U.S. Episcopal Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (far left) is seen next to Episcopal Auxiliary Bishop Nerva Cot in this 2007 photo. (CNS)
The Anglican Ink site
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has denounced the
Apostle Paul as mean-spirited and bigoted for having released a slave
girl from demonic bondage as reported in Acts 16:16-34 .
In her sermon delivered
at All Saints Church in Curaçao in the diocese of Venezuela, Bishop
Katharine Jefferts Schori condemned those who did not share her views as
enemies of the Holy Spirit.
The presiding bishop opened her remarks with an observation on the
Dutch slave past. “The history of this place tells some tragic stories
about the inability of some to see the beauty in other skin colors or
the treasure of cultures they didn’t value or understand,” she said.
She continued stating: “Human beings have a long history of
discounting and devaluing difference, finding it offensive or even
evil. That kind of blindness is what leads to oppression, slavery, and
often, war. Yet there remains a holier impulse in human life toward
freedom, dignity, and the full flourishing of those who have been kept
apart or on the margins of human communities.”
Schori then states:
We live with the continuing tension between holier impulses that
encourage us to see the image of God in all human beings and the reality
that some of us choose not to see that glimpse of the divine, and
instead use other people as means to an end. We’re seeing something
similar right now in the changing attitudes and laws about same-sex
relationships, as many people come to recognize that different is not the same thing as wrong.
For many people, it can be difficult to see God at work in the world
around us, particularly if God is doing something unexpected.
But if different is not the same thing as wrong, then how can views that are different from hers be wrong?
Come to think of it, how can anything be wrong if it can simply be
described as "different"? One might be taken aback at Schori's grasp of
both epistemology and moral theology, but one is surely not impressed.
The same holds for her exegetical skills, which are unleashed upon Acts
There are some remarkable examples of that kind of blindness in the
readings we heard this morning, and slavery is wrapped up in a lot of
it. Paul is annoyed at the slave girl who keeps pursuing him, telling
the world that he and his companions are slaves of God. She is quite
right. She’s telling the same truth Paul and others claim for
But Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he
responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness. Paul
can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to
destroy it. It gets him thrown in prison. That’s pretty much where
he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognize that she, too, shares
in God’s nature, just as much as he does maybe more so! The amazing
thing is that during that long night in jail he remembers that he might
find God there so he and his cellmates spend the night praying and
How strange that Schori ignores the elephantwell, the demonin the
room: ἔχουσαν πνεῦμα πύθωνα ("having a Pythian spirit", or "a spirit of a
pythoness"). This was hardly a small matter, as Craig S. Keener notes,
as this was "the same sort of spirit that stood behind the most famous
of all Greek oracles, the Delphic oracle of Apollo whose priestess was
called a pythoness..." (The IVP Bible Background Commentary: NT,
369). Luke Timothy Johnson notes that Paul, in addressing and casting
out the evil spirit, is taking part "in still another turf-war", making
further gains for the kingdom of God that the apostles and their
companions had been proclaiming. Besides, the girl is not only oppressed
by a demon, she is "being exploited by religious charlatans" (Sacra Pagina
commentary, 297-8). Need it be pointed out that Jesus also confronted
demons who correctly identified him, but who were still cast them out and rebuked by the Son of God?
the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various
diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on every one of them
and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the
Son of God!” But he rebuked them, and would not allow them to speak,
because they knew that he was the Christ. (Lk 4:40-41)
Schori apparently doesn't comprehend that a demonic confession is not
to be confused with faith freely given. Nor does she appreciate the
irony of the storyan irony that echoes similiar situations found in
the Gospels: the demons acknowledge the true identity of Christ and his
followers, but those who are intent on clinging to their power and
position refuse to hear the message preached and, in fact, attack those
proclaiming the kingdom. As Jesus said: "But if it is by the Spirit of
God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you"
It makes much more sense to recognize that Paul knew
that once he cast out the demon, he would be subjected to persecution or
worse, and so he waited as long as could to confront the demon. He was
willing to be attacked and imprisoned for confronting evil, for standing
up to spiritual and temporal powers that rejected the Gospel, and for
freeing a slave girl from both demonic and human oppression. Alas,
Schori's attachment to the ideology of the present age and the fads of
political correctness blind her to what should be obvious to someone
professing to be a Christian.