(Given that the Diocese of Atlanta is presently considering the restoration of Pelagius, I thought re-posting this article from 2006 might aid their deliberations)
Searching the published writings, sermons, and interviews of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, one would be hard pressed to find clear-cut, unmitigated expressions of orthodox Christian doctrine. At the same time, the following five errors consistently stand out.
1. Pelagianism: The British monk Pelagius (354-420? AD) rejected the doctrine of Original Sin, insisting that the created order remained unmarred by Adam’s Fall. Asserting the pristine nature of humanity, he denied the necessity of divine grace. Humans naturally know and do the good.
The argument consistently advanced by PB Katharine Jefferts Schori in support of blessing homosexual behavior proceeds in 6 steps: 1. Homosexuality is a genetically/biologically predetermined trait/predisposition. 2. God is Creator 3. God as Creator has Created all things. 4. God has called all created things good. 5. Homosexual desire is created by God 6. Homosexual desire and behavior is, therefore, good.
Here is one example from an interview with Stephen Crittenden of the Relion Report:
KJS: Well if one looks at the rest of creation, there are lots and lots of instances of same-sex behaviour in other species. They’re generally a small percentage of the whole, but they’re clearly evident. If they exist, an evolutionary theorist would say they have some kind of evolutionary benefit, or they don’t have a massive evolutionary detriment, and if we can affirm that creation is good, as Genesis would say, then I think we have to take those instances quite seriously.
This argument necessarily rests on the Pelagian concept of a pristine created order. By way of contrast, the biblical doctrine of the Fall means that Christians cannot assume that “inborn” or “natural” desires and/or behaviors are necessarily “created” desires and/or behaviors. “Natural” desires and behaviors are measured by the standard of God’s Word in order to determine whether they are consistent with God’s created order or consistent with the fallen nature.
This requires submission to divine revelation over and above human reason…
2. Marcionism: Marcion (excommunicated 144 AD) imagined a god whose character was wholly love and grace. This god, revealed primarily in the New Testament, stood opposed to the god of law revealed primarily in the Old Testament. Using the concepts of “love” and “grace” as normative criteria Marcion argued that the Church must systematically remove those books and passages from the canon that do not fit. The true canon, in other words, would be determined by Marcion’s re-imaged conceptualization of the divine.
In the same way the Presiding Bishop explicitly privileges certain sections of the scriptures over and above others, based on her own predetermined “image” of the divine.
Here is one example from an article she wrote in the fall of 2003 for her diocesan newsletter.
KJS: As Anglicans, we have always asserted that we listen to three primary sources of authority to scripture, to tradition, and to reason. The debate which has risen to the level of the Anglican primates has its roots in putting different emphasis on those three sources of authority. The Episcopal Church’s General Convention acted last summer out of a sense that reason and a broad reading of the Great Commandment required a different conclusion about matters of homosexuality than did strict adherence to seven passages in scripture which seem to speak against it. The other wing of the church says that those seven passages have ultimate authority, and therefore “we will obey the Bible.”
The “Great Commandment” is her criterion for determining the authority and relevance of the rest of scripture because it (the Great Commandment) is consistent with her personal construct or image of God; an “image” formed by “reason” apart from God’s own self-revelation.
3. Pluralism (John Hick): The Rev. Dr. Alister McGrath in his introductory text “Christian Theology” (pp 534-537) summarizes three distinct ways of understanding the mediatorial role of Christ in salvation:
1.Particularism: The idea that subjective appropriation (knowledge, assent and surrender) or “faith” in the Person and Work of Christ is necessary for salvation.
2. Inclusivism: Articulated by theologian Karl Rahner and codified in the Roman document “Dominus Jesus,” the Inclusivist asserts that individuals who, though without access to the gospel, sincerely seek the Truth, follow the Truth they find, and obey the witness of their own conscience, may be saved by the merciful and vicarious application of the benefits of Christ.
These first two positions (Particularism and Inclusivism) maintain the classic orthodox claim that Christ is the sole mediator of salvation. The third position, Pluralism, articulated by John Hick in the early 20th century, has been rejected by every major branch of the Church.
