October 21, 2014

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori & Martyrdom

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the controversial top bishop who’s presided over her denomination’s schism and accelerated decline, almost gave a good sermon. Speaking in Kansas last Friday, she movingly extolled Christian martyrdom, citing early church father Ignatius and persecuted Christians in the Mideast of today.

Of Ignatius, Jefferts Schori recalled his affirmation of the Trinity and that Jesus “was fully human, rather than only appearing to be, and that he really died and rose from the dead.” Facing a brutal execution under Emperor Trajan, he sacrificially embraced his martyrdom: “I am God’s wheat, to be ground fine by the teeth of lions to become purest bread for Christ.”

Jefferts Schori noted the “challenge” today of being Christian as a small minority in Asia, facing social, familial and state hostility, citing Muslim women “arrested for the crime of apostasy for marrying Christian men” and “Christians who are being driven out of Syria today date their presence from the time of Ignatius.” She spoke of modern martyrs who risk death by helping victims of Ebola.

Then Jefferts Schori drove off the ecclesial tracks by linking martyrdom and faithfulness under a common baptism to the Episcopal Church’s current obsession with hyper diversity. “It can be painful, particularly when some people decide to leave because we’re not narrow enough,” she lamented, in a barely veiled reference to traditionalists who have quit her denomination. “A piece of our common life departs with them. Maybe we do seem peculiar to some when we say, ‘you’re welcome here, whoever you are, and we’ll hear your opinions, tell you ours, and together find ways to expand the conversation.’ ”

Many orthodox Anglicans, especially they whose sanctuaries were seized by the Episcopal Church under the direction of Jefferts Schori, don’t believe they were a “welcome” part of her “conversation.”

The Presiding Bishop also seemed to dilute the truly momentous reality of martyrdom by hailing modern supposed martyrs who simply stay married, found an urban children’s camp for children, or are just “friends who go to each other’s churches and learn and grow.”

Ignatius at about age 80 was torn apart by wild beasts in the coliseum as a bloodthirsty crowd and Caesar viewed his suffering as sport. As difficult as some Episcopal churches might be today, visiting them in exchange visits with friends to “learn and grow” somehow doesn’t seem comparable, or a martyrdom of any sort. In watered down Christianity, which strives not to expect too much, being nice is hailed as heroic.

Neither St. Ignatius, nor most modern Christians persecuted in the Mideast or Asia, would identify with Jefferts Schori’s spiritualized celebration of diversity and inclusive pluralism. Early Church Fathers like Ignatius instead wrote stark boundaries with their own blood between the Body of Christ and the surrounding pagan world. They aimed for holiness, not inclusiveness for its own sake.

Does Jefferts Schori possibly see herself as a martyr for steadfastly plowing her once great denomination so disastrously further into the snow banks of theological obfuscation? If so, she should ponder St. Ignatius’s warning against “those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God.” Or would she consider that martyr “narrow” and unwelcoming because of his insistence, to the point of death, on Christian orthodoxy?


16 Responses to Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori & Martyrdom

  1. John S. says:

    “Does Jefferts Schori possibly see herself as a martyr…” Yes, she and her ilk think they suffer greatly in condesending to talk at those who do not share their place on the right side of history. They are made unclean and must purify themselves when forced to associate with those who hold a medieval view of the Bible. Fortunately they can look forward to the troglodytes dying off.

  2. polistra24 says:

    Anyone who calls for a “conversation” or “debate” in modern times means the following:

    “I’ll do the talking. You’ll shut up and obey me blindly and unquestioningly.”

    • Alan says:

      Actually, it often is a real invitation to conversation. It is just that actually thinking makes many people uncomfortable, so they make claims like yours rather than participating in the conversation. For many of us, it is somewhere between amusing and dismaying to see sincere appeals for tolerant and open discussion intolerantly dismissed as intolerantly dismissive.

  3. Palamas says:

    Ignatius would have pronounced anathema on the likes of Schori.

