"It's no longer the social norm to be a Christian," Jefferts Schori says. Her answer isn't to ramp up on orthodoxy but to reach out to all ages and cultures with Christlike social action.
Critics say she equivocates on essential doctrine — the necessity for atonement and the exclusivity of salvation through Christ. They cite interviews in which she has said living like Jesus in this world was a more urgent task than worrying about the next world.
"It's not my job to pick" who is saved. "It's God's job," she tells USA TODAY.
Yes, sin "is pervasive, part of human nature," but "it's not the centerpiece of the Christian message. If we spend our time talking about sin and depravity, it is all we see in the world," she says…
Indeed, asked about her critics, Jefferts Schori doesn't blink. She leans in, drops her voice even lower and cuts to the chase.
She sees two strands of faith: One is "most concerned with atonement, that Jesus died for our sins and our most important task is to repent." But the other is "the more gracious strand," says the bishop who dresses like a sunrise.
It "is to talk about life, to claim the joy and the blessings for good that it offers, to look forward.
"God became human in order that we may become divine. That's our task."
Of note is that the centerpiece of Bishop Jefferts Schori’s message to her flock is the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
Contrast this with the words of Pope Benedict XVI:
“The Misericordias,” he continued, “are the oldest type of volunteer organization to have arisen in the world.” The group, according to its founder was formed, “to give honor to God with works of mercy towards neighbors, with the utmost anonymity and totally without cost,” the Holy Father pointed out.
The Pope reminded the group how, in man’s final encounter with the Lord, “He will ask us if, in the length of our earthy existence, we provided food for the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty; if we welcomed the stranger and opened the doors of our hearts to the needy. In a word, at the final judgment God will ask us if we loved, not in an abstract way, but concretely, with our works.”
Citing St. John of the Cross, he recalled that, “at the end of our lives we will be judged by love,” and continued by affirming that, “love is a language which goes directly to the heart and opens it to faith.”
“I exhort you,” the Holy Father said, “to always be ready to respond when you are asked for the reason for the hope which is with in you.”
The Pope also reflected on the important work the group does in preserving the “Christian roots” of Italy and Europe. The Holy Father affirmed that, “the Misericordias are not an ecclesial aggregation, but that its historical roots are unmistakably Christian.”
To maintain its roots, the Pope emphasized the need for carrying out “periodical moments of qualification and training, to study evermore the human and Christian motives of our activities.”
“The risk,” he added, “is that volunteering can be reduced to a simple activism. If instead the spiritual weight remains vital, you can share with others much more than just the material goods they need, you can offer to your neighbor facing difficulties, the gaze of love which he needs.”
In other words, our good works must be within the context of our Faith. Charitable action divorced from our faith is merely social activism. The time spent in prayer, study, and reflection is essential to our works of mercy. Those who wish to present faithfulness to Scripture and Tradition, recognition of sin, and atonement as diametrically opposed to serving our neighbor are grossly in error.
I would love to think that somehow the primates in Tanzania will see this error and perhaps even think about bridging the Tiber. Unfortunately, those who follow Bishop Jefferts Schori’s ideology seem to control much of the Anglican Communion and certainly the vast majority of The Episcopal Church. Do keep our Anglican brethren in your prayers. There will be much sorrow in their hearts if their divisions cannot be healed.
But also be on guard in our own Church. There are many within our “social justice” ministries that scoff at our Catholic devotions. They see them as a waste of energy and resources. They are willing to compromise Catholic doctrine and teaching in order to relieve earthly suffering. As Lent approaches, let us keep this in mind as we give alms to those in need. Let us offer more than mere social activism. Let us offer authentic Catholic charity.