Katharine Jefferts Schori: Different lenses provide different views of Scripture

The primates’ meeting has come and gone, and I’m sure there will have been abundant commentary by the time this is published. I’d like to reflect on some of the deeper issues behind our conversations about sexuality, particularly the influence of our understanding of gender.

The most intriguing conversation I had in Alexandria was with a primate who asked how same-sex couples partition “roles.” He literally asked if one was identified as the wife and one as the husband, and then wanted to know which one promised to obey the other in the marriage ceremony. Several of us explained that marriage in the West is most often understood as a partnership of equals, and has been for some time.

Those of you with a few more years on you may remember that the marriage service in the 1928 (and earlier versions) of the Book of Common Prayer did indeed have language about the wife obeying her husband. It’s pertinent here to note that the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer is still the norm in many provinces of the Anglican Communion, and it uses the same kind of language about obeying in the marriage service.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Primates, Episcopal Church (TEC), Primates Meeting Alexandria Egypt, February 2009, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts, Theology, Theology: Scripture

30 comments on “Katharine Jefferts Schori: Different lenses provide different views of Scripture

  1. AnglicanFirst says:

    Aaahhhh, I see, its just a ‘cultural thing.’

    Sort of like the prohibitions regarding the eating of shell fish.

    Preserving and re-enforcing the concept of marriage as the union between a man and a woman must just be a ‘cultural thing’ also.

    The concern of man regarding the consequences of out-of-wedlock births must ‘just be’ a ‘cultural thing’ too.

    Marriage as a vehicle for reproduction and the nourishing and raising of children must ‘just be a cultural thing.’ Why, we can just let our children wander around in the streets and grow up like weeds.

    Ms. Schori is being sooo ‘discerning and prophetic’ here.

  2. AnglicanFirst says:

    In comment #1., please change
    “The concern of man regarding…”
    to read
    “The concern of many regarding….”

  3. Chris says:

    revealing that she sticks with Prayer Book versions regarding marriage and stays away from Ephesians:

    22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

    Wonder what she thinks about that? And did the Primate ask her about that as well yet she kept it from her opinion piece?

  4. AnglicanFirst says:

    “Katharine Jefferts Schori: Different lenses provide different views of Scripture”

    A competent ‘propagandist’ IS a ‘distorting lens.’

    That’s what propagandists do with the Truth.

  5. Knapsack says:

    Y’know, that was a very helpful meditation — the contrast in Alexandria between the situation on the streets and the art in the conference room truly is problematic, and her reaction points to some of the sincere concern that motivates those pressing for “new things” out of their reading of what makes for Good News. I suspect she thinks the answer is as much for women to feel free to walk half-naked down the street as it is for art like that to be banned or shameful (but i can’t believe it didn’t occur to any conference organizers that those artworks were problematic for that event), but there’s a real element of sincerity here.

    If we’re going to re-educate our own about the holiness of chastity and the liberation of souls through faithfulness and a disciplined witness, we have to remember that there’s a sincere if misguided belief among the opposition that a liberality about sexuality will reduce oppression and anxiety and fearfulness. We may not talk as much or as often as we might about how the morality we find and teach from Scripture opens up doors for respect and holy equality between the sexes, and makes it possible for sexuality to be expressed with the joy and beauty that is at the heart of why we have that gift in the first place.

    Or, more bluntly, don’t just toss this kind of statement off as a rationalization by a libertine for doing what she or he wants to do whenever they want to do it. Isn’t true, doesn’t help. Find their best hopes, and lead that desire towards the Gospel.

  6. Katherine says:

    I think Jefferts Schori drew some inapt comparisons. I don’t know what the “half-naked women” pictures in the conference room means. It’s a resort hotel on the seashore. But what she saw on the streets on the way in were veiled women, with either headscarf, headscarf and cloak, or in the extreme, headscarf, cloak and face veil. In Egypt, veiling is not legally required, and it is worn by conservative-to-radical Muslim women; the more covering, the more radical the woman’s family. Comparing this, which is an effect of the rising of radical Islam, to the attitudes of the conservative African and other Southern primates there is comparing apples and oranges.

  7. Bruce says:

    It’s a minor point, but the use of the word “obey” in the betrothal was not included in the 1928. It is there in 1662, of course.

