Sunday, June 18, 2006

The New Presiding Bishop

No doubt by now you've heard the news: the new Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church is Katharyn Jefferts Schori, currently Bishop of Nevada. This is, to say the least, a surprise; for some, probably a great shock.

Let me say two things. First, as far as I know this was not expected by anyone. That's not a question of her qualifications, but of the current concerns in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. After all, those in the Communion who were disturbed with the American church about GLBT persons and relationships were already disturbed with the American church about the ordination of women. No doubt that this will be seen by some as an affront, if not a specific confrontation. So, many of us have thought that, whatever her qualifications, the bishops would not make that choice lest it create even more tension (although some would say that's not possible). For many the very unlikeliness of this will be an indication of the Holy Spirit at work. The American church as a whole is not, as near as I can tell, looking to make an "in your face" statement for its own sake. So, this seems new enough to suggest the work of the Spirit.

Second, from everything I have heard and read she is very qualified. Indeed, I have heard hearsay of bishops who, thinking her unlikely, have said that in any case she was certainly qualified.

So, what will this do to the Episcopal Church and to the Anglican Communion? Some will certainly be upset. This will not do much to quiet those most angry voices. This will do much to please those who feel the Gospel imperative for justice has been given more lip service than true notice. As for the rest: we'll just have to see what kind of Presiding Bishop she is. If most of the world will give her a chance (acknowledging that there will be those who don't), I think they may see that we indeed want to be in the Anglican Communion, and that we want our context for ministry to receive as much respect as that of our brothers and sisters in the Third World. If we will respond with prayer, and give ourselves all a chance, this may well be the best evidence we can provide of our experience of God's grace in the ministry of all God's children.


Anonymous said...

I feel so let down by the church. As a 23yr old looking to develop my faith I seek leadership and all I see is confusion. How can a church articulate a message of hope and love when it can't even put forth a unified message on clergy. Why would the leadership in the Episcopal church make decisions that alienate church goers (no matter their views)?
It seems to me that the bishops have forgotten their most important responsability; being shephards of their flock.
Also, I was wondering if you could post a candidate by candidate breakdown of those who were being considered for the position.

Marshall Scott said...

To get information on those who were nominated for Presiding Bishop, I would suggest you go to the Episcopal News Service page There you will find a series of articles, and also video interviews.

Part of the answer to your concern is that for the Episcopal Church the only truly unified message is what comes from the General Convention. I think when this week is over (actually, business ends Wednesday evening), we will be able to say more about the expectations of the Episcopal Church of clergy in all orders. I do think, however, that in fact almost all the bishops show a great concern for shepherding the flock. That said, they may well vary on which is the most critical part of the Body to address. Everybody speaks about caring for "the least of these." They don't all agree about who is most at risk.

I think in some senses, though, the overwhelming support of the UN's Millenium Development Goals will say a lot to the world about how we see the mission of the Church. The MDG's (the shorthand everybody is using in Columbus these days) speak to our commitment to reach out into the world to address poverty.

The Convention has also passed a well-written resolution on evangelism. There's a strong interest in seeing the Church grow, but some good faith disagreement as to just how to go about that.

As to your experience with the Church: I'm certainly sorry you've had that experience. Understand that these days we understand that our hope is in Christ, whatever our shortcomings; and our call is in the Spirit, who is able to work through us, even when it's despite us. Trust that Christ cares for you, and seek that place that demonstrates that to you most clearly.