At Jim Naughton's the Daily Episcopalian blog, traditionalist commenter "Widening Gyre" suggests that new Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, in recent press interviews, proved she is no theologian. He asks whether we really ought to be surprised by this:
... can we agree that not all bishops are great theologians and that (gasp) some of them should not even be considered theologians? Therefore, we shouldn't be surprised over their answers to extremely difficult theological questions.
This insight leads to another question: Does it even matter if a bishop, even the presiding bishop, is not a theologian? I think not, for at least two reasons.
1. A Bishop's Job is Like That of a Hospital Administrator
Demanding that a bishop be a theologian is like insisting that the chief administrator of a hospital be a leading medical researcher himself. We'd all agree that medical research is important; many hospitals do a lot of it. But a hospital administrator's job is to keep the hospital running, so that its staff can carry out the primary mission of treating the sick. Certainly an administrator needs a basic understanding of medical research to be able to do his job. But he need not be a cutting-edge researcher himself.
Theology is likewise important to the church, in much the same way that medical research is important to a hospital. In the church, a bishop certainly needs to have a basic understanding of theology. But her job isn't to do theology herself; it's to keep the church running so its members can carry out the primary mission of treating the spiritually sick. The bishop doesn't need to be a cutting-edge theologian to function well in her job, any more than she needs to be, say, a human-resources expert or a civil engineer or a certified public accountant.
2. (Most) Theology is Like String Theory — or Astrology
In fact, most theology might as well be astrology. Think about the similarities: In both "disciplines," theorists learnedly debate each other; their discussions are often passionate, even vehement. But there's seldom any way to assess how well their views stand up to observational evidence from the real world that the Creator actually wrought. Even worse: Many theologians, like many astrologers, confronted with evidence inconvenient to their views, dismiss it with an airy wave of the hand, or simply pretend it doesn't exist.
This isn't to say we shouldn't honor past practitioners of theology and astrology for their inquisitiveness; for their urge to try to explain the universe; for their quest for understanding. These attitudes are all laudable, vital elements of humanity's modest success. To steal from Sir Isaac Newton, if we moderns have managed to see a little farther, it has been by standing on the shoulders of giants — even though in hindsight those giants themselves happened to be looking in the wrong direction.
But giving theologians and astrologers full marks for effort doesn't mean we should be enslaved to their ways of thinking. We should hardly be upset that our new presiding bishop spent her early career doing science, not theology. I wish all our religious leaders had done the same.
 Both the Daily Episcopalian and Widening Gyre referred to ++KJS's recent interview with Time magazine in which she insightfully said, in effect, it's not for us to decree whom God does or does not save:
We who practice the Christian tradition understand him [Jesus] as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.
 I infer that hospital administrators need not be physicians or medical researchers from knowing that a parish acquaintance, who is neither, served as the chief administrator of our diocesan hospital system until his retirement.
 After I thought of the hospital-administrator analogy, I remembered the old saw that indeed the church is a hospital for sinners, not a country club for saints.
 For example, it's not clear why we should take the various scriptural authors' word for it, or that of other human authorities, on any of the following points:
- God consists of three persons in one Godhead — not two; not four; not four thousand; but exactly three.
- Muslims who died for their faith are in Paradise.
- Mary was a virgin who conceived Jesus without sexual intercourse.
- God wants Jews to keep kosher.
- The only way to achieve eternal happiness is to accept that Jesus' death on the cross wiped away the sin of mankind.
The question that naturally comes to mind for all of the above assertions, and many more like them, is "And how exactly do you know that?"
There is a small set of core theological principles that appears to be intellectually defensible. Those principles seem to be consistent with the available evidence, while not trying to explain too much or go too far out on a limb. Regular readers will recognize them:
- The universe seems likely to be the work of a Creator.
- The universe has been taking form for billions of years, and continues to do so before our eyes.
- On the whole, we like what the universe is becoming. In part, this is because in fits and starts, and often making terrible mistakes along the way, we've had a hand in making the universe what it is.
- We seem to be most effective in our universe-building work when we follow the basic teachings that Jesus (among others) stressed: Face the facts; seek the best for others as you would for yourself; continuously amend your life as you find better directions for it.
- if past trends are any indicator, and they often are, the end result of all this universe-forming activity is likely to be unimaginably wonderful.
 See, e.g., some of the postings listed in the left-hand column of this blog, such as:
- Reasons to Question the Reliability of Scripture
- Serious Inconsistencies in the New Testament Writings:
Six Reasons for Skepticism About the Traditionalist Account
- The Apostles' Teaching Didn't Seem to Include a Divine Jesus
- Is Jesus Coming Again? The Predictors' Track Record Doesn't Inspire Confidence