    Bruce Robison

  8. Bruce says:

    Don’t know why this point annoys me, but just to document my comment above. Perhaps it’s just because this kind of casual trashing of our heritage is becoming so commonplace that it acts as a kind of unreflective boilerplate for every observation. In any case:

    [b]The Betrothal, 1662[/b]

    [blockquote]If no impediment be alleged, then shall the Curate say unto the Man,
    WILT thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?

    The Man shall answer, I will.

    Then shall the Priest say unto the Woman,
    WILT thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?

    The Woman shall answer, I will.[/blockquote]

    [b]The Betrothal, 1928[/b]

    [blockquote]N. WILT thou have this Woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?

    ¶ The Man shall answer, I will.

    ¶ Then shall the Minister say unto the Woman,
    N. WILT thou have this Man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love him, comfort him, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?

    ¶ The Woman shall answer, I will.[/blockquote]

    I use the 1928 for a significant number, perhaps 1/3rd or so, of the marriages here at St. Andrew’s (making the decision with the couple after reading through both the ’28 and ’79 orders). Doesn’t sound like the PB has ever used it.

    Bruce Robison

  9. RalphM says:

    “All of which is to suggest that all of us read Scripture through the lenses we have”
    Methinks Lady Katherine’s lenses are mirrored on the inside…

  10. TomRightmyer says:

    At what point does an error become a lie? I have not seen any notice that Bishop Jefferts Schori had corrected her error about the text of the 1928 Marriage service. I’m reasonably sure her error has been pointed out to her.

  11. Crypto Papist says:

    [url=http://tinyurl.com/d2fnlo]This makes the thing ever so much more interesting.[/url]

  12. libraryjim says:

    You can’t judge her errors by your own standards, Tom. After all, that’s narrow-minded and non-inclusive. You have to realize that the truth is determined by different lenses (according to Frank Griswold) and is different also according to the cultural bias. Perhaps she REMEMBERS seeing it in the ’28, and that’s close enough to the truth for her statement to prove the point. {/sarcasm}

    In His peace
    Jim Elliott <><

  13. libraryjim says:

    It also reminded me of the Petra song:
    Looking through rose-colored stained glass windows.

    [blockquote]Another sleepy Sunday safe within the walls
    Outside a dying world in desperation calls
    But noone hears the cries or knows what they’re about
    The doors are locked within, or is it from without

    Looking through rose-colored stained glass windows
    Never allowing the world to come in
    Seeing no evil and feeling no pain
    And making the light as it comes from within
    So dim…So dim

    Out on your dorrstep lay masses in decay
    Ignore them long enough maybe they’ll go away
    When you have so much you think you have so much to lose
    You think you have no lack when you’re really destitute [/blockquote]

  14. mannainthewilderness says:

    To bad she does not read the Bible and does not understand that the Bible understands marriage to be between equals. A women should only marry a man (and submit) who will love and cherish her as Christ loved His Church. Mutual submission and love, is very much a focus of the Bible’s teaching about marriage. I guess her cultural lenses are just simply out of focus . . .

  15. John Wilkins says:

    There is nothing in this article that should be controversial. In fact, scripture has several lenses with which it sees itself. The prophets, Moses, each gospel writer and even Paul read scripture with a different lens.

    And that is why Christianity is liberated: the fragmentation of a unitary “reading” and the representation of Jesus makes the faith human, humane, embodied, incarnated, and present in the journey of each individual. With these different perspectives, Christianity gave birth to religious freedom.

  16. Dilbertnomore says:

    The only problem is, Bishop Shori seems to have very consistently selected the ‘Timothy Leary’ lens in coming up with her perceptions of scripture.

  17. Philip Snyder says:

    The problem is that TECUSA has constantly rubbed oil and dirt into its lenses and then blamed the lenses for the vision they provide.

    Christian Marriage is not a “partnership of equals.” It is a joining of two complimentary persons (male and female) into one flesh. This mistake about marriage as a partnership is what has caused the downfall of marriage in the US (and the west). Partnerships, after all, can be disolved. If marriage is a “partnership of equals” then gay “marriage” is just another form of partnership. If however, marriage is not about “partnership,” but about participating in God’s plan of salvation by modeling the internal life of the Trinity and by each person giving him or her self totally to the other, then “equality” has nothing to do with it. “Equality” is for those who don’t think they are equal. After all, you never hear the scholar declare “I am as smart as you” or the strong saying “I am as strong as you.” You only hear the “I am as … as you” from the person who doesn’t really believe that he is as … as the next person.”

