Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Great Western Heresy

A few weeks ago, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori gave a sermon at General Convention in which she spoke of the "great Western heresy" of individualism (the photo at right was taken during her sermon).

She has been much vilified for her comments since then. Recently she wrote an article clarifying her remarks for Episcopal News Service, and I much commend it to you:

Salvation's goal: returning all to right relationship

[Episcopal Life] I always am delighted when people listen to what I say in a sermon or address. Sometimes I am surprised by what they hear.

In my opening address at General Convention, I spoke about the "great Western heresy" of individualism (see the full text here). There have been varied reactions from people who weren't there, who heard or read an isolated comment without the context. Apparently I wasn't clear!

Individualism (the understanding that the interests and independence of the individual necessarily trump the interests of others as well as principles of interdependence) is basically unbiblical and unchristian.

The spiritual journey, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition, is about holy living in community. When Jesus was asked to summarize the Torah, he said, "love God and love your neighbor as yourself." That means our task is to be in relationship with God and with our neighbors. If salvation is understood only as "getting right with God" without considering "getting right with (all) our neighbors," then we've got a heresy (an unorthodox belief) on our hands.

To read the full article, click HERE.


mom said...

I am glad that she has fleshed out her statement. I read her address and to me the meaning was not explicit. Thank you for posting this. MB

Caitilin said...

Jim, thanks for posting this. As I return to the US, I find myself assaulted by the "me's": on hold for 'customer service,' in the context of the health care debate, Standing in line at the store, on the road, seemingly everywhere. And she has put her finger on it.