Friday, May 23, 2008

+KJS: Helping poor trumps "being right"

From an interview with +Katharine Jefferts Schori by Peter Smith, The Courier-Journal (Louisville) - also participating in the interview was Bishop Ted Gulick of the Diocese of Kentucky. [boldface mine]:

. . . Q. You have spoken about the Millennium Development Goals (targeting extreme global poverty) as a point of church unity. Why is it that the bishops from some of the countries that would seem to be the beneficiaries of this point of unity the most -- such as Uganda and Nigeria -- why are they the ones saying that we have to have unity in this other area (of sexual morals) as well. Do you think you're missing something or that they're missing something?

Jefferts Schori: Well, different people prioritize the world in different ways. Some people believe that being right is the most important thing in the world. Others think that feeding people is more important. But if you're hungry, your political party doesn't make a whole lot of difference.

Q. Do you feel that's what's motivating this?

Jefferts Schori: I think it's a piece of it. I think a piece of it also is really wrapped up in colonialism. This communion needs to have that conversation, and we have not done it. We're seeing evidence of continuing colonial attitudes around the communion (which developed alongside the expansion of the British empire). We see reverse colonialism. We see neo-colonialism. And we don't examine it. We're still treating each other as commodities in many, many different ways.

Q. Can you break that down? Who's being colonial?

Jefferts Schori: It goes in many directions. It's multi-layered. There's a colonial aspect to the establishment of congregations of the Church of Bolivia in Kentucky. We are being colonized. There is a reverse colonialism in some of the interactions between people in this church and people in the church in Africa. There is I think a neo-colonial aspect in the way in which some factions in this church are exploiting people in other parts of the communion. Those are challenging things to talk about, but it's a part of discovering our own sinfulness.

Q. I've also heard it said that the Western churches, with a very gay-friendly agenda, are once again importing Western ideas onto countries that don't want these ideas, that that's an aspect of colonialism.

Jefferts Schori: That could be said. I don't think there's a great push to impose, even within this (American) church, the idea that (any particular) congregation must provide blessing for same-sex unions. That's not part of the conversation. It's a matter of making it available.

Gulick: I think Katharine's right on that. In the late 1980s, when I as a straight white male suddenly found in Newport News, Va. (where Gulick was then a pastor), in the early moments of the AIDS crisis, I started having deep conversations with persons who were affected by that illness. I woke up to what I think was my own personal clarity, that certain expressions of same-sex attraction are fundamental to certain people's being. I have never in 30 years wanted to inflict that perspective on an Africa bishop, and I've been in conversation with hundreds of African bishops. It's my own insight. I talk to them about how I came to believe that. I would never presume that my relationship with my companion bishop in Rwanda is dependent on his believing that. It's an absurd thing to say that. ... I don't know any colleague in the House of Bishops that has ever done that or wants to do that.

Jefferts Schori: It's a red herring. Even Gene Robinson is not doing that. He's not going to Africa insisting that they change their way of dealing with people, except to remind people of what Lambeth has said repeatedly, that all persons are deserving of human dignity and civil rights, and pastoral care. (Lambeth, the once-a-decade summit of Anglican bishops, declared in 1998 that homosexuality was "incompatible with Scripture" while calling on "all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation.")

Q. The Episcopal Church, like other mainline denominations is losing members and attendance. What's going wrong, and what can the church do about it?

Jefferts Schori: I'm not sure if it's a matter of things going wrong. It's a re-examination across our culture of the sources of authority. There are people in this culture who cannot live with an understanding that says, "The way I interpret a book that was written nearly 2,000 years ago is the way you must believe. You can't question that. You can't offer another interpretation. You must take it the way I see it." The Reformation was about inviting people into conversation with that text. That produces a variety of interpretations. Anglicanism has always said that variety is important to the health of the body. Re-examination of authority is challenging the church as well.

We're a far less clerical institution than we were 50 years ago. That's a piece of it. We're rediscovering the fact that all baptized persons are called into ministry and not just the people wearing funny clothes, and that daily living is where we need God. That's where Jesus calls us into ministry.

Read it all.


Hening said...

I am trying to apply compassion to my criticisms in order to keep them from being sinful, and to imitate Chris Keeping that in mind, it never ceases to amaze me of how belligerent this Bishop really is. I welcome the true Christian bishops, who are willing to travel to this country in order to provide shepherding to it's disarrayed flocks. Christian leadership and missionary work is not colonizing, unless your perception of what Christianity and the congregation that constitutes the body of Christ is warped. She actually sounds threatened by the presence of Christ!

We who are called to minister must take the challenge to bring the true word of that two-thousand year old book to the world. The missionary work is staggering if we wish to win crowns for the Lord.

I pray for this leader and her damaged, sin seeping church.

Perpetua said...

I had not realized before that she took the Bible so literally. I didn't know anyone took "Feed my sheep," literally.