January 16, 2007

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:5-7

“The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation, by water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her, to be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.”

– “The Church’s One Foundation”, Hymn 525, The Hymnal 1982

——

For anyone wondering why The Episcopal Church is hemorrhaging membership, losing priests, parishioners, and whole congregations to other orthodox denominations, and spending more time in courts trying to keep congregations from taking their buildings with them than spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, one need only look at the recent words of the Rt. Reverend Katharine Jefforts Schori, the church’s own Presiding Bishop, when it comes to answering the seemingly innocuous, yet fundamental, question: is Jesus Christ “the way, the truth, and the life”?

One would think that, as both a Christian and the head of one of Christendom’s mainline Protestant churches, that would be a rather easy and straightforward question for someone of her office to answer. But no, the hemming and hawing she responds with contains enough nuance to make anyone wonder if, in fact, there’s anything she truly believes. David Virtue provides the details (my boldings):

In Arkansas last week Mrs. Schori had this to say at her first consecration about whether she could “affirm” Jesus’ statement: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” She does so with caveats.

Here is what she said: “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.”

Asked about the rest of Christ’s declaration: “No man cometh unto to the father but by me,” Jefferts Schori continued. “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,” she said.

Ahem. Go back to Sunday School, Ms. Schori. If it were one of my Goodboys friends or some college academic trying to explain that Gospel passage, I could understand, but as the esteemed leader of The Episcopal Church, the (currently, though perhaps not for long) sole Anglican province in the U.S., that’s a pretty poor and pathetic answer to what should be a no-brainer.

Let’s break it down, shall we? First of all, for Jesus to be ‘your way’ does not make you someone ‘on a spiritual journey’ (whatever that means), it makes you a Christian – ya know, like when you promise to ‘follow and obey Him as your Lord’ when you or someone you’re witnessing is baptized. You remember that, don’t you, Bishop Schori? And all this dopey, nuanced ‘I’m impatient with that’, ‘narrow understanding’, ‘narrow construction’ nonsense – have you not read the Lord’s own words from the Gospel of Luke:

“Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’ He said to them, ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” Luke 13: 23-24

So basically, what you’re saying is that you’re ‘impatient’ with Jesus’ own sentiments (if not words), and ‘do not affirm’ them in their context either, eh? Well, aren’t those fine sentiments for the head of a mainline Protestant Church, a church whose own Catechism teaches that the truths taught by the Holy Spirit are ‘those when they are in accord with the Scriptures’ (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 853)!

This, unfortunately, is the usual clap-trap I’ve come to expect from people like Ms. Schori and the supposed ‘leaders’ of our Church. They’re so afraid to offend anyone that they don’t even have the courage to state what their own faith believes! I find that both astounding and depressing. You see, there’s nothing wrong with affirming the faith of one’s religion; to have confidence in the beliefs and teachings upon which your Church and your personal faith is built upon is not condemning anyone – in fact, just doing so in a quiet and confident, not boastful or mean-spirited, way is one way to draw people towards your religion and to build up your church.

To me, this kind of question has never been a particularly difficult one to answer, and you don’t have to denigrate other peoples’ religions or spirituality by answering it honestly, in your own way. Here’s the way I look at it: say I need to go from Phoenix to Denver. Look at all the ways there are of getting there – you can travel by foot, car, bus, bicycle, train, hand-glider, and plane, among others. And there are a variety of tools I can use to help point me in the right direction, as well. There are maps, compasses, GPS, directions from strangers, the Internet – again, any number of methods at my disposal.

As a Christian, if my ultimate goal and hope is eternal life in heaven (whatever that might mean to me or to anyone), I believe Jesus Christ is the surest way; I think of it as like going directly to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, walking up to the nearest ticket counter, and buying a one-way ticket to, say, Denver. Unless, say, the plane crashes en route, the chances are overwhelming that, if I do all the right things (drive carefully, bring money, find the right airline, etc.), I’m gonna get to Denver that day. Does that mean, however, that my plane trip is the only way to get to Denver? Of course not. As I mentioned above, there are a myriad of ways I could try and get there, but again, as a Christian, I believe these other ways, while perfectly acceptable to some (perhaps even most), contain more inherent risks that can lead one astray and, perhaps far from Denver (both practically and figuratively).

Now well-intentioned and good-reasoned people can agree or disagree with me. And that’s fine – I personally have friends from a number of different faiths, and some who are agnostics, if not down-right athiests. When the occasion arises, I might try to talk up my faith and my beliefs, but I don’t go ’round condemning them just because their belief system is different than mine. But – and this is the important thing – they know I have a faith and belief system, and that my life and my values evolve from that. You see, I’m not ashamed of the Gospel and my Christian beliefs, and am not afraid to defend them either. And the same should hold true for Ms. Schori – especially given her position and role in The Episcopal Church. But she’s either too afraid to let her true faith and beliefs be seen by anyone for fear of offending someone, or worse, she’s simply expressing her honest, heartfelt belief. And if, in fact, that’s the case, the Church she heads will only continue to reap what it has sown.

—-

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith: as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live’.” Romans 1:16-17

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:28 | Comments (0)
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