Aug 3rd, 2006 · Categories: Culture, PCUSA · No Comments

ECUSA – the future of the PCUSA?

As noted in the “about me” box on the right side of the home page, I am an elder in a mainline denomination seemingly bent on self-immolation. So I observed with some interest the selection of Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop-elect of another imploding denomination, the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. I am not personally acquainted with “Bishop Katharine” as she seems to be known. I’m sure she’s a nice lady and I wish her no ill will. But a recent Time magazine interview provided a chilling glimpse into the likely future of the PCUSA.

Asked what her focus would be as head of the ECUSA, she replied

Our focus needs to be on feeding people who go to bed hungry, on providing primary education to girls and boys, on healing people with AIDS, on addressing tuberculosis and malaria, on sustainable development. That ought to be the primary focus.

These are all laudable activities, the sort of things Christians are called to do (although my denomination seems to think that we are merely called to lobby the government to do those things on our behalf). But the “primary focus”?

The list sounds like the primary focus of the Department of Health and Human Services, not of a church that once believed it received its primary focus directly from Christ – “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) I would have thought she might mention preaching the gospel as part of her primary focus, maybe down the list between malaria and sustainable development, but surely somewhere.

Asked if “belief in Jesus” was the only way to get to heaven, I hoped the leader of a church that once accepted the truth of Jesus’ words would mention his own reply to that question – “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) But no. She answered

We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.

These are honest and frightening words. They seem to say that the ECUSA is reduced to a group of people “who practice the Christian tradition” while utterly disregarding the person and work of the one whose name they have borrowed. This notion of doing good works without a clear understanding of their source echoes the blindness of the PCUSA’s previous Moderator, Rick Ufford-Chase. On the page entitled What I Believe, Ufford-Chase confesses to believe only one thing about Jesus:

Jesus is God’s radical answer to the unbelievable suffering that exists all over the world.

But Jesus could be that answer only by first addressing sin – the real source of the world’s “unbelievable suffering”. Jesus could be that answer only by being who he was – untamable, unpredictable, dangerous, and holy, only by enraging puffed-up religious leaders and driving away casual followers with hard truths, only by laying down his life in a messy, bloody death, tortured and nailed alive to a tree because we humans had no other path to reconciliation with his holy Father, and only by taking his life up again three days later. Jesus could be that answer only by being God. So Bishop Katharine was right about one thing. Those “who practice the Christian tradition” of lip service and works judged good by human standards do indeed “put God in an awfully small box.”

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 3rd, 2006 at 11:57 pm and is filed under Culture, PCUSA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>