Saturday, May 03, 2014

Schori's Visit and the Pax Nashotah

(H/T Virtue Online)

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting on Thursday's visit of Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, to Nashotah House Theological Seminary.

While reporting that "The Episcopal Church... is among the more liberal of the 39 provinces in the Worldwide Anglican Communion..." and that "the Anglo-Catholic Nashotah House is one of the more conservative Episcopal seminaries," religion editor, Annysa Johnson, went on to say that,"...the seminary works to nurture an ethos — something it calls Pax Nashotah — in which individuals with theologically diverse views live and work respectfully together."

The term "Pax Nashotah" was coined in a very complimentary blog reflection by Bishop Dan Martins after a May 2009 visit to Nashotah House.  (He updated his impressions in similarly laudatory terms following another visit in 2010.)  Bp. Martins later became an alumni trustee and, following Bishop Ed Salmon's move from Chairman of the Board to become Dean and President, Martins became the next Chairman of Nashotah House's Board.

Since I was the Dean and President under whom the Pax Nashotah that Bishop Martins observed came to be a reality, let me offer the following clarification:

The climate we were blessed to have at Nashotah House during those years (the Pax Nashotah) was never intended to be an ethos, as the Journal Sentinel reports, "in which individuals with theologically diverse views live and work respectfully together."

The climate in Anglicanism in those years was (and continues to be) one in which many who remained in the Episcopal Church sometimes demonized those who had left, beginning with the departures of the Dioceses of San Joaquin and Quincy in 2008, followed by the Dioceses of Fort Worth and Pittsburgh in 2009.  (More recently, Katharine Jefferts Schori herself has been accused of doing precisely this in a sermon preached in South Carolina.)  Departing Anglicans, for their part, have also demonized those who have remained in the Episcopal Church.

The "Pax Nashotah" that came to exist during the latter half of my deanship at Nashotah House was was one in which Anglicans of different jurisdictions could live, work, and worship together respectfully, not in spite of "theologically diverse views," but precisely because they shared a unity in Christian faith and teaching.

The students who enrolled at the House represented a variety of jurisdictions, together with students from dioceses of the Episcopal Church who were looking for the orthodox education that Nashotah House offered.  We were seeking to be, first and foremost, an orthodox Christian institution, one where ecclesiastical affiliations or jurisdictions did not matter.  We were there to become the best servants we could be for Jesus and His Church.  We would leave the matter of the jurisdiction where we were called to serve up to Him.

It is the theological unity that undergirded the Pax Nashotah that has been challenged by the current administration's decision to invite Katharine Jefferts Schori (and a procession of bishops whose views approach Jefferts Schori's in varying degrees) to preach at the House.  This is the subtle but significant shift that has taken place:  The position of Nashotah House has shifted from jurisdictions not mattering as long as we all agree in the truth to theological differences not mattering as long as we can all get along.  

You can read Katharine Jefferts Schori's sermon at Nashotah House on the Episcopal Church website.  Although her reference to Jesus is supported by Scripture references in a footnote, the reference to "Wisdom and her prophet" sounds more Gnostic than Christian.  This won't surprise anyone who has been paying attention.  Jefferts Schori's theology is exactly what a modern-day Gnostic would believe.  Her denial of Jesus as the only way to the Father and her views regarding salvation are ones with which a Gnostic would agree.  Her claim that St. Paul of Tarsus' curing of a demon-possessed slave girl as described in the Bible was  "depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness" is precisely what a modern-day Gnostic or Neo-Pagan would say about it. 

The message should be clear:  Any orthodox Christian seeking to work in the Episcopal Church today needs to have a game plan for reforming it or at least for maintaining orthodoxy in the spheres in which he or she ministers--knowing that it will be in the face of enormous challenges, even (or perhaps especially) from the Episcopal Church's top leadership. 

When the initial controversy erupted surrounding the invitation of Katharine Jefferts Schori's to preach at Nashotah House, Bp. Martins reportedly said that there had been lots of heretics in the pulpit at Nashotah House during his three years as a seminarian.  That is undoubtedly true for Nashotah House at that time, and that was precisely the kind of ethos from which we were intentionally moving away during my deanship. 

There is no point in cataloging here once again the numerous errors that have become part and parcel of current Episcopal Church teaching.  There is no point listing once again the errors that have characterized Katharine Jefferts Schori's own preaching and teaching.  There is no point enumerating Jefferts Schori's depositions and lawsuits against faithful Anglicans, including Nashotah House trustees, alumni, and supporters.  The current administration of Nashotah House has shown it doesn't care. 

The new agenda seems to be that a relationship with the Episcopal Church, even with its heretical leadership, is paramount.  But what is to be gained from this relationship?  A few more students from dioceses of the Episcopal Church whose influence will move the seminary in a more heterodox direction?  A little more money?  What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?  It is the soul of Nashotah House that is at stake in the invitation to Katharine Jefferts Schori and the direction of the House that this invitation represents.   

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