VENEZUELA — The presiding female bishop over U.S. Episcopalians is being sharply criticized for delivering a heretical message about diversity, in which she claimed that the Apostle Paul was wrong and bigoted for setting a demon-possessed girl free from spiritual bondage.
In speaking this month at “All Saints Church” in Curaçao, Venezuela, Katharine Jefferts Schori utilized a Scripture in Acts 16 as her basis for promoting diversity of all kinds in the world.
“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,” she said. “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,” Schori added.
She then proceeded to tell the story of Paul’s encounter with a demon-possessed girl, which some say is a gross distortion of Scripture.
“And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying,” Acts 16:16 outlines. “But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And he came out the same hour.”
“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,” Schori said. “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!”
She claimed that Paul’s attitude changed after there was an earthquake at the jail.
“This time, Paul remembers who he is and that all his neighbors are reflections of God, and he reaches out to his frightened captor. This time Paul acts with compassion rather than annoyance, and as a result the company of Jesus’ friends expands to include a whole new household,” Schori stated. “It makes me wonder what would have happened to that slave girl if Paul had seen the spirit of God in her.”
The rest of the message then centers on Schori’s belief that Christians should see the glory of God in everyone.
“The next time we feel the pain of that change, perhaps instead of annoyance or angry resentment we might pray for a new pair of glasses,” she admonishes. “When resentment about difference or change builds up within us, it’s really an invitation to look inward for the wound that cries out for a healing dose of glory. We will find it in the strangeness of our neighbor.”
“Celebrate that difference – for it’s necessary for the healing of this world – and know that the wholeness we so crave lies in recognizing the glory of God’s creative invitation,” Schori concluded.
However, some are decrying Schori’s message as twisting Scripture to force her own personal agenda.
“How does Katharine Jefferts Schori completely miss the point?” one commenter asked. “Very, very sad sermon. … [T]he woman was exploited — the slave woman was in physical, spiritual and relational bondage — she was being used for profit and her incessant shouting was disruptive and insincere. Paul takes time to discern this and through the power of prayer, she is set free – no more exploitation by man or the enemy. Having lost their profit source, her exploiters go after Paul and have him thrown in prison.”
“WOW! So now slavery, especially enslavement by demonic possession, is to be considered the slave girl’s ‘gift of spiritual awareness?” another inquired. “And it is due to ‘the Spirit of God in her’? Really? The PB’s ‘sermon’ goes downhill. Sad, very sad.”
“What kind of delusional hogwash is being peddled here? What is holy or beautiful about demonic possession and the exploitation of a minor as was being practiced by the owners of the slave girl?” a third wrote. “More to be pitied are those who sit regularly under such satanic anointing. To them the Word is: ‘Come out from among them…’ and the time is NOW.”