A spokesman for Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has denied suggestions that her sermon denouncing as terrorists and murderers those who did not share her views on the polity of the Episcopal Church was directed at Bishop Mark J. Lawrence or the members of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.
Speaking to national church loyalists at a special convention held 26 Jan 2013 at Grace Church in Charleston, Bishop Jefferts Schori characterized her opponents as “wolves” and false shepherds.
She denounced the arbitrary use of power in church affairs, stating: “Power assumed by one authority figure alone is often a recipe for abuse, tyranny, and corruption. That’s why Jesus challenges us to think about how the shepherd acts. The authentic ones don’t sneak over the wall in the dead of night. They operate transparently, and they work cooperatively with the gate-keeper himself.”
The presiding bishop also shared a story of a glider pilot who had entered restricted airspace in South Carolina and found himself harassed by local officials – a situation not unlike the dispute between the diocese and the national church she observed.
“I tell you that story because it's indicative of attitudes we've seen here and in many other places. Somebody decides he knows the law, and oversteps whatever authority he may have to dictate the fate of others who may in fact be obeying the law, and often a law for which this local tyrant is not the judge. It's not too far from that kind of attitude to citizens' militias deciding to patrol their towns or the Mexican border for unwelcome visitors. It's not terribly far from the state of mind evidenced in school shootings, or in those who want to arm school children, or the terrorism that takes oil workers hostage,” the presiding bishop said.
Canon Phil Ashey of the American Anglican Council stated that what was most “disturbing” about the presiding bishop’s remarks was her assertion that the “state of mind” of Bishop Lawrence and the diocesan leadership was “not that far removed from Adam Lanza and others who cold bloodedly walk into an elementary school and shoot children, and kill them.”
This is “just over the top,” Canon Ashey said, adding that her “anger was not in keeping of any leader of any Christian church.” He called upon the presiding bishop to apologize for remarks.
Asked to respond to Canon Ashey’s comments, a spokesman for the presiding bishop told Anglican Ink: “As for the Presiding Bishop’s sermon, she did not identify any group in her sermon.”
Supporters of the presiding bishop in South Carolina applauded her remarks. They denounced the “anti-gay” and “rightwing leaders of the Diocese of South Carolina” for “relentlessly” degrading the presiding bishop’s “character, integrity, and commitment to Jesus Christ.
A press release from the continuing Episcopal group described Bishop Jefferts Schori’s sermon as a “barnburner” and reported her demeanor as being “a mix of humor, confidence, and humility.”
Her sermon, the continuing group’s statement said, was pastoral. “The Presiding bishop urged an end to divisive actions in the Church that grieve the heart of God. “Our task is to heal the breach … The banquet table is spread with abundance for all, even though it’s hard to join the feast if you’re busy controlling the gate. The Gate himself has already done that work, and the word is out, “y’all come! Come to the feast!”
Bishop Lawrence told AI the presiding bishop’s remarks were unhelpful.
“One of the things I said to the Presiding Bishop when last we spoke is that if she and I could refrain from demonizing one another, regardless of what others around us are saying, we might get somewhere. Based on the words and argument of her recent sermon for the New TEC Diocese in South Carolina, I guess she wasn’t able to do it,” Bishop Lawrence said.