Episcopal High Priestess Katherine Jefferts-Schori
Addressing delegates at a recent triennial meeting of Episcopalians in Anaheim, California, Katherine Jefferts-Schori won this month’s Rand villain award by arguing passionately that the Christian doctrine of individual salvation was all wrong.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told delegates to the group’s triennial meeting July 8 in Anaheim, Calif., that the overarching connection to problems facing Episcopalians has to do with “the great Western heresy — that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God.”
“It’s caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus,” Jefferts Schori, the first woman to be elected as a primate in the worldwide Anglican Communion three years ago, said. “That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of being.”
Schori said countering individualistic faith was one reason the theme chosen for the meeting was “Ubuntu,” an African word that describes humaneness, caring, sharing and being in harmony with all of creation.
“Ubuntu doesn’t have any ‘I’s in it,” she said. “The ‘I’ only emerges as we connect — and that is really what the word means: I am because we are, and I can only become a whole person in relationship with others. There is no ‘I’ without ‘you,’ and in our context, you and I are known only as we reflect the image of the One who created us.”
Jefferts Schori said “heretical and individualistic understanding” contributes to problems like neglect for the environment and the current worldwide economic recession.
“The sins of a few have wreaked havoc with the lives of many, as greed and dishonesty have destroyed livelihoods, educational possibilities, care for the aged, and multiple forms of creativity,” she said. “And that’s just the aftermath of Ponzi schemes for which a handful will go to jail.”
She said in order to be faithful, “we need to be continually rediscovering that my needs are not the only significant ones.”
“Ubuntu implies that selfishness and self-centeredness cannot long survive,” she said. “We are our siblings’ knowers and their keepers, and we cannot be known without them.”
“We have no meaning, no true existence in isolation,” she said. “We shall indeed die as we forget or ignore that reality.”