A person of average intelligence, upon reading the article cited below, might reasonably conclude that it is a parody from The Onion. Unfortunately, it is an actual press release from the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury who, only a few days ago, issued a joint statement with his cohort from York, scolding and bullying the three largest provinces in the Anglican Communion for their unshakable adherence to biblical standards of sexual morality. Today, however, Justin Welby is singing quite a different tune with regards to the Presiding Bureaucrat of a province that is largely irrelevant and utterly unrecognizable as a legitimate Christian body.
Archbishop Justin has welcomed news that the Presiding Bishop [sic] of the Episcopal Church [sic], Bishop [sic] Katharine Jefferts Schori, is to be awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity by the University of Oxford.One might well ask the Archbishop if he can actually produce even one marginal example of Mrs. Schori's "remarkable gifts of intellect and compassion." Certainly, this "sermon" of hers, preached at All Saints, Curacao last May, does not offer much in the way of intellect . . .
He said: “I am delighted by the news that the Most Revd Dr [sic] Katharine Jefferts Schori is to receive an honorary Doctor of Divinity from the University of Oxford. This award, richly deserved, reaffirms Bishop [sic] Katharine’s remarkable gifts of intellect and compassion, which she has dedicated to the service of Christ. Prior to becoming ordained, Bishop [sic] Katharine pursued a career in oceanography, and her enduring deep commitment to the environment has evolved into a profound dedication to stewardship of our planet and humankind, especially in relieving poverty and extending the love and hospitality of Christ to those on the edges of society. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said of Bishop [sic] Katharine, "In her version of reality, everything is sacred except sin." It must be noted, too, that Bishop [sic] Katharine’s achievements serve – and will continue to serve – as a powerful model for women seeking to pursue their vocations in the church.”
There are some remarkable examples of that kind of blindness in the readings we heard this morning, and slavery is wrapped up in a lot of it. Paul is annoyed at the slave girl who keeps pursuing him, telling the world that he and his companions are slaves of God. She is quite right. She’s telling the same truth Paul and others claim for themselves. But Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness. Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it. It gets him thrown in prison. That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognize that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so! The amazing thing is that during that long night in jail he remembers that he might find God there – so he and his cellmates spend the night praying and singing hymns.. . . and, as those of us here in South Carolina can tell you firsthand, compassion is definitely not her strong suit!
An earthquake opens the doors and sets them free, and now Paul and his friends most definitely discern the presence of God. The jailer doesn’t – he thinks his end is at hand. This time, Paul remembers who he is and that all his neighbors are reflections of God, and he reaches out to his frightened captor. This time Paul acts with compassion rather than annoyance, and as a result the company of Jesus’ friends expands to include a whole new household. It makes me wonder what would have happened to that slave girl if Paul had seen the spirit of God in her.
As for Mrs. Schori's purported commitment to environmental stewardship and "relieving poverty and extending the love and hospitality of Christ to those on the edges of society," again, what examples can Archbishop Welby offer to warrant his praising her in this regard? He would be hard pressed to find anything but hard evidence to the contrary.
Desmond Tutu's praise for Mrs. Schori is also off the mark. Contra Tutu, in Schori's version of reality, nothing is sacred but sin!
In praising an unremarkable woman for an unremarkable career, on the heels of his chiding three of the truly remarkable leaders from growing African provinces, Justin Welby proves once again that he is himself a most unremarkable archbishop on the wrong side of history in an otherwise most remarkable era for Anglicanism around the world.
UPDATE: Peter Ould questions the authorship of the Welby press release. Whether or not he actually wrote it or even saw it, however, it purports to be from the Archbishop himself, so I wouldn't let him off that easily.