Sunday, March 25, 2007

Bishop Whalon on House of Bishops' Meeting

Reflections posted today to BishopBlogging -- the blog of +Pierre Whalon, Bishop of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe.

While celebrating the Annunciation (“the angel said unto Mary…”), I am also trying to finish my response to the recent meeting of the House of Bishops. Lots of other bishops have beaten me to the punch, but I think this is because my piece is (as usual) longer.

A few observations: it seems to be unanimous—best meeting ever. Kudos to Bishop Katharine, for letting the Planning Committee take responsibility for executing the meeting agenda; for making sure we understood that we were responsible for what we produced and that she was not going to interfere or “save” us (the savior job having been very adequately filled); and for running the business meeting with graciousness, humor and firmness.

One image I will always remember: a new bishop asked her to clarify her stand on the uniqueness of Christ. +Katharine replied that her view is similar to that of Vatican II (Nostra ætate, actually), namely that Jesus Christ is the final self-revelation of God in the world, but that salvation is possible outside of the Christian Church. He seemed dissatisfied with this reply. After adjourning the session, she went right over to him and they talked for fifteen minutes, alone in the meeting room.

This showed two things about the new Presiding Bishop. First, contrary to some reports, her Christology is orthodox. There have been some who have held that extra ecclesiam nulla salus—outside the Church there is no salvation. But this does not jibe with Jesus’ behavior toward Gentiles nor to Paul’s teaching about grace. What is essential, as the PB noted, is that Christians do not know how God saves people outside the New Covenant. Somehow Jesus Christ, through whom all things were made, makes provision, since through him all people are offered salvation.

The other aspect of this incident is that +Katharine Jefferts-Schori cares about people who do not agree with her. She did not know that I was standing outside the meeting room with two other bishops, chewing the fat, until we realized that the two of them were still talking in the room. So this was not for show.

By now it is well known that some conservative bishops switched their votes to put her over the top. “They even brag about it,” remarked one Anglican Communion official to me. All I have to say is—

“Thanks, guys.”

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