This is actually from the first day of the Episcopal General Convention, but it is so outlandish, so ridiculous, so extreme, and its source so important, that I wanted to be sure to get it up before things went any further. The speaker is the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefforts-Schori, the Presiding Bishop herself, making her opening address to the Convention, in which she claimed the following:
The overarching connection in all of these crises has to do with the great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals, that any of use 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. 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 all being. That heresy is one reason for the theme of this Convention.
Now, there is nothing wrong with stressing the centrality of the Kingdom of God in the preaching of Jesus, or of the Body of Christ in the letters of Paul. No one–not even the people that the bishop so absurdly caricatures–denies the importance of the church to God’s plan of salvation. But to claim that we aren’t saved as individuals, that we are only part of the collective, flies in the face of so much Scripture as to be breath-taking. Just one example should suffice:
[W]hat does it [the righteousness of faith, referred to in verse 6] say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:8-13)
Passages such as this are the reason why, when we stand to recite the Nicene or Apostles’ Creed as a statement of our faith, we begin, “I believe,” as have generations from Christians since the writing of these two confessions. For that matter, it is the reason that we publicly and verbally confess our faith, an act that Jefforts-Schori seems to hold in contempt, or at the very least seems to think is a trivial matter of no consequence. The hilarious thing is that when she says that some contend that “reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus” is necessary for salvation (if she can find such a person I’d love to meet him or her), she refers to them as “me and my words,” despite the fact that they aren’t my words, they are the church’s words, words that we use to express our solidarity with other believers through time and space.
Oh, and one other observation: the spectacle of this woman, who presides over a body (the House of Bishops) that includes among its membership a man who repudiates every single significant Christian teaching–from the personal nature of God, to the Trinity, to the resurrection, atonement, and virginal conception of Christ, etc.–to use the word “heresy” with regard to anything may be the laughable thing to ever come out of the mouth of a Christian leader.