The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church told listeners, in a sermon she delivered recently, that the Apostle Paul betrayed his understanding of the faith he had been given and was guilty of bigotry in handling a case of demonic possession in a slave girl.
The account in Acts 16 reads thus: “Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, ‘These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.’ And this she did for many days.“
The reaction from Apostle Paul
“But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And he came out that very hour. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them...to the authorities.” Acts 16:16-19.
A warped interpretation
Mrs Jefferts Schori interprets the story of Paul and the slave girl by accusing the Apostle of spiritual blindness and bigotry. She also includes the issue of same sex relationships that the great Apostle doesn’t even hint at in this passage.
Jefferts Schori opined: “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.We’re seeing something similar right now in the changing attitudes and laws about same-sex relationships, as many people come to recognise 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.”
The possessed slave girl
She continued: “There are some remarkable examples of that kind of blindness in the readings we heard this morning, and slavery is wrapped up in a lot of it. Paul is annoyed at the slave girl who keeps pursuing him, telling the world that he and his companions are slaves of God. She is quite right. She’s telling the same truth Paul and others claim for themselves.”
Demon possession - a gift?
Schori insists that: “...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. It gets him thrown in prison. That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognise that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does - maybe more so.
The amazing thing is that during that long night in jail he remembers that he might find God there - so he and his cell mates spend the night praying and singing hymns.”
Violating the text
The Presiding Bishop totally emasculates the text, making it mean what she wants it to mean, not what it implies or even says.
First of all, the text says nothing about same sex relationships. Nothing. Schori gratuitously throws that in just to let her listeners know where she stands. This is a complete abuse of the text and violates every hermeneutical principle in theology.
Secondly, the Apostle waged spiritual warfare against the slave girl. While he recognised that what she said was true, the source of her authority came from Satan, not from Jesus. Paul, unhesitatingly commands, “in the Name of Jesus” that the “spirit of divination” come out of her. This happened. Paul let the possessed girl follow him around for several days before he cast out the spirit.
Paul’s ministry was being compromised and her cries were in fact counter-productive because he knew she was possessed by something evil, not something good. Paul heals the girl, freeing her from possession. In actual fact, it is not Paul doing the healing, but Jesus Christ whom Paul rightly invokes.
The Presiding Bishop will have none of that. She says: “Paul is annoyed perhaps for being put in his place”. What? She is making the assumption that somehow it is Paul who is spiritually blind, culture-bound, and bigoted in not seeing “the gift of spiritual awareness” in her. She paints Paul as an intolerant, confused misogynist who needs to be put in his place from a latter day post Christian revisionist like Jefferts Schori.
She then makes the colossal statement that “She (the demon-possessed girl), too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does - maybe more so.” She says that Paul responds “by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness.”
A doctrine of diversity
This is sheer spiritual lunacy and a totally invalid interpretation of this Scripture. In fact, she turns Scripture totally on its head abusing the text and context to fit the Procrustean bed of her own “doctrines” of inclusion and diversity.
One orthodox theologian wrote: “Paul is on his missionary journey reaching out to Jews and God-fearers, when he is accosted by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She is twice bound, spiritually and economically, for her masters are making quite a profit by exploiting her occult powers. Yet what engages Paul with her is her spiritual opposition to his mission. Day after day she follows Paul and his team, shouting: “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you [a way of salvation].”
Compromising the mission
“This announcement both helps and hinders the Mission. To Jewish ears, it rings of truth, using terminology (“Most High God,” El-Elyon) that they considered the Gentile way of referring to the one true God (Gen 14:18-20, Num 24:16, Dan 3:26). But to polytheistic pagans, who were henotheists as opposed to monotheists, there were many “highest gods”, the title had been attached to Zeus, Isis (the mother-goddess of the kingdom of Lydia in Asia), and Baal.”
Reading in context
“A pagan hearer would understand the term to refer to whatever deity he or she considered supreme. And “a way of salvation” - for the pagan, it was release from the powers governing the fate of humankind and the material world. So though initially this declaration may seem to be a help to Paul as it attracts crowds and provides a good starting point for discussing the Gospel with pagans, it has to be corrected each time and thus soon it becomes an annoyance (compare Acts 4:2).
Such Satanic tactics have not changed in two thousand years. To counter them, the message of salvation must always be proclaimed in clarity and fullness, with its Divine source unambiguously credited.”
Residing in the spirit of darkness
Paul’s exorcism occurred via direct confrontation. He turned around and authoritatively commanded the spirit: “In the Name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her.” The results are immediate: at that moment the spirit left.
What the text also concludes is that the extension of God’s Kingdom can only be achieved through liberation of those under Satan’s authority (Acts 26:18). What must I do to be saved? Experience the liberating power of the Lord Jesus Christ, who not only opens but also cleanses hearts (Acts 15:9).
We see parallels in Jesus’s own ministry in the casting out of demons. Jesus brings release to the captives (Luke 4:18). Jefferts Schori in fact denies that very aspect of truth that advances the Gospel. It is she, not Paul, who is living in spiritual darkness. Her endorsement of the slave girl puts her closer in spirit to her than to Paul the Apostle.
Accusations and assumptions
Paul’s authority and ours is christocentric and derived. Jefferts Schori authority comes from General Convention and whatever crazy resolution is passed that the Episcopal Church wants, or needs to embrace, to fit a small coterie of pansexualists.
One must ask of Jefferts Schori: “Does God’s nature really include demon possession?” For the Presiding Bishop, “The amazing thing is that during that long night in jail, Paul remembers that he might find God there - so he and his cell mates spend the night praying and singing hymns.”
The implication of Schori’s question is that Paul may have forgotten to take his amnesia medication or that somehow he had forgotten God in the first place. One blogger cynically observed that the Presiding Bishop had identified the earliest recorded case of Transient global amnesia.
Schori goes on to cite from the lectionary Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20-21 where she falsely interprets the Scripture to say: “That the reading from Revelation pushes us in the same direction, outward and away from our own self-righteousness, inviting us to look harder for God’s gift and presence all around us.
Jesus says He’s looking for everybody, anyone who’s looking for good news, anybody who is thirsty. There are no obstacles or barriers - just come. God is at work everywhere, even if we can’t or won’t see it immediately.”
Censoring the Bible
The Presiding Bishop omitted Verse 15 (left out by the lectionary editors) which reads, thusly, “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”
Ashamed of the Gospel
Saint John is clearly in sync with the Apostle Paul in identifying evil and demon possession while Jefferts Schori twists it to make the text mean what she wants it to mean, in fact reversing it. Perhaps she was ashamed by the words “the sexually immoral” which would apply to a goodly number of bishops and clergy.
Redefining the Kingdom
Later in her sermon, the PB reveals her deepest need to push the church’s pansexual agenda in just the gentlest way when she says: “Looking for the reflection of God’s glory all around us means changing our lenses, or letting the scales on our eyes fall away. That kind of change isn’t easy for anyone, but it’s the only road to the Kingdom of God.”
Her hope, of course, is that we would see Gene and Mary and Louie and Ernest [all homosexual Anglican clergy] as the true sons of God that the rest of us need to catch up with and ultimately
worship and adore.
By David W. Virtue DD: a theologically trained journalist. Virtue online is his site, the world’s largest Anglican news network. Article from: ww.virtueonline.org