In light of our recent discussion on the definition of Christianity, I found the following letters to the editor of Time magazine quite interesting. Both letters respond to a Q&A with Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. Schori's original comment:
Q: What will be your focus as head of the U.S. church?
Schori: 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.
Now, I didn't blink twice at Schori's answer. Two Time readers were moved to write the following:
I was saddened by your interview with Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. [July 17]. When asked about her focus as head of her church, she mentioned feeding people, providing primary education, promoting sustainable development and healing people with AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. She made no mention of God, let alone Jesus Christ. Her answers would have been more fitting coming from the head of the Gates Foundation than a national religious leader. For 2,000 years the church has taught that our works must flow from our faith. Sadly, Bishop Jefferts Schori spoke only of works and of a church whose focus doesn't include God.
(The Rev.) Canon Francis C. Zanger, Charleston, S.C.
I just about shouted hallelujah when I read that Jefferts Schori's focus will be to help right such global wrongs as hunger, lack of education for girls and boys and the fact that too many people die each day of preventable diseases. Ending suffering should be the top priority for all world leaders.
L. Patricia Arias, Atlanta
Why would Zanger go ballistic over a seemingly benign statement? There's a lot of tension in the Episcopal Church right now, including battles over whether homosexuals and those who are divorced may serve in leadership. (At the church's June convention, a twice-divorced man--currently in his third marriage--was appointed to a bishop post in a split decision by committee members.) Entire churches and dioceses are distancing themselves from the denomination. Makes sense some members would take potshots at Schori.
But I think Zanger's letter may point to some lesser-known activity at the Episcopal church's conference, including dropping the language "Scripture is the church's supreme authority" from a statement about biblical authority, and shelving a proposal to declare Jesus "the only name by which any person may be saved" (full story). Schori made a seemingly Unitarianistic comment herself in the Time Q&A which raised more than a few brows.
I'm all for defending Jesus' place as the head of the church. But here's the scary thing: Zanger's letter makes Christians sound pretty loony, as if feeding the poor and aiding the sick are somehow not part of recognizing God. Now I truly understand my friend Brooke's point: Subtracting works from faith is just as wacky as removing God from works. Both components are necessary to complete the equation of Christianity.