Saturday, June 12, 2010

Katherine Jefferts Schori on the Mission of the Church

Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the US, recently gave a address in which she outlined her theology of mission. This deserves examination and critique because I hear some of the same rhetoric from left-wing Evangelicals today and it is sad and depressing because it is empty and secular. This is a textbook example of a false Gospel being proclaimed by an increasingly irrelevant liberal Protestantism to an increasingly indifferent culture.
I'm going to try to set the stage for talking about mission, because that's the larger context for talking about "Witnessing to Christ Today". And I will do in the context of the challenges of The Episcopal Church (TEC).

We are going to look at mission the world today -- the why, what, and how of it. And then I will speak more contextually about the growing edges of mission in The Episcopal Church today.
She clearly indicates here that she is laying the foundation for a discussion of mission in her official teaching role as the primary teacher of the Episcopal Church. She goes on to discuss mission systematically. Here is how she defines Jesus' mission.
More and more we understand that we are supposed to be doing what Jesus claimed as His Own Mission: bringing Good News to the poor, release to the captive, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and challenging the oppressor.
To claim that this is an adequate summary of the mission of Jesus is to dismiss most of the Gospels as lacking in understanding of Jesus and false. She takes some characteristics of the kingdom of God, which is to be established, in Jesus' mind, when He returns, interprets them in secular this-worldly only terms and then calls it Jesus' mission that he calls us to join in. Jesus did not come to help the poor; He came to accomplish an act of redemption that would reconcile a sinful world to God and make the coming of the Kingdom possible. Her concept of the Church's mission is to continue the inspiring work begun by Jesus, the first social worker.
Today church-wide mission reflects increasingly the five Anglican Marks of Mission. We adopted those for a framework for mission at our General Convention last summer, and Episcopalians are slowly becoming more aware of them.

We engage in disaster relief and development work through Episcopal Relief and Development which started out in 1940 as the Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief. A humanitarian response to refugees during the Second World War. Today Episcopal Relief and Development, touches two million people a year in domestic disaster relief and oversees development and disaster work in more than 40 nations.

Episcopal Migration Ministries was originally an arm of that Presiding Bishop's Fund. And today it resettles four to five thousand refugees eah year.

We have on-going mission partnerships with overseas and domestic dioceses funded from the church-wide budget for developing ministries in native communities and emerging contexts. We engage in chaplaincy to the Armed Forces, federal hospitals and prisons.

We continue in formal covenant relationships with Provinces which were once part of The Episcopal Church: Mexico, of the Anglican Communion that were once part of The Episcopal Church: Mexico, the Church in Central America -- usually called IARCA -- Liberia, the Philippians, and Brazil.

We're involved in mission partnership with most other parts of the Anglican Communion, at a variety of levels: the parish level, the diocesan level and church-wide.

We are in full communion relationship with Evangelical Lutheran Church in America -- in the United States. We're full communion relationship with the Old Catholics in Europe. . . .

A town of 800 probably doesn't need three different Mainline churches. And if there are ways that Episcopalians, Methodists, Lutherans and others can make common cause everyone will be better served.

We're engaged in the on-going work of developing congregations and mission awareness. Internationally our mission work is most often shaped by the (eight) Millennium Development Goals, [*See below.] as approximate vision of the Reign of God.

In our US context we are two years into a mission initiative that's focused on domestic poverty, primarily in Native American communities.

We're engaged in the on-going work of developing congregations and mission awareness. Internationally our mission work is most often shaped by the (eight) Millennium Development Goals, [*See below.] as approximate vision of the Reign of God. . . .
FYI, here are the eight Millennium Development Goals:

To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
To achieve universal primary education;
To promote gender equality and empower women;
To reduce child mortality rate;
To improve maternal health;
To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
To ensure environmental sustainability;
and To develop a global partnership for development.

In all of this talk (and you can check the rest of it online here), there is no mention of sin, repentance, evangelism, conversion, salvation from sin, judgment, heaven, hell or the cross. It is basically an agenda that the Rotary Club could easily adopt. There is no Gospel here whatsoever; it is all about doing good works of a secular and this worldly nature.

So it is hardly surprising that she is forced to admit that only four small dioceses out of 100 in the US are growing. This unbiblical and unspiritual concept of mission as social work just is not relevant today. It is redundant; Jefferts Schori has nothing to tell the world that it does not already know and it has no power to offer that the world does not already have. It is simply irrelevant and out of touch.

No comments: