Soon after Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of Nevada sealed her victory as the Episcopal Church's 26th presiding bishop, a question posed by a British academic illustrated the denomination's clash of worldviews.
Christopher Sugden of Anglican Mainstream said the average Anglican believer today is an impoverished African woman, younger than 30, and an evangelical. How did Jefferts Schori think such a believer would respond to the Episcopal Church's advocacy on behalf of its gay and lesbian members?
Jefferts Schori said such a woman likely would be focused on hunger, safe housing, unclean water, and providing for her children. Concerns about sexuality, she said, would appear only later in the hierarchy of need.
Asked the same question at a subsequent news conference, the Rev. Canon David Anderson of the conservative American Anglican Council said that the closer people are to death, the more they are concerned with where their soul will spend eternity.
The church's house of bishops Sunday elected Jefferts Schori to serve as presiding bishop for nine years, beginning in November. The Very Rev. George Werner, president of the House of Deputies, asked before the announcement that everyone in the legislative chamber remain silent out of respect for their neighbors' feelings. Nevertheless, many people gasped orin the case of several womencheered at the news.
Jefferts Schori, 51, completed master's and doctoral degrees and worked as an oceanographer before her ordination to the priesthood in 1991. "My training as a scientist has given me the gift of looking at the world carefully, and investigating," she said at a news conference about an hour after her election was announced in the house of deputies.
Conservatives were quick to discuss their concerns about Jefferts Schori.
"In one sense, we should not be surprised at all, for this is the Episcopal Church, which takes pride in being first with every new innovation: women priests and bishops, the blessing of same-sex unions, the election of the first gay bishop in 2003, and now the selection of the first female primate in 2006," said Bishop Jack Iker of the diocese of Fort Worth. "One wonders what might be next."
Both the American Anglican Council and the Anglican Communion Network said they will increase support to conservative congregations that feel alienated by the General Convention's decisions.
Jefferts Schori gave her consent to Bishop Gene Robinson's election three years ago, and her diocese has passed a resolution that allows local congregations to decide whether to bless gay couples.
On Sunday, the presiding bishop-elect stood behind those decisions. Asked about the Windsor Report's request that the Episcopal Church place a moratorium on blessings for gay couples, Jefferts Schori said, "I think that is something that needs to work through the processes of the church." Such blessings are "happening at the local level, and I certainly support that."
Jefferts Schori expressed confidence that she would find her place among the Anglican Communion's 37 other top bishops (also called primates), although a significant number of Anglican provinces do not ordain women as priests or bishops.
"My international experience has been that, face to face, humans build relationships," she said.
She recalled once going on an oceanographic research project on which the captain of a vessel announced he would not speak to her because she was a woman. "That lasted about 15 minutes," she said.
Jefferts Schori offered a similar answer when asked how she would relate to conservatives who feel alienated by her election. "Alienation is often a function of not knowing another human being," she said. "I think the focus of my ministry needs to be on reconciliation. I have good relationships with bishops who agree with me and bishops who do not agree with me. I will bend over backwards to build relationships with people who feel alienated."
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Yesterday, CT ran an article on Jefferts Schori's election.
Earlier Douglas LeBlanc reported on the efforts of conservatives to push for a resolution for the church to follow the recommendations of the Windsor Report.
Weblog is linking to ongoing mainstream coverage of the convention.
Our full-coverage of the division in the Anglican Communion is collected on our site.