heard good news. The crowd reported, ‘in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power’ (Acts 2:11),” she said.
Bishop Jefferts Schori stated “the Spirit does seem to be saying to many within the Episcopal Church that gay and lesbian persons are God’s good creation, that an aspect of good creation is the possibility of lifelong, faithful partnership, and that such persons may indeed be good and healthy exemplars of gifted leadership within the Church, as baptized leaders and ordained ones.”
She conceded that this “growing awareness does not deny the reality that many Anglicans and not a few Episcopalians still fervently hold traditional views about human sexuality. This Episcopal Church is a broad and inclusive enough tent to hold that variety.”
For the past “50 years” the Episcopal Church has been “listening to and for the Spirit” to guide it on issues of human sexuality. Not all were agreed on what the Spirit was saying, but the “willingness to live in tension is a hallmark of Anglicanism” she said and “diversity in community” was a hallmark of the Anglican ethos.
American Anglicanism “recognizes that the Spirit may be speaking to all of us, in ways that do not at present seem to cohere or agree. It also recognizes what Jesus says about the Spirit to his followers, ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come’ (John 16:12-13).”
Dr. Williams’ efforts to dictate uniformity of belief was un-Anglican, Bishop Jefferts Schori said. “We live in great concern that colonial attitudes continue, particularly in attempts to impose a single understanding across widely varying contexts and cultures.”
She also noted the “troubling push toward centralized authority” by Dr. Williams, adding that the Church of England and the Episcopal Church had both arisen from “concerns over self-determination in the face of colonial control.”
The presiding bishop objected to the sanctions proposed by Dr. Williams and accused him of a “failure of nerve” and “double-mindedness” by holding private opinions at variance with his public stance. She also gave an oblique criticism to the Church of England’s tolerance of unofficial gay blessings saying “we are further distressed that such sanctions do not, apparently, apply to those parts of the Communion that continue to hold one view in public and exhibit other behaviors in private. Why is there no sanction on those who continue with a double standard?”
The Episcopal Church believed that “with sufficient humility that we can affirm the image of God in the person who disagrees with us. We believe that the Body of Christ is only found when such diversity is welcomed with abundant and radical hospitality,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said.
Conservatives in the United States have welcomed the presiding bishop’s robust defence of her views, but are un-persuaded by her arguments. In a 3100-word response, Prof. Christopher Seitz of the Anglican Communion Institute stated Bishop Jeffert Schori’s “account of the Spirit as bringing a truth without prior testimony or dominical warrant, which at the same time gives rise to diversity as a pentecostal gift, diverges in extreme ways from the Gospel of John and the Acts of the Apostles.”
“It is a teaching lacking continuity and agreement with the witness of Christians in our present day, in the worldwide body, and because without biblical warrant, it is also nowhere attested in the history of the church’s teaching,” he said, adding that this “teaching comes from a conviction already held, independently of what is customarily sought in respect of a warrant of God the Holy Spirit because of cultural assumptions about the intentions of sexual activity in our age and because [the Episcopal Church] has already acted on these.”
While applauding the presiding bishop’s decision to “to defend her views by recourse to Christian Scripture” and to clarify “what she understands to be the biblical warrant for her view of the Holy Spirit as an agent of new truth,” such a view is “not consistent” with the witness of Scripture and the “church would be in error should it follow her novel reading,” Prof. Seitz said.