Was Bishop Schori really talking about the heresy of selfishness?

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. ]

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Author: Kevin S.

A follower of Jesus, a husband and a father. Hobbies include biking, keeping fish if they don't die on me, blogging when I can, theologizing and ministry, and pondering about world affairs.

8 thoughts on “Was Bishop Schori really talking about the heresy of selfishness?”

  1. Kevin,

    Interesting post! Although I am not a member of the Anglican/Episcopal church, I have tried to stay updated with what is going on. The one thing that I notice is that there seems to be a general lack of good leadership. Please understand that I am not saying this as some sort of apologetic about the Papacy. But, rather there is no clear voice who speaks up for the clear scriptural/orthodox teachings, but also in a loving, pastoral way. Thats just my 2 cents, which may off-base.

    On a similar note, have you seen the a recent article from NT Wright: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article6710640.ece

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  2. Tim, thanks so much. You're absolutely right. There does seem to be a lack of good leadership. Too often, in our churches, leadership is gained through appointment or election as positional leadership (e.g., bishop). There are so many aspects of good spiritual leadership that I can't name them all. But I believe one of the many and various characteristics of true pastoral leadership, which can only be earned (as opposed to being appointed) through our genuine love and caring for the church and people. And also like you said, to uphold scripture and orthodox teaching.

    Yes, I've seen the article by NT Wright. I just read it again and caught a quote I give thumbs up for:

    Justice never means “treating everybody the same way”, but “treating people appropriately”, which involves making distinctions between different people and situations. Justice has never meant “the right to give active expression to any and every sexual desire”.

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  3. Kevin,

    Indeed! That is the quote that caught my attention as well. It is right on. The concepts/definitions of justice and even freedom are in great need of clarification, not only in the Church but in the world in general.

    God bless!

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  4. One of the things I think that has unquestionably happened is a strong ecumenical spirit. Liberals got the ecumenicalism bug cooperating on missionary work after World War I. Conservatives got it from the non denominational movement (or "non denominational baptist" movement) with tons of churches that are indifferent to the previous denominational splits.

    For a long time the split has really been left/right not denominational. The choice of Warren (southern baptist) and Metropolitan Jonah (OPC) I think sent a clear message of who the leadership sees themselves as primarily in communion with.

    Fundamentalist / Modernist still seems to be the fault line.

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  5. CD-Host, yes, this left/right theological difference will continue to cause more splits, as I see it. I am hopeful but yet not hopeful of the church ever getting our act together. I don't know if we will ever be able to be free from church splits. There are just too many theological issues that can divide. Sometime, I've pictured an ideal church as a big umbrella willing to accept a wide spectrum of theological opinions. But I don't know if this is ever truly possible. We will inevitably continuously return to trying to hold the church true to higher moral standards. Whether we are on the left or the right, we still have some moral standards to uphold.

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  6. CD-H, and having Rev. Rick Warren and Metropolitan Jonah speak at the inaugural is groundbreaking. It kind of surprised me. This was a loud statement to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion in general that the ACNA is serious about ecumenism and preserving orthodox Anglican theology.

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  7. I have to disagree with the statement that evangelical Episcopalians are sometimes called “orthodox Episcopalians/Anglicans” or “conservative Episcopalians/Anglicans”.

    There is nothing that automatically links someone who compulsively witnesses to people about Christ with orthodoxy, save in the broad sense that this behavior tends to come from a deep trust and belief in Christ. The “orthodox” do adhere to formulaic versions of address and a belief that they alone have “right teaching.”

    The difficulty here is that “right teaching” is routinely confused with “historic teaching.” I would no more want a doctor whose learning stopped in 1549 to treat me than I would want a preacher whose understanding stopped in 1549 to teach me.

    That being said, I doubt Schori was attacking either evangelicalism or orthodoxy per se, but rather a blind commitment to rote recitation. You forget: she is educated as a scientist, and to the great relief of many, offers a way to show that science and faith belong to different frames of the same universal truths.

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  8. Susan, evangelical Anglican/Episcopalians are in the position to use the term “orthodox or “historic” Episcopalians. From an objective point-of-view, if they haven’t moved from the historic theological positions of the church, that would make them orthodox, wouldn’t it?

    But at the same time, I would say that no one is perfectly orthodox either. Even evangelical/orthodox Anglicans have some unorthodox beliefs so I wouldn’t say that anyone should have a monopoly on the term.

    You said: I doubt Schori was attacking either evangelicalism or orthodoxy per se, but rather a blind commitment to rote recitation.

    I hope you are right but I perceived it as an attack or an opinion due to a lack of understanding. Such a comment is not an isolated one. I think she is also confusing those who don’t hold to her universalist position as holding to “works righteousness” (see the very end of the YouTube clip).

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