    Marriage is far more than a partnership. It is part of God’s plan to bring about the salvation of the world. We “tinker” with this plan at our own peril.

    Phil Snyder

  18. Sidney says:

    I thought the article was pretty good. However, I think the line about ‘male supremacy’ at the end was unfair and imputed something to conservatives which is not universal. An experienced pastor shows those who disagree with her a little more respect than that – so either her inexperience peeks through, or she just doesn’t care.

    It was followed by the Gospel passage that recounts Salome and Herodias’ request for the head of John the Baptist. I don’t believe that section of the Gospel, alone, is ever read at Eucharist in the Episcopal Church — because there is precious little good news in it.

    This is a mistake, albeit an understandable one. The reading is in Proper 10B of the RCL, and we’ll hear it this summer. It wasn’t in the old lectionary, so probably she has never preached on it. Check facts before publishing, please.

    As I said on another blog, I wish Katharine had had her picture taken in front of the naked woman, maybe with a conservative primate. That would be priceless irony.

  19. Harvey says:

    The first thought that came to my mind. Rose-colored glasses give a very distorted picture of the world as we know it. I don’t like what I hear being spoken by the TEC leader. Makes me wonder what color her glasses are?? Just wondering.

  20. Alli B says:

    [blockquote]There is nothing in this article that should be controversial.[/blockquote]
    That’s dogma.
    [blockquote]I personally don’t see anything controversial in this article.[/blockquote]
    That would show a willingness to really have a dialogue, not just to pontificate.

  21. John Wilkins says:

    Hi Phil,

    I think that complementarity is a naturalistic reading of scripture. Scripture presumes complementarity, it is what it thought nature was all about. I don’t think it is essential.

    I think that it is Jesus who is God’s plan, not marriage. Marriage helps, of course, which is why some gay people don’t think it should be restricted.

    I think that saying marriage is a “partnershp” isn’t the reason marriage had trouble. It has more to do with the fact that women don’t require the economic part of the package. Marriage has always been about social welfare. The Trinitarian part is creative, but I can’t help but think that if I ask a young couple if they are modelling the trinity, I’ll just get stares or giggles.

    Jesus said “peace be with you.” It might be that the primary reason for marriage is “peace.” Which might also be the primary purpose of the cooperative nature of the trinity. The relationship between the sexes could have been war.

    so my lens, phil, isn’t complementarity, but what Jesus said: Peace be with you.

  22. oldnarnian says:

    Really, the whole point of the article is that “that this is really about male supremacy.” It should have been entitled “Why We’re Better Than They Are,” not “Varied understandings —
    Different lenses provide different views of Scripture.” We don’t learn to see through different lenses; we see others only through our President Bishop’s glasses, down her nose, at others who disagree with her.

  23. Philip Snyder says:

    I would say that adopting society’s view of marriage (a legal construct or partnership that can be temporary) is why Christian Marriage is in trouble.

    I would submit that overturning all of human history concerning marriage (male and female) or 2500+ years of Judeo-Christian teaching about marriage being one man, one woman for life is extemely dangerous. But the path to that has been to see marriage as a human institution, that can be changed to fit human society. From a secular standpoint it can be. But from a Christian Standpoint, marriage is defined for us, we do not get to change it. According to the Book of Common Prayer, we bless marriages for four reasons:
    1. God ordained marriage in Creation
    2. Jesus adorned marriage by his presence and first miracle in Cana
    3. Paul speaks of marriage as symbolizing the union of Christ and the Church.
    4. Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people.

    Can you show me anywhere in Holy Scripture where any of those four items is true of homosexual unions?

    Phil Snyder

  24. libraryjim says:

    Jesus on Marriage:

    Matthew 19:4-6
    “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

  25. MargaretG says:

    She hears what she wants to hear.

    There is no sign of the skill of listening to the other without imposing your own views.

  26. Daniel Muth says:

    Here we see – yet again – the fundamental problem with the Hermeneutics of Suspicion: it is an essentially corrupt and incoherent approach to, well, anything. Consider applying Mrs. Schori’s approach to culture and scripture to Mrs. Schori’s words. You would find yourself asking constantly what her real motivation must be for attacking innocent depictions of women in modern bathing garb, of well settled and apparently satisfactory (to its practitioners at least) traditions of Islam, and the much revered BCP. Obviously, in damaging each of these, she hopes to advance her interests – and so on. The approach gives its adherents the opportunity to attack the motivations of others – under the guise of analyzing them. What it really does, of course, is prevent any possibility of actual communication. That’s a good bit of the reason there’s been no real discussion within TEC of scripture, homosexuality, or much of anything else for that matter. The hermeneutics of suspicion prevents its practitioners from actually reading or listening to what others say.

