A couple of weeks ago, “Reverend” Katharine Jefferts Schori, current “Bishop” and “Primate” over the Episcopal Church, gave a sermon at All Saints Church in Venezuela. It has become commonplace in today’s world of affordable travel for church leaders to visit other countries to speak to congregations within their denomination or their particular brand of non-denominational churches. Less than a year ago, Benny Hinn visited Bangkok and spoke to Thai leaders from churches of the more charismatic bent. While I won’t go into whether these visits are helpful or hurtful, (I see a future post working its way through my brain as I type) I do want to shed some light on this particular occurrence.
Theologically, I don’t see eye to eye with Katharine. She is very liberal in her thinking and values things like inclusiveness and tolerance above sound doctrine. Her sermon at All Saints Church is proof of this. She preached from the passage in Acts 16, when Paul and Silas were in Philippi and were being followed by a demon possessed slave girl. (πνεῦμα πύθωνα, which is Greek for the spirit of Pythona, a Greek god) Eventually Paul became so agitated with her that he cast the demon out. Well, this girl could tell the future and was the cash cow of her owners. Seeing that their lively-hood was taken away from them, they had Paul and Silas arrested and thrown into prison. God used this situation to bring saving faith to the jailer of that prison and to his family.
This story is pretty straight forward and not hard to exegete. Yet Katharine Jefferts Schori seems to have some difficulty with it. (To see a full transcript of her sermon, click here) In her sermon, she claims that Paul was in the wrong to remove this spirit from the girl and apparently it took a stint in prison for Paul to come to his senses and repent. Here’s a quote from the sermon: “It makes me wonder what would have happened to that slave girl if Paul had seen the spirit of God in her.” Whoa! Did I just read that right? When did the spirit of Pythona become the spirit of God? Maybe Katharine thinks that God displays himself in the different spirits of this world? Maybe she thinks all religions lead to the same place? Maybe she just didn’t do her homework and has no clue what this passage is really about? Maybe she has her own agenda and is reading things into the text that aren’t there to make it seem like her message is a biblical one.
I can’t claim to know Katharine’s intentions, but I do know that what she taught isn’t biblical and isn’t from God. Instead of bringing Christ to Venezuela, she has instead brought a doctrine of demons. (1 Timothy 4:1) When Jesus was accused of driving out demons by the power of Beelzebub, He shot back at His accusers, saying that attributing the works of the Holy Spirit to the works of demons is blaspheming the Holy Spirit. (Mark 3:22-30) Katherine’s sermon is very similar, but instead the works of demons are being attributed to the works of the Holy Spirit. Katharine is treading on very dangerous ground with this sermon and needs to repent and recant her teaching.
Fortunately, people within the Episcopal Church are also making noise about this. You can see by the many of the comments on the link to her sermon above, that people are not happy about her teaching. As the body of Christ, we need to pray for Katharine. Pray that the true gospel will be revealed to her and that she will turn away from her false doctrines and to the true doctrine of Christ. Pray also for the members of the Episcopal Church. They need leadership that will preach the gospel to them and won’t stray from the truth in God’s word.
 Schori, Katharine Jefferts. “Presiding bishop preaches in Curaçao, Diocese of Venezuela” http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2013/05/13/presiding-bishop-preaches-in-curacao-diocese-of-venezuela/#_ftn1 internet accessed on May 22, 2013