Thursday, February 08, 2007

Katherine and the work of God in this cosmos

Below is the latest “Meditation” by the lady Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, her last before she flies to East Africa for the Meeting of the 38 Primates of whom she is one, and the only lady one.

What strikes me about the content of her writing and speeches is its horizontalism or immanentism or pantheism (maybe panentheism). The God she serves seems only to act within and for this cosmos and not come into the cosmos from outside. Thus her kingdom of God is not a divine revolution created by an Incarnate God from “above” and “beyond” who created this world out of nothing and who is creating a new heaven and earth for those who are united to him by faith; but rather the kingdom is the improvement in quality of this world as a temporal reality and as the “body” of God or “the home of God.” Especially does she claim to find God in the least and lowest of human kind for as universal, good Spirit, Divinity cares for all, especially the needy, is her belief.

Her two sermons when she was installed in Washington D C on November 4-5 2006 revealed her active pantheism (or panentheism) and also showed how she had taken the Sacrament of Regeneration (birth into the heavenly kingdom and heavenly Family of the Transcendent GOD, the Father almighty) and made it into the Sacrament of peace and justice in this world and initiation into service in and for this world. She sounded like a dynamic form of the old liberalism that looked for the realization of the “kingdom of God” on earth through human striving (although now through United Nations Millennium schemes and goals). “Baptismal Sprinkling” and “The Baptismal Covenant” interpreted as committing one to the work of being co-worker with God, the universal Spirit, to improve this world seems to be her message. If Baptism is a this-worldly Sacrament of entry into a life of striving for peace and justice, then Eucharist is the affirmation of the strivers as the friends of God who are affirmed and fed by Divinity as they engage in the divine work.

Below she leaves out of the theme of Lent the self-examination, the confession of sin, the mortification of sin and the cleansing from sin, which are in the classic devotional books and she send us to look for Christ – not in the Word written, not in the Sacraments, not in the Saints, but in strangers whom we are to make our friends. For Mother Teresa of Calcutta this kind of talk could be based on Matthew 25:35 and in the context of the biblical doctrine of the Incarnation with no trace of pantheism; but with Katherine it sounds like a moral form of pantheism –looking for the universal Spirit in all and embracing it through them.

Read what she writes and make your own estimate!

To date I have not heard her say anything or I have not read anything by her that causes me to think that she believes in what is called classic Trinitarian Theism, which is the basis of Catholic Christianity and the foundational truth of Anglican worship in the classic editions of The Book of Common Prayer. She is as far as I can tell a pantheist or a panentheist (for which see the recent book by John W Cooper, Panentheism, Baker Books, Grand Rapids).

February 7, 2007

In this season: 'Christ in the stranger's guise'
A reflection from the Presiding Bishop

[ENS] Note to readers: With this posting, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori continues a series of occasional reflections for the people of the Episcopal Church. The reflections are also available on the Presiding Bishop's web pages at

In this season: 'Christ in the stranger's guise'

For the People of the Episcopal Church

As the primates of the Anglican Communion prepare to gather next week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I ask your prayers for all of us, and for our time together. I especially ask you to remember the mission that is our reason for being as the Anglican Communion –- God's mission to heal this broken world. The primates gather for fellowship, study, and conversation at these meetings, begun less than thirty years ago. The ability to know each other and understand our various contexts is the foundation of shared mission. We cannot easily be partners with strangers.

That meeting ends just as Lent begins, and as we approach this season, I would suggest three particularly appropriate attitudes. Traditionally the season has been one in which candidates prepared for baptism through prayer, fasting, and acts of mercy. This year, we might all constructively pray for greater awareness and understanding of the strangers around us, particularly those strangers whom we are not yet ready or able to call friends. That awareness can only come with our own greater investment in discovering the image of God in those strangers. It will require an attitude of humility, recognizing that we can not possibly know the fullness of God if we are unable to recognize his hand at work in unlikely persons or contexts. We might constructively fast from a desire to make assumptions about the motives of those strangers not yet become friends. And finally, we might constructively focus our passions on those in whom Christ is most evident –- the suffering, those on the margins, the forgotten, ignored, and overlooked of our world. And as we seek to serve that suffering servant made evident in our midst, we might reflect on what Jesus himself called us –-
friends (John 15:15).

Celtic Rune of Hospitality
I saw a stranger yesterday;
I put food in the eating place,
drink in the drinking place,
music in the listening place;
and in the sacred name of the Triune God
he blessed myself and my house,
my cattle and my dear ones,
and the lark said in her song:
Oft, Oft, Oft, goes Christ in the stranger's guise.


-- The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori is Presiding Bishop and Primate of the
Episcopal Church.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)

No comments: