Friday, November 03, 2006

ECUSA's Incoming Leader: Homosexuality Not a Choice, Jesus Not the Only Way

ECUSA's Incoming Leader: Homosexuality Not a Choice, Jesus Not the Only Way
Comments by Jefferts-Schori During Interview Appear to Contradict Scripture

By Jody Brown and Allie Martin
November 2, 2006

(AgapePress) - She says she doesn't consider Jesus Christ to be the only way to God. She says she believes God makes some people "gay." And she's soon to be the leader of a mainline Protestant denomination in America.

In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul writes that "in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (Col. 2:9, NIV). But in an interview this week with Associated Press, Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori -- who is to be installed on Saturday as the first female presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church USA -- stated that Christians should not say that Jesus is the only way to God. "If we insist we know the one way to God," she said, "we've put God in a very small box."

In John 14:6, Jesus -- in responding to a question posed by the disciple Thomas -- said: "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." But Jefferts-Schori says she disagrees with the idea that salvation comes only through trusting in Jesus Christ. "It's this sense that one person can have the fullness of truth in him or herself, rather than understanding that truth is -- like God -- more than any one person can encompass," stated the soon-to-be ECUSA leader.

Jefferts-Schori says she views salvation as the healing of all Creation through holy living. "I understand salvation as being about the healing of the whole creation. Your part and my part in that is about holy living," she offered. "As Christians we understand [salvation] as relationship with God in Jesus, but that does not mean that we're expected to judge other people's own commitments."

Where does she stand on the issue of homosexuality? The Episcopal Church has been embroiled for years in a debate over the ordination of homosexual clergy and "blessing" ceremonies for same-sex couples. Jefferts-Schori supports both -- and in fact, she voted in 2003 to confirm her denomination's first openly homosexual bishop, V. Gene Robinson. She told AP that she does not believe the Bible condemns "committed" homosexual relationships. God, she says, made some people "gay."

"Sexual orientation is pretty clearly defined at a very early age, before the age of reason. It's not a choice," she said. "In that case, a person of faith would need to say that it's a piece of how one is created." Consequently, she says, the Church should offer what she calls "a sacramental container" to help homosexuals find "holy ways of living in relationship."

Scriptures in the Bible about homosexual acts being sinful, she says, are misunderstood. "They're not about what today we see as mature human beings entering into committed relationships with each other on a full and equal basis," says Jefferts-Schori, who believes such "committed" relationships can be blessed. "The religious community's job, really, is to help all human beings find healthy and whole and holy ways of living in relationship."

Run, Don't Walk
Canon David Anderson is president of the American Anglican Council, a group of conservative clergy and lay people from the Episcopal Church. Anderson says he's not surprised at the recent comments by Jefferts-Schori, and offers what he sees as the only option for those still in churches aligned with ECUSA.

"I think they need to run, not walk, to the exit and find an orthodox Episcopal church," suggests Anderson.

According to Anderson, the Episcopal Church cast off biblical beliefs long ago in favor of postmodernism. Jefferts-Schori's comments, he claims, is merely in harmony with that. "Her remarks with regard to the plurality of ways to God are consistent both with what she has said before and with what the top level of leadership in the Episcopal Church has been saying now for probably a decade," says Anderson.

Associated Press reports that eight Episcopal dioceses have asked Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who heads the world Anglican Communion, to put them under a leader other than Bishop Jefferts-Schori. But the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas says it is not one of those dioceses asking Williams to appoint a conservative national leader to oversee them.

Dallas Bishop James Stanton said in a statement earlier this week that he still disagrees with the direction of the Episcopal Church, but that the language in the request from the other dioceses rejecting incoming Jefferts-Schori and seeking an alternate leader had "caused confusion and some anxiety" in his diocese.

More and more signs.....

Episcopalians install female leader

By RACHEL ZOLL, AP Religion WriterSat Nov 4, 3:40 PM ET

Katharine Jefferts Schori took office Saturday as the first female leader of The Episcopal Church and the first woman priest to head an Anglican province, two landmarks that could quickly be overshadowed by divisions over the Bible and sexuality throughout world Anglicanism.

Jefferts Schori, who supports ordaining gays, acknowledged the rift in an elaborate ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral, urging parishioners to "make peace" with those who oppose the direction of the U.S. church. In 2003, the denomination consecrated its first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

"If some in this church feel wounded by recent decisions, then our salvation, our health as a body, is at some hazard, and it becomes the duty of all of us to seek healing and wholeness," Jefferts Schori said during her ceremony.

Jefferts Schori, 52, was bishop of Nevada when she was the surprise winner of the election for presiding bishop at the Episcopal General Convention in June. A former oceanographer who was ordained in 1994, she had served only about five years as a bishop.

Her election was celebrated as a victory for woman clergy and for Episcopalians who support full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the 2.3 million-member denomination. It was decried by U.S. traditionalists and many Anglicans overseas who do not want to recognize Jefferts Schori's leadership.

More than 3,000 people filled the church to welcome the new presiding bishop.

Worshippers stood and faced the doors of the cathedral as Jefferts Schori knocked and entered, wearing a multicolored robe and miter. She walked in a procession toward the front of the church, led by people waving streamers and flags, as applause and music filled the sanctuary.

Outgoing Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, who just completed his nine-year term, turned over the symbol of authority, the primatial staff, and Jefferts Schori stood beaming at the altar as onlookers cheered. She received blessings in Hebrew from a rabbi, in Arabic from a Muslim scholar, along with receiving prayers in several other languages.

Jefferts Schori hopes to revitalize Episcopal parishes after years of declining membership, and to advance the church's fight against poverty and other social ills at home and abroad. She urged Episcopalians on Saturday to work for "shalom" — the Hebrew word for peace — by working to heal the world's suffering.

But internal conflicts are likely to consume much of her time.

She will now represent the American denomination to the Anglican world. Her job is complicated by her personal support for Robinson's election and for blessing same-sex couples, though she insists she won't impose her views on others. She said the U.S. church should be willing to compromise "for a season" to stay in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion.

That may not be enough to appease other branches of the Anglican family, which take a traditional view that gay relationships are prohibited by Scripture. Some Anglican leaders also reject the idea of women's ordination: Jefferts Schori has said they'll have to "get over it."

The majority of Anglicans worldwide have conservative views on sexuality, but they are a minority in The Episcopal Church. Still, by withholding money and building alliances with like-minded Anglicans overseas, they have chipped away at the authority of the denomination.

Seven U.S. conservative dioceses have already rejected Jefferts Schori and have asked Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the Anglican spiritual leader, to assign them another national leader. Three of the dioceses do not support ordaining women.

Jefferts Schori has spent her life tackling challenges.

Along with her past career as a scientist, she is a rock climber and a pilot who flew her plane to visit parishes around the sprawling Nevada Diocese.

Her husband of more than 25 years, Richard Schori, is a retired mathematician. Their daughter, 25-year-old Katharine Johanna, is a pilot in the U.S. Air Force.

Jefferts Schori decided to pursue full-time ministry after federal funding for her scientific research dried up.


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