I know others have already blogged about this but I will continue doing so here. Concerning the previous post on Bishop Schori’s claim on heresy, I had emailed her office about this paragraph below and asked for some clarification about what she meant. I was curious about her statement but did not get any reply.
“The overarching connection in all of these crises has to do with the great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God. It’s caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of being. That heresy is one reason for the theme of this Convention.”
“the great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals…. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry“
As an evangelical Lutheran who appreciates inner piety, it showed me that there are some in the leadership of The Episcopal Church that don’t get it. As evangelicals, we do believe that we can be saved on a personal basis. We are each saved one by one, where each person entering the new kingdom called into the glorious communion of Jesus Christ called the Church of Christ. Evangelicals are not individualist focus. We are all individuals and we are also united as one in Christ. We care about others deeply and if we didn’t, would we be doing so much evangelism? We care about the eternal and spiritual well-being of others, not just ourselves. If we don’t care about evangelism and inviting them into the kingdom of God, that would be selfish individualism. There are evangelical and non-evangelical Christians who have failed in caring for others. Selfish individualism is a fruit of sin, but the person in the individual is not a bad thing in and of itself. The person in the individual have received a bad name due to selfishness. So could it be that what Bishop Schori was really talking about was the heresy or sin of selfishness?
reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus
Bishop Schori’s jab was directed at the sinner’s prayer that evangelicals appreciate. Evangelicals appreciate how we are saved by faith in Christ, and in faith confess our confidence in Christ in a public way. We also appreciate the opportunity for confession and forgiveness. That is what the sinner’s prayer essentially is. And why not? We profess our faith the Apostles’ Creed too? We also have confession and forgiveness to repent of our sins. We also publicly profess our faith when we are confirmed at age 15 or 16? Sometimes, much to my dismay, these public professions and confessions in our churches do not carry much meaning in a lot of lapsed Episcopalians/Anglicans and Lutherans who have left the church entirely. So much for “specific verbal formula about Jesus”! Meaning in words can be empty and meaningless when they do not come from the heart and when faith is non-existent within the individual. But thank God that as a church, our faith has not lapsed. As a church, our faith is upheld by the grace and mercy of God.
It saddens me that there is a lack of understanding of the evangelical faith and this gap is still wide. There are people like Bishop Schori, who remain cocooned in her liberal mainline ivory towers and never come down off from it. When they don’t come down to discover that there are some people in her denomination that appreciate a form of personal inner piety, they will remain ignorant about this until kingdom come.
What infuriated evangelicals was when she attacked this personal inner piety that she used to caricaturize evangelicals with. In doing so, she also knowingly or unknowingly attacked some evangelical Episcopalians in her own church. She may have been so focussed on attacking evangelicals that I think she also unknowingly attacked evangelicals in her own church. And yes, there are evangelicals in mainline denominations like the Episcopal Church. They are also sometimes called “orthodox Episcopalians/Anglicans” or “conservative Episcopalians/Anglicans”. If she did know her jab would insult some evangelical Episcopalians, I hope she does not just see them as merely collateral damage.
Perhaps she was already so furious with evangelical Episcopalians for leaving The Episcopal Church and the formation of the new denomination within the Worldwide Anglican Communion called the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) . Could it be the people in this new denomination she was really attacking? [Watch video on http://www.acnaassembly.org. Interesting to find Pastor Rick Warren addressing the Inaugural Assembly of ACNA. I don’t remember ever seeing an evangelical Southern Baptist invited to speak at an Anglican inaugural event as important as this. This is truly something new. ]