Wis. Seminary Draws Ire for Inviting Episcopal Presiding Bishop to Preach

An Anglican seminary's invitation to Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who has been accused of making statements outside of the church's traditional understanding of Christ, has drawn ire and led to at least one resignation.

Dean Edward L. Salmon, Jr., of the Nashotah House's historic seminary chapel in Nashotah, Wis., invited Schori for the first time to preach on May 1. And what followed was uproar.

Bishop Jack Iker of the Diocese of Ft. Worth resigned as a trustee from the Nashotah House Board after 21 years of service, according to Virtue Online, which features the latest events inside the U.S. Episcopal Church and the global Anglican Communion.

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Iker referred to lawsuits initiated by Schori against the diocese, and notified the board that he "could not be associated with an institution that honors her."

Over the past several years, the U.S. Episcopal Church has filed church property lawsuits against churches and dioceses that have chosen to cut ties with the denomination over theological differences. Conservative Episcopalians have left, denouncing what they believe is the denomination's departure from scriptural authority and traditional Anglicanism.

Bishop William Wantland, assisting bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth, has sent notification that he "will not take part in any functions at Nashotah" nor will he continue "to give financial support to the House as long as the present administration remains," according to Virtue Online.

Anglican Church of North America Archbishop Robert Duncan told Institute on Religion and Demography, "This is a tragic and unwise decision that threatens the future of Nashotah House." Duncan also serves on the seminary's Board of Trustees.

The seminary's dean, Salmon, explained that the decision came after Deacon Terry Star of North Dakota, a student at Nashotah and member of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council, said that Schori had advised him against attending the seminary. Two other female Episcopal students said they were also discouraged from attending the seminary. "All three said she should be invited to come and see ACNA and TEC in harmony," Salmon said, according to IRD. "No one here is fighting with anybody."

Earlier this week, Salmon wrote in a blog post that the seminary is perhaps the only place in the Anglican Communion "where ecclesial affiliation has remained secondary to our primary mission of forming faithful priests and lay leaders for service on the modern frontier."

"We simply pray to be as faithful to Christ and His teaching as were our forebears, so that we may be agents of reconciliation in a broken world and to a broken Church," Salmon added.

StandFirm blogger Sarah Hey wrote that she cannot imagine Nashotah House recovering from "this disastrous and horrifying choice." She lamented the fact that Bishop Schori – whom she described as "noted heretic, false teacher, deposer of clergy and bishops, and malicious lawsuit-lover" – has been invited not just to visit, but preach "to share her particular, unique, custom, tiny gospel to clergy, laity, and seekers from the pulpit of the House."

Among some of Jefferts Schori's controversial statements:

As presiding bishop-elect in 2006, she stated, "Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation – and you and I are His children," according to the IRD.

At Episcopal General Convention in 2009, she denounced "the great Western heresy: that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God."

In 2013, she claimed in a sermon that St. Paul of Tarsus' was wrong to cure a demon-possessed slave girl as described in the Bible.

"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," Jefferts Schori wrote for in May. "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."

Nashotah House addressed the controversy in an official statement Friday, saying, "We take no joy that folks who love the House are disturbed by the invitation and it was not issued in any other spirit than that of engaging in mission … The commitment to the Anglo-Catholic vision of the 'faith once delivered to the saints' is not going to go away. The mission of the House, the direction of the House, the theology of the House is not changing. A visit, even one involving a sermon, will not change what has been bought at a price."

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