(Photo: The Episcopal Church via The Christian Post)
The head of the Episcopal Church has garnered outrage from some in the Anglican Communion over her claim that St. Paul of Tarsus' curing of a demon-possessed slave girl as described in the Bible was wrong.
In a sermon delivered before the Diocese of Venezuela on the island nation of Curaçao, Presiding Bishop The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori said that by driving the demon out of her Paul was "depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness."
"Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness," said Jefferts Schori.
"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 passage that Jefferts Schori was preaching can be found in the Book of Acts, chapter 16. The chapter provides an account of some of the mission Paul of Tarsus did in the early church.
In the incident described in Acts 16, Paul cures a slave girl of a demon that had given the girl the ability to fortune-tell and made money for her masters.
Upon doing so, the girl's masters proceeded to drag Paul and his companion Silas before the authorities, who proceeded to throw them into prison.
Jefferts Schori's message, delivered last week, has garnered many negative responses online, including an entry by George Conger on the website "Anglican Ink" and also in the comments section of the copy of the sermon on the Episcopal Digital Network.
"Paul cast a demon out of the slave girl, an agent of Satan, a force of darkness, and didn't deprive her of some spiritual gift…this sermon is not a Christian sermon," posted Fr. Will McQueen.
"It is terribly stunning to read that the Presiding Bishop elevates the sinful practice of necromancy to the Holy Spirit inspired territory of spiritual gifts. This is eisegesis of a demonic sort," posted Fr. Trent Overman.
"How can the Presiding Bishop miss the point that the 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," posted a user doting the name "BabyBlue."
Charlie Jackson, a poster who identified himself as "a pretty theologically liberal Episcopalian", nevertheless concluded that Jefferts Schori's interpretation of Acts 16 "is just too much."
Jeff Walton, Anglican program director at the Institute on Religion & Democracy, told The Christian Post that the Presiding Bishop "has a long record of first establishing theopolitical positions and then conforming scripture to align with her predetermined purpose."
"Earlier this month at a church event focused on climate change, she outlined her view that those who disagree with her climate activism are denying the image of God in creation, much as the heresy of Arianism denied the unique divinity of Jesus Christ," said Walton.
"This habit of making political opponents into spiritual enemies is something that the religious right has been accused of -- yet Jefferts Schori, a figure on the left, is doing exactly this."
The Episcopal Church did not return comment to The Christian Post about the controversy over Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori's sermon by press time.