  4. William Murphy says:

    The Episcopal Church hasn’t been a Christian Church in many years.

  5. Demon Teddy Bear says:

    There is little purpose in seeking clarity in the words of those people for whom words and ideas are merely the tools of convenience.

  6. Dan says:

    Schori is the epitome of the limousine/gated community liberal. I’m sure she thinks that she and her ilk are going on to perfection.

  7. ve6 says:

    400 years ago, she would have been burned at the stake.

  8. Evan Hurst says:

    “Stark boundaries with their own blood.”

    Good line, dude.

  9. Fr. Richard Jones says:

    Excellent and Interesting article in light of the fact that I was just re-reading the epistle of St. Ignatius to the Ephesians. In that epistle he reminds the Church at Ephesus: “For some are wont of malicious gile to hawk about the Name (Jesus) while they do certain other things unworthy of God. These men (or women) ye ought to shun, as wild beasts; for they are mad dogs, biting by stealth; against whom ye ought to be on your guard, for they are hard to heal.” (ch.7 v.1 [Lightfoot]).

    Perhaps the Presiding Bishop passed over that section when appropriating St. Ignatius to back up her self-serving masquerade.

  10. Beau Jackson says:

    Amazing to hear the head of this culture-conforming church talk about martyrdom. What martyrs does the liberal church produce? None. When you fit in very comfortably with the secular culture, you’ll die safely in your bed, of old age. “Liberal martyr” is an oxymoron, unless you count the occasional Episcopal or Catholic priest who manages to get arrested in some protest, knowing he’ll be bailed out within 5 minutes.

  11. JuliaMarks says:

    I would like to point out a possible weakness in one of your assertions. As an Orthodox Anglican I can testify that when some of these people (including Schori herself) actually talks with someone like me, it must be a form of martyrdom for them. The pain. The agony. The sacrifice. Trust me, for some of these Episcopalians, being nice is a way of dying.

  12. Paul Zesewitz says:

    ‘Early Church fathers’? I find it peculiar she failed to mention the two original martyrs of the early Church, namely Peter, Jesus’ right hand man who was given the keys to the kingdom and then was crucified upside-down in the city of Rome for his faith, and Paul, who many believe was intended to be a replacement for the traitor Judas Iscariot. The same Paul who later had his head chopped off for his faith,by Nero. Myself, I’ve never even heard of Ignatius.

  13. Essie says:

    Yes it is very funny to hear a person who denies the faith and theological/philosophical convictions that Ignatius died for and that prompted him to do so, talk about him or any other Christian martyr.

    However I implore classical Christians to a little humility. Many people think that not being a liberal/progressive is some type of achievement. It isn’t. Not mentally ascending to theology and philosophical positions that clearly go against or undermine Christian teaching is just the first, easy step. When the Bible speaks about false or lukewarm Christians/believers it often assumes said person ascends to typical theology but is still very off course.

    A lot of the spiritual but not religious or the empty version of Christianity taught by Bishop Jeffers Schori comes from the failings of the Church, wherever contemporary or pre-modernist split.

    Those that claim to be following the most loyal version of Christianity most evaluate themselves and see how much their understanding, teaching and formation is just a empty cup or sinking sand. Michael Horton’s talk about Moralistic Theruptic Deism and how it goes BOTH ways is a good listen. He speaks about how a non-Christian woman analyzed the sermons of a revisionist pastors and a “orthodox” pastors on the prodigal son. She found they both essential taught the same things but how they just condemned the different archetypes, the liberal condemned the older brother, the stand in for the “intolerant conservatives” and the conservative pastor condemned the younger brother, the stand in for the “crazy liberals.”

    So while on the surface and certainly with the Bishop’s rejection of things like personal salvation etc etc, there is a big “difference”, it is often all moralistic therapeutic deism in different forms; one white american “Christianity” vs another white american “Christianity”.

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