Delusional Exegesis from Jefferts Schori

Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Click HERE for the text of a recent sermon by Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church in America, given at All Saints Church, Steenrijk, Curaçao (Diocese of Venezuela) on 12 May 2013.

In line with one of the respondents, I think this has to be one of the most delusional pieces of exegesis and theological extrapolation I’ve ever encountered. Jefferts Schori equates Paul casting out the demon from the Philippian slave girl (Acts 16), thus ending the exploitation by her pimps, as depriving her of her beautiful and holy gift. Apparently the demon in her was the Spirit of God!

Yep! You read that right. You can read the whole thing HERE to see that I’m not taking it out of context, but here’s an excerpt:

But Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her
 [the slave girl] 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 makes me wonder what would have happened to that slave girl if Paul had seen the spirit of God in her.

This is what passes for biblical exegesis? By a bishop? A presiding bishop, no less? I’ve heard some shocker sermons in my time, but mangling the text like this to say the complete opposite of what it’s actually saying is breathtaking. How in God’s name can this be taken seriously?

God help us!



6 thoughts on “Delusional Exegesis from Jefferts Schori

  1. Is this lady so focussed on feminism issues that she sees Pauls act as chauvenistic hence she calls the Spirit of God the devil. Utterly shameful. It too questions whether she is a believer or not. Refer the same Paul 1 Corinthians 12:23

    • Warwick, I don’t think feminism is Schori’s issue. I think her agenda to is justify homosexuality and the Episcopal Church’s approval of it. She is looking for a biblical text that condemns a phobic behaviour, and she thinks she has found it in the example of Paul and the Philippian slave girl. This is, however, eisegesis. It is not exegesis. As to whether or not she is a believer, we should leave that up to God to determine. In this case, I’ll just focus on her exegetical skills, which are evidently woeful.

  2. Dear George,

    Well, let’s see, “How many rules in the Arts and Science of Hermeneutics did she violate?

    1) Eisegesis.

    2) Ignore context.

    3) Ignore the text.

    4) Proof-texting.

    Should I go any further? And the Anglican communion is wondering why congregants are leaving!

    En Xristwi,

    Rev. Bryant J. Williams III

  3. Well, I take a different view, not necessarily the same as Shori’s. I must say that I can’t see a single actual argument in the remarks above to go with the denunciations.
    The context of this passage is the long-running problem of ‘discerning spirits’ – what appear to be prophetic spirits are not necessarily good or bad in an obvious way, hence the problem of discernment arises. It was to become the problem of Montanism in due course and to appear again at many moments of religious tension. More prosaically, there must have been a difficulty in the early church when the movement gained the noisy approval of people who were or who looked to be mentally ill.
    The young woman must have gained something personally from being a specialist and lucrative property, not just another bottle-washer and bed-maker. At the relevant time, she cannot be operating under the control of her employers. Her spirit is not obviously evil – it shows no hostility or resentment, quite the reverse, and does not call on Paul to go away or leave it alone. When ordered to leave the scene it obeys Paul’s apostolic authority without protest.
    Women with apparent prophetic gifts were received, even if they must sometimes have looked a bit crazy, with some sympathy in those days – there would not have been a Montanist movement otherwise. So even a first century reader would note that Paul’s response to what is after all a declaration of support for his mission is rather harsh and that he shows no concern for her welfare after her economic prospects have been somewhat seriously set back. A modern reader might, if he (or indeed she) thinks the text through, would note the same thing: wouldn’t you feel somewhat sorry for her? Gives more piquancy and more depth, emotionally and theologically, to the story.
    However, if Shori thinks that the implication is that Paul has exceeded his rights I wouldn’t be so shori. This is an early statement or at least hint of what was to be the Catholic teaching that prophetic spirits must submit absolutely to apostolic authority (somewhat paradoxical as this teaching is) and submit even if – and this is surely at the heart of the matter – everything they have so far said seems to be true and orthodox. They do not gain independent rights. If the intention of the text were to subvert this proto-Catholic teaching it would not present the prophecy as repetitious and redundant, as it so clearly does. The apostle may act as he sees fit, even if the problem is merely one of inconvenience: that’s absolute and God-given right for you.
    If Shori means that the time for this rather harsh attitude to what is outside and unofficial is past, I would say she has a point worth discussing.
    I concede that ‘python spirit’ might (though it’s not a standard way of conveying) ‘evil spirit’, esp, if the etymology of ‘python’ is borne in mind. But it might be more ‘delphic’, hence ‘ambiguous’ spirit – a spirit raising a discernment problem.

    • I appreciate your comments, Marty, but I’m afraid I’m not with you all the way on this one. The text gives no indication that the python spirit is the Holy Spirit, as Schori seems to indicate, or that Paul was somehow wrong to cast the spirit out of her. The fact that the spirit can be identified (a python spirit) suggests that it most certainly is not the Holy Spirit. Pity for the slave girl begins before Paul casts the spirit out of her — she’s been used by her owners to make money for them. The text doesn’t go into what her subsequent fate was — only that her situation had changed. Therefore it seems a little harsh to condemn Paul for seeking to change her fortune (excuse the pun). Anyway, thanks for pushing back on this. It’s helpful to keep thinking about the text.

  4. She mentioned ‘a deep recognition of the glory in another human being’ – which is exactly opposite of what the Scripture says. No wonder Episcopal is now a degenerate Christian religion.

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