"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Presiding Bishop on the "Afterlife"

Recently Katharine Jeffert Schori, the Presiding Bishop of TEC, gave an interview to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in which a reporter asked her to elucidate, among other things, previous comments she has made about the afterlife (comments that have caused many people to conclude that she does not believe in the afterlife in any meaningful sense). Please note how hard the reporter (ADG) has to work to get the leader of the Episcopal church to admit that she believes in a continued existence after death in any sense at all, let alone the robust, Catholic sense of "life after death" and "resurrection." (The entire interview, btw, is a fascinating showing of the PB's state of mind--e.g., the Millenium Development Goals as a substitute for the Gospel of Christ, etc. After reading this you will not doubt that she is in no mood to recognize the rights of the orthodox, esp. with regard to property).

Here are some fascinating highlights, with my emphasis added:

ADG: I want to ask you about a couple of other things you’ve said in interviews. One of those was in the 10 questions in TIME magazine about the small box that people put God in. Could you elaborate a little bit on your take on “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life” [a paraphrase of John 14:16]?
KJS: I certainly don’t disagree with that statement that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. But the way it’s used is as a truth serum, or a touchstone: If you cannot repeat this statement, then you’re not a faithful Christian or person of faith. I think Jesus as way – that’s certainly what it means to be on a spiritual journey. It means to be in search of relationship with God. We understand Jesus as truth in the sense of being the wholeness of human expression. What does it mean to be wholly and fully and completely a human being? Jesus as life, again, an example of abundant life. We understand him as bringer of abundant life but also as exemplar. What does it mean to be both fully human and fully divine? Here we have the evidence in human form. So I’m impatient with the narrow understanding, but certainly welcoming of the broader understanding.
ADG: What about the rest of that statement –
KJS: The small box?
ADG: Well, the rest of the verse, that no one comes to the Father except by the son.
KJS: Again in its narrow construction, it tends to eliminate other possibilities. In its broader construction, yes, human beings come to relationship with God largely through their experience of holiness in other human beings. Through seeing God at work in other people’s lives. In that sense, yes, I will affirm that statement. But not in the narrow sense, that people can only come to relationship with God through consciously believing in Jesus
. ...

ADG: That reminds me of something else you said. This was a CNN interview when Kyra Phillips asked you what happens when we die. You had an interesting answer that got some Southern Baptists riled up.
KJS: OK. I didn’t hear their reaction.
ADG: Al Mohler – I don’t know whether you’re familiar with him –
KJS: I’m not.
ADG: He’s a seminary president [at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville] and has a blog and a radio show. [Mohler posted the exchange on his Web site]. It seemed to some people that you were saying there isn’t an afterlife.
KJS: I don’t think Jesus was focused on that. I think Jesus was focused on heaven in this life, primarily. The Judeo-Christian tradition has always said yes, there is resurrection. There is life after death. But I think Jesus was not so worried about that. I think he’s worried about what we’re doing to treat our fellow human beings as children of God. He says the kingdom of heaven is among you, and within you, and around you.
ADG: So does that mean that in your view there is no afterlife?
KJS: That’s not what I said. I said what I think Jesus is more concerned about is heavenly existence, eternal life, in this life.
ADG: So there again, that’s partly why the Millennium Development Goals are important to you? To improve people’s lives now?
KJS: Absolutely. The Anglican tradition of Christianity is world-affirming, it is focused on incarnation, and it insists that we’re not meant to shut ourselves off from the world in a pietistic sense or in a sectarian sense. That we’re meant to be in the world, and transforming the world into something that looks more like the reign of God.
ADG: Do you think there’s any part of us that lives on somewhere after we die?
KJS: Absolutely. But that’s not a question that concerns me day in and day out. I think I’m meant to use the gifts I have to transform the world in this life.
ADG: [Brown asked whether Jefferts Schori’s views on the afterlife are more informed by the Old Testament than the New.] I know you’re a fan of the book of Isaiah.
KJS: Jesus was clearly in the prophetic tradition. The prophets are concerned about human beings in this life, how governmental structures have oppressed them; they’re concerned with liberation from that oppression. They’re not patient with the idea that one suffers in this life so you can live in glory after you die. Not patient with that idea at all


Blogger Julian said...

"I think Jesus was focused on heaven in this life, primarily" - WHAT? No way! She should have told Nietzsche that.

9:06 PM  
Blogger father wb said...

I think one of the most telling bits was the following:

"I think the Episcopal church provides... an openness of perspective that insists that people have to come to their own conclusions. The answers of faith aren’t going to be provided for you."

Indeed. If you've got questions, your time's better spent staying at home than looking for answers from ECUSA. At least the PB admits it.

1:47 PM  
Blogger MICHAEL said...

About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

Peace Be With You

12:51 PM  

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