Fr. Matthew Venuti examines Katherine Jefferts-Schori’s astonishing take on St. Paul’s deliverance of the slave girl from a demonic spirit of divination. Here is an excerpt that includes his speculations as to why the Episcopalian leader would come up with such strange notions:
So lets go back to what KJS said: “Paul is annoyed at the slave girl who keeps pursuing him, telling the world that he and his companions are slaves of God….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.” According to my own exegesis, the New Oxford Annotated Bible, the Navarre Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paul expelled a demon, and the KJS says this act of expulsion in the name of Jesus was done out of annoyance and deprived the slave girl of a gift.There is no way around the fact that this is some strange exegesis, certainly novel, and alien to Christian tradition. Looking at the sermon as a whole, and at this section in particular, I have a come up with a few possibilities as to what this all means about Bishop Jefforts Shori’s theology. I’ll list in order from unlikely to likely4) She thinks demon possession is a good thing, even a gift, that should not be tampered with by Christians.3) She thinks demons are bad, but God let the slave girl get possessed and than exploited by her owners to teach us lesson about diversity.2) She does not believe in demons and rejects the identification of the spirit as one. The connections St. Luke makes between the the Pythia of the Delphi Oracle and the spirit is either an act of prejudice by St. Luke, or a statement that God was directly involved with the Pythia and maybe we should have let the Greeks keep their pagan riutals.1) She decided what the topic, beginning and end of her sermon was before hand, THEN looked at the text in a cursory fashion. She then tried to manipulate the texts into saying what she was preaching, and made a really big mistake without realizing it.