3. Pluralism: Christ is one among many valid pathways to God, but not the only pathway. Faithful Buddhists, for example, are saved through Buddha (not Christ vicariously mediated through Buddhism)
Katherine Jefferts Schori consistently and explicitly articulates the Pluralist view. Here is a notable example from her interview with Time Magazine:
Time: Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?
KJS: We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.
Christ is one among many equally valid vehicles to the divine. This a clear embrace of Hick’s position. Moreover, given an opportunity during an interview with NPR to clarify her remarks and perhaps retreat to the Inclusivist view, she instead chose to reiterate and confirm the Pluralist position.
4. Universalism: The assertion that there is no eternal judgment or hell; that all, by virtue of natural birth, receive eternal life with God. Universalism is the logically consistent position for those who reject the concept of Original Sin and who believe that all faiths are equally valid “vehicles” to the Father. It is, therefore, the stated position of the Unitarian Universalist Church. It also seems to be the position of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church:
Here is a quote from the Presiding Bishop’s interview with CNN
KJS: What happens after you die? I would ask you that question. But what’s important about your life, what is it that has made you a unique individual? What is the passion that has kept you getting up every morning and engaging the world? There are hints within that about what it is that continues after you die.
Her answer seems to be that the “essence” of “who you are,” your “passion,” lives on after you. You are “fulfilled.” Your potential is realized. This is a thoroughly pagan idea. There is no mention whatsoever of judgment, sin, heaven, hell, Jesus Christ, the cross, or repentance.
Everyone experiences an afterlife wherein their greatest passion is “actualized.” Eternal life is a universal given. Within the framework of a pristine created order this makes perfect sense. If there is no Fall, there is no need for “salvation”. “Actualization” or self-fulfillment is far more relevant.
5. Gnosticism: The influx and influence of Gnostic thought during the second, third, and fourth centuries provoked the Christological controversies that ultimately produced of the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. These authoritatively defined Trinitarian dogma and affirmed the dual natures of Christ over and against Gnostic assertions of a radical antithesis between body and soul, flesh and spirit. Gnostic “Christians” deemphasized, allegorized, and/or denied the biblical witness to the Incarnation, Virgin Birth, and bodily Resurrection, considering the idea that God would take on human nature, human flesh, utterly repugnant.
Modern day radical New Testament critics like Marcus Borg, John D. Crossan and John Spong take up the Gnostic flesh/spirit antithesis, asserting a dichotomy between the “Risen Christ” and the “historical Jesus” and denying the historicity of the Incarnation, Virgin Birth, and bodily Resurrection. New Testament accounts are reinterpreted as literary metaphor and allegory or reduced to mystical experience. This permits modern-day Gnostics to employ the language of the Creeds while denying their content.
Here is a troubling quote from the Presiding Bishop that echoes the modern critics (also from her Religion Report interview linked above)
Stephen Crittenden: I guess we should just dwell on it a little bit more because it’s not an idea we hear very often. What is it a metaphor for, Jesus as mother?
Katherine Jefferts Schori: It’s a metaphor for new creation. When we insist that the Christ event in the death and resurrection of Jesus brings a new possibility of life, a new kind of life to humanity, it is certainly akin to rebirth. When Jesus says to Nicodemus You must be born again from above, what might he mean? I think it is a way of the gospel is saying that Jesus is a venue, an event, an experience, and an instance in which life is renewed, in which every human being as access to new life
What is a “Christ event” and what specifically was the Christ event in the death and resurrection of Jesus? Wouldn’t any event in the earthly life of Jesus necessarily represent a “Christ event”?
While at first glance she seems to recognize the resurrection as an “event” in Jesus’ historical life; that impression is difficult if not impossible to maintain given the rest of her answer. In her final sentence, Jesus is not described as an historical person but as a “venue, an event, and experience and an instance in which life is renewed”.
This is quite similar to the language found in the various works of Borg, Crossan, Spong. It is a description of the historical events of Jesus’ life in mystical/metaphorical terms.
It is important to note, given her words above, that in 2003 KJS invited John Shelby Spong (of 12 Theses fame) to lead a training conference for the clergy of her diocese.
In sum, the elected leader of the Episcopal Church consistently makes comments consistent with the following 5 major heresies: