GC2009: Episcopal Presiding Bishop says individual salvation is "heresy," "idolatry"
By David W. Virtue in Anaheim
The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori derided individual salvation calling it 'the great Western heresy: that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God.'
In her opening address to the church's General Conference in California, Jefferts Schori said it was a "heresy" to believe that an individual can be saved through personal faith and trust in Jesus Christ acknowledged in a prayer of repentance.
She said that view is 'caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus.'
According to Schori, it is heresy to believe that an individual's prayer can achieve a saving relationship with God. "That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy."
Ms. Jefferts Schori is dead wrong.
The entire message of both Old and New Testaments is God's pursuit of man, not man's search for Ubuntu.
Her ridiculing of personal salvation in favor of social amelioration through Millennium Development Goals is little more than a rehash of the Social Gospel of the Sixties that has seen a massive hemorrhaging of mainline denominations in America.
Jefferts Schori is on the wrong side of history. Her, and the church's understanding of mission - to save the world for God - is arrogance and hubris. No one human being, organization or ministry has that capacity. God alone has the power to save the world. Jesus himself admitted that the poor would always be with us.
We are called to be obedient to The Great Commission, "to go into all the world and preach the gospel" of God's grace, inviting people into his kingdom based on the very (and personal) call to repentance.
It is not about a "formula", as Jefferts Schori caricatures it. The Sinner's Prayer is not a recitation of the Four Spiritual Laws. Formula faith is not real faith; it never has been and never will be.
Many of those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ have wrestled with that call. St. Paul's Damascus Road experience was no "Ubuntu" moment. Neither was the experience of John Bunyan of Pilgrim's Progress, an everyman character, which centers itself on his journey from his hometown, the "City of Destruction" ("this world"), to the "Celestial City" ("that which is to come": Heaven) atop Mt. Zion. He is only and finally freed from the weight of his burden - the knowledge of his sin - when he repents of his sin at the foot of the cross.
Jefferts Schori will have none of that kind of faith or talk.
Ironically, it is precisely that kind of faith that has energized more than 100,000 Episcopalians in 700 parishes and 28 dioceses to leave The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to start another Anglican Church on North American soil to preach THAT gospel which she rejects.
Is it any wonder then that The Episcopal Church is on a trajectory towards death while the Anglican Church of North America is on an incline to life.
Last week's, the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans meeting in London was a reiteration of the "faith once for all delivered to the saints" the call to "Be Faithful" amidst a culture of unfaithfulness, decadence and decline.
The Church of England, and its counterpart The Episcopal Church together have average Sunday attendances that make up one decent sized Nigerian diocese. Is it any wonder then that focus of Anglicanism is no longer in the West but in the Global South.
This begs the question, at a deeper level, as to why the fast-growing Anglican Communion in the other two-thirds of the world needs to pay service, even lip service to Canterbury.
Today, the Archbishop of Canterbury pleaded with The Episcopal Church at a Eucharist to make decisions regarding human sexuality that "would not push us further apart."
He said that if people elsewhere in the Communion are concerned about this, it's because of a profound sense of what the Episcopal Church has given and can give to our fellowship worldwide.
That statement is simply not true. The amount of money that TEC has used to buy loyalty or win provinces over is not working. Just ask the Archbishop of the Sudan. What The Episcopal Church has "given" to the Anglican Communion has caused discord and dissent.
Bishop Robinson's consecration has not only profoundly affected evangelism to Muslim peoples it has brought Muslim opprobrium on Anglicanism and Christianity in general. It has also brought discredit on a communion that many feel has permanently lost its way.
Western pan Anglicanism is in decline. It's only hope is a reaffirmation of a gospel that does not wince at substitutionary atonement, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, forgiveness of sins through repentance and faith and the hope of eternal life.
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