Monday, February 24, 2014

A Clarification

A recent graduate of Nashotah House, whose opinion I value highly, has written in response to an earlier post to say that it sounds like I was impugning the orthodoxy of the three students who requested that Bishop Salmon invite Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to preach at Nashotah House on May 1.

So I want to clarify that it was not my intention to impugn the three students, and I have revised that piece in order to make this clear.  The point I was making is that, when you follow Bishop Salmon's strategy of reaching out to Episcopal dioceses where the Presiding Bishop's teaching and actions are viewed more favorably and less critically, you are going to attract students to Nashotah House who think it is perfectly all right to invite Katharine Jefferts Schori to preach in the Chapel.  My issue is not with the students but with the invitation.  Students ask deans for things all the time; and it is the Dean's responsibility to know when to say yes or no.

On a purely human level, I understand where these students are coming from.  Whether you are relatively new to the Episcopal Church or you have been brought up to respect Episcopal Church structures and leaders, and you have the opportunity to get to know the Presiding Bishop, I can understand that you might want her to approve of your career path and the seminary that you are attending.  If you love the seminary you are attending and discover that it is a place where she would actively discourage you from going, you would want to do something to remedy that situation, including inviting her for a visit.

So what would I have said if I were still the Dean, and these three students had come to me with the suggestion to invite her?  I would say this:

First of all, the Presiding Bishop spoke in Milwaukee just last year.  (All three of these students, whose identities I have since learned, and for whom I have deep respect, were students at the House at that time.)  There was an opportunity for students at Nashotah House who wanted to hear and and interact with the Presiding Bishop to do so then.

I would say to these students that while Episcopal Presiding Bishops have been getting progressively more liberal since Edmund Browning, Katharine Jefferts Schori in some ways represents a radical departure, actively engaging in false teaching about the nature of God, the unique divinity and saving work of Jesus Christ, as well as the authority of Scripture--an example of which is her handling the account of Paul's healing of a demon possessed girl in Acts 16 in a way that I am forced to conclude reflects a deliberately perverse interpretation of that passage.   

Further, this particular Presiding Bishop has deposed and sued (and is still suing) bishops on Nashotah House's Board of Trustees and numerous alumni and loyal supporters of this House.  Currently, she is engaged in lawsuits against supporters of the House in the Diocese of Quincy including suing the Bishop, the clerical and lay members of the Standing Committee, and the rectors of each parish personally and individually with an un-Christian and heartless disregard for their personal circumstances--all in an effort to get back buildings that the Episcopal Church does not need and cannot use.  (The Episcopal Church tried the same tactic unsuccessfully in its current lawsuit against the Diocese of South Carolina, headed by Bishop Mark Lawrence--another Nashotah Trustee.)

Indeed the Presiding Bishop has spent a reported $40 million on lawsuits against Christians, many of whom support this seminary and what it stands for.  If she would like to heed the clear teaching of 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 and cease her un-Christian hostility toward our Trustees, alumni, and supporters, then we could perhaps discuss an invitation, not to preach in Chapel, but to come and see, and dialogue.  I doubt that will happen in the 16 months remaining in her term as Presiding Bishop, so let me say to you that, in the larger scheme of things, you really do not need this woman's advice or approval on your path as you seek to serve Jesus.

But there is one other thing:  During my time as Dean and President, this House has exemplified what one Trustee Bishop dubbed the "Pax Nashotah."  This term refers to the relative peace that exists in our community between those who are called to serve in the Episcopal Church and those who are called to serve in other jurisdictions.  We are not concerned with the jurisdiction our students come from or in which part of God's vineyard they will serve after graduation.  We are simply here to help our students become the best priests and ministers they can be.  Having a preacher whose teaching stands so clearly stands outside our Statement of Identity and whose actions have been so harmful to our trustees, alumni, supporters--and even to the parishes from which some of our students come--would cause great distress to your fellow students and to the peace and welfare of this community.  I am afraid I must say no to your suggestion that I invite the Presiding Bishop to preach here.

[I would pray that, if it were explained this way, the students themselves would understand the inappropriateness and potential harm of this invitation to the community.]

Finally, I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul:
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.  I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.  Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.  And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.  (Acts 20:28-32).

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