It is difficult to know where to begin with a response to this lecture by Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori! The context is an Episcopalian leader delivering a lecture to a Roman Catholic college. Quite a bit of hopeful desire for common working together between Anglicans and Romans features in the lecture. Amen to that.
Here are two parts in the lecture which illustrate why some of us have just a little difficulty with this Primate's theology and cannot say 'Amen' to it.
(1) "It’s important to spend some time looking at our history, because many people erroneously believe that the big conflict came at the time of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. The differences between Roman and Anglican Christianity have certainly solidified since then, but the roots are much older. The points of difference between our respective communions are, to this day, rooted in different responses to contextual diversity. How shall the faith develop, or be permitted to develop, in the face of differing local conditions, challenges, and gifts?"
Mere plonkers of the Anglican world like me have been taught that there was a local issue of praxis at the time of the Reformation (Henry's marriages) but a universal issue (or set of issues) of theology. What was the gospel? How are people saved? These were universal questions of theology which Cranmer and co tackled. They thought Rome was wrong, not an Italian development which did not translate onto English soil. They succoured continental reformers who brought with them insights into the universal gospel of Christ nurtured in Swiss and French towns. They did not reject those insights because they came into being in differing local conditions across the Channel! I find it amazing that almost the opposite of what I have learned is being taught here. Of course I could be wrong. But what if it is the Presiding Bishop who is wrong in her understanding of Anglican history? Is that not a serious difficulty both for her own church and for the Communion as it seeks to welcome her leadership?
(2) "One of the charisms of Orthodoxy is the sense that God is active in far more than we recognize, that rather than two or seven sacraments, there are dozens or hundreds and even more than we can count or know." Again, we plonkers have been taught there are two dominical sacraments and five sacramental actions, and we have a bit of theological sport with those Anglicans who have sipped from the Tiber and loosely assert there are seven sacraments. But the Presiding Bishop is saying here that we are wrong. There are dozens of sacraments or hundreds and even more than we can count or know. Is this truth backed up by any catechetical statements anywhere in the Communion? [In the light of Bosco Peters' comment below I acknowledge unreservedly that the PB is backed up here by the official teaching of her own church. But that in itself highlights a possible distinction between TEC and the Communion, leading to the question whether it is a widespread Anglican teaching re sacraments which aligns more with Orthodox teaching (see, again, Bosco's comment below for reference) than with the teaching of the Church of England at the time of the Reformation].
In the end I would want to ask this question of PB Jefferts Schori: is there anything special in God's eyes about people who entrust their lives to Jesus Christ? On the basis of the lecture the answer is negative. God is at work everywhere, in all faiths, so much so that the missional task is to seek out partners among non-Christians in renewing and restoring creation. That God might be at work everywhere tilling the soil for the reception of the gospel does not figure in this lecture. That people being saved through religious pathways other than the way of Jesus undermines any necessity for that way seems lost on this lecturer. On the evidence presented here Jesus died to initiate a local rather than universal means of salvation. Note some logical consistency here: ++Jefferts Schori also understands Anglicanism as characterised by developing the faith locally rather than universally.*
Well, the evidence is there for all to see, that there are reasonable grounds for concern about the general theological direction of TEC, as represented in its Primate's articulation of her views. Some of what she says is not true, some of it raises significant questions as to whether it coheres with Anglican theology as broadly subscribed to across the Communion [n.b. italicised words here re worked since original posting], and, in the end, some of it seems at variance with the gospel of Jesus Christ itself.
*The Anglican Communion necessarily becomes a talking shop: how is your local Anglican expression of the localised Christian faith doing? There is no vision of a universal Anglican mission to spread the universal gospel of Christ within this lecture.