    The same holds when they try to apply it to Scripture. Consider all the bland talk about Jesus’ supposed “radical inclusion” in light of the fact that He never enters a gentile town, seeks out gentile followers, offers to heal gentiles, or ever once even touches a gentile. It’s not there. His actions are entirely consonent with what He tells the Syro-Phoenician woman – He’s send to the lost sheep of Israel – and He doesn’t change one whit after His encounter with her. You simply have to misread the text to get the sort of “radical inclusion” out of his actions that reappraisers so desperately want. And the hermeneutics of suspicion, consistently applied, won’t help one whit. Indeed, it’s counterproductive at every step. You have to actually read the text and at least make the attempt to enter the world of second temple period Judaism to understand that He actually is being radically inclusive and what His relationship is with His Church, whose duty it is to – unlike Him during His earthly ministry – reach out to the gentiles. But undertaking the hard work of entering into the world of scripture is too much for those who would radically re-make it in their own image. Much easier to talk as if we were all as corrupt in our approach as you are in yours.

  27. libraryjim says:

    [i]Consider all the bland talk about Jesus’ supposed “radical inclusion” in light of the fact that He never enters a gentile town, seeks out gentile followers, offers to heal gentiles, or ever once even touches a gentile. [/i]

    Wow, I never considered it from that angle. Thanks, Daniel, for that view.

    Back to the ‘lenses’ argument. If you don’t have the right prescription, the most expensive lenses in the world are not going to do a bit of good re: seeing clearly (and as one who got the wrong lenses one time, I know!). Only one prescription will work for seeing clearly, and that is the one the Great Physician says we need.

    In His Peace
    Jim Elliott <><

  28. John Wilkins says:

    26 – Daniel, you may be right. But then you might need to confront Paul.

    #23 – none of the four reasons you give have anything to do with complementarity.

    #1) God ordained marriage. Why? Perhaps, as Jesus said, for peace.
    #2) Jesus blessed marriage. Why? He has power, and believes people should party. It takes a strange reading to say it is about marriage and not about Jesus.
    #3) Marriage is a symbol. A symbol of Christ and his church. I’m not sure if this is a symbol about genitals. You might think so. I think it is more about other aspects about marriage.
    #4) Holy scripture commends it. Most gay people I know think that heterosexuals denigrate marriage and that marriage is a false idol. Those gay people who believe in marriage, believe that holy scripture is right.

    Look – I don’t think most gay people want to be married. They see how straight people regularly mock marriage. And most gay people have plenty of fun without marriage. They don’t worry about their souls, nor do they think Christianity has much to offer.

    Imagine, Phil, believing that no woman should ever love you physically. That by nature, you were disgusting and fell short before God. That you should never be touched because your desires were morally wrong for a woman – any woman. that you could live a life without any sort of physical affection because God hated it. No sex, and no love ever. Would you be satisfied? Or driven away from such a world view?

    but you don’t ever have to live such a way. Lucky you. You never have to understand such loneliness, and have the luxury of judging others.

  29. Katherine says:

    “No sex, and no love ever.” Sexual activity = love. Anyone whose self-value is reduced to physical gratification and who cannot see love elsewhere will surely be subject to despair. This applies to us all, not just “gays.”

  30. Philip Snyder says:

    So, John, you admit that you cannot find anything in Holy Scripture (which our Presiding Bishop stated to me, personally, is our primary source of authority) that says God blesses homosexual unions.

    In Genesis, God creates man in His Image – male and female. In the 2nd creation story, woman is created from man’s rib and this is why a man leaves his mother and a woman leaves her home and the two are made one flesh. Jesus confirms this in his teaching as does Paul.

    You have no idea what lonliness I face or have faced in my life.
    I judge no one. I only discern what God’s will is and I base that discernment on the Church’s reading of Holy Scripture and the teaching of the Church. Of course, your personal reflections are much more accurate concerning God’s will than what God has revealed in Holy Scripture or what the Church has discerned and still discerns to this day. I had forgotten how much smarter you are than the rest of the Church.