How much worse can it get in the Episcopal Church, U.S.A.?2
There is an article in today’s edition of the New York Times (6-22-13) that only adds to the sad story that is ECUSA (the Episcopal Church, U.S.A.). The article, by Mark Oppenheimer, is titled, “For Episcopal Church’s Leader, a Sermon Leads to More Dissent.”
As most of you probably know, Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected as presiding bishop of ECUSA in 2006. On May 12 of this year she preached a “sermon” at All Saints Church in the town of Steenrijk, on Curacao, the Dutch island off the Venezuelan coast. Her text was Acts 16:16-34 and specifically the incident where the Apostle Paul cast a demon out of a slave girl who had “brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling” (v. 16b). Well, at least that’s what we used to think it was about.
According to Jefferts Schori, writes Oppenheimer, “Paul was guilty of failing to value diversity, [of failing] to see the slave girl’s beautiful ‘difference.’” As the bishop reads this story, the slave girl is “telling the same truth Paul and others claim for themselves. But Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness. Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it.”
So let me get this straight. First, the Apostle Paul is “annoyed” because this slave girl has “put [him] in his place.” Uh, o.k. Second, he didn’t deliver her of a demonic spirit but simply deprived her of her gift of “spiritual awareness.” Hmmm. Interesting. Finally, Paul’s intolerant and unloving exclusivism “can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it.” Well, there you have it. Wonderful things in the Bible we see, things that are put there by you and by me!
I’ll leave it to you to read the account and decide whether or not Jefferts Schori’s “interpretation” is even remotely within the boundaries of biblical reason and orthodox theology. My concern is what this reveals about the status and future of ECUSA. If the appointed leader of this denomination feels free to play so incredibly fast and loose with the text of Scripture, one can hardly be surprised by the steady doctrinal decline of this once orthodox body of believers. It is nothing less than shameless to take a story of the powerful and gracious deliverance of an oppressed and demonized young girl and twist it to justify the promotion of a political and social agenda that has no basis in the text of Scripture.
Indeed, one trembles to think of what is at work in the mind of someone who turns a “fortune-telling” “spirit of divination” (v. 16), into something “beautiful” and “holy”. Oppenheimer comments that under the leadership of Jefferts Schori “the Episcopal church has spent millions of dollars in legal fights to keep the church buildings of congregations whose members have voted to leave the Episcopal Church, often to affiliate with more traditionalist organizations.” And who finds that surprising?