Wednesday, June 21, 2006
A Woman Shall Lead Us
Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is the first woman to lead the Episcopal Church.
Michael Houghton for The New York Times
Friend, hope for the truth while you are alive.Jump into experience while you are alive!What you call "salvation" belongs to the time before death.If you don't break your ropes while you are alive, do you think ghosts will do it after?
Actually there is no real teaching at all for you to chew on. But not believing in yourself, you pick up your baggage and go around to other people's houses looking for Zen, looking for Tao, looking for mysteries, looking for awakenings, looking for Buddhas, looking for masters, looking for teachers. You think this a searching for the ultimate and you make this into your religion. But this is like running blindly. The more you run, the farther away you are. You just tire yourself, to what benefit in the end?
A human being is a part of the whole called by us "the universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest---a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection of a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of understanding and compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its being.
There are many peculiar terms in the Episcopal Church. "Episcopal" is one of them. The word in Latin means "bishop," which hardly differentiates this church from anything known as Anglican throughout the rest of the world. Its members want their own identity in the United States, so we use Episcopal instead of Anglican. Apparently that's only the first of many annoyances we cause.
The physical organization of the church resembles the Catholic, from which it broke so King Henry could keep trying out wives until he found one to suit him. (Not much spiritual inspiration there.) Other Protestant denominations have bishops and such, who are leaders elected in some way or other. In the Episcopal Church there are 2 houses, like Congress: the House of Bishops I suppose is like the Senate, smaller and with more clout; the House of Deputies is similar to the House of Representatives.
The "president" of the whole Anglican Community is known as the Archbishop, and as anybody can become a priest and a bishop anybody could get elected Archbishop too. Well...until now, any MAN could be Archbishop. And to be more specific, any clearly practicing heterosexual man. A priest needn't be married but it's better, if he's going to have some kind of sexual partner living with him, that it be a woman. You know, help with church auxiliaries and picnics, choir practice, Sunday school...that kind of "womanly" thing. I suppose our Catholic friends laugh up their sleeves at how complicated all this has become for us. We have nuns too.
The Church here is divided up into dioceses, which are like sections of states and territories. A bishop is elected to preside over the individual churches in each of them. Our bishop currently is named Price, and 2 hours ago he sent out an email message announcing an extraordinary meeting will be held this morning at 10:45. Last year the Episcopal Church in America elected a bishop in New Hampshire, who is openly gay, with a partner and all that. The Anglican Community objected in a document known as the Windsor Report. Pretty much, we were told to get in line...or else. We put a moratorium on electing any more bishops until our next General Convention of Bishops and Deputies, when we'll come up with an answer to the Windsor Report. That time is right now.
Last night the current Presiding Bishop, who is Frank Griswold, "proposed a rarely used prerogative of calling for a Joint Session of the two houses for today following the Eucharist. The purpose of the session is to craft a response that will truly represent the mind of both houses," according to Bishop Price's message. The representatives in each house had debated all day yesterday and into the night, without coming up with a definite resolution to present to each other for confirmation. Under discussion is not only the continuing freedom for gay and lesbian people to become bishops in this church, but the official blessing of gay union in our services.
On Sunday, as you probably know by now, we elected the first woman Presiding Bishop, or head of the Episcopal branch of the Anglican Union. The Convention may run out of time before we get to abortion and the invasion of Iraq.
This morning The New York Times ran a pretty nice profile of Katharine Jefferts Schori. Here it is...while we await further developments in Columbus~~~
The New York Times
June 21, 2006
For an Episcopal Pioneer, the Challenge Is to Unite
By NEELA BANERJEE
COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 20 — As she talked about her past and her future, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on Tuesday described a life filled with so many unusual steps — including learning to fly and entering the Episcopal priesthood at age 40 — that it seemed to suggest an almost congenital appetite for challenge.
She now faces one of her greatest challenges, one that she has called "a grand adventure."
Bishop Jefferts Schori's election on Sunday as the first woman to lead the Episcopal Church has cast her deep into the maelstrom that has engulfed the American arm of the 77-million-member Anglican communion.
"We need to send a message that we fully intend to be part of the communion," she said on her way to the daily Eucharist service. "All of this calls for us to grow and stretch. I think we're willing to stretch very far indeed."
An angry debate about the election of a gay bishop and the blessing of same-sex unions in the United States has frayed the church at home and threatened to fracture the Anglican communion, the world's third-largest church body. Lay and clergy representatives at the Episcopal Church's triennial general convention here are trying to hammer out a response that would satisfy the Archbishop of Canterbury and those Anglican primates abroad who are profoundly offended by the Episcopal Church's actions.
Bishop Jefferts Schori, the 52-year-old bishop of Nevada, will have to sell whatever decision her church makes to the rest of the global communion, a task that may be made more difficult by her sex. Most of the 37 other provinces of the communion do not ordain women, and the willingness of those primates to accept a woman, particularly one who has endorsed gay bishops and same-sex unions, will only become clear over time.
A tall, slender woman who speaks in a soft alto, Bishop Jefferts Schori was born March 26, 1954, in Pensacola, Fla., the oldest of four children. She grew up around Seattle and in New Jersey. But Bishop Jefferts Schori returned to the West Coast to attend college at Stanford University and then to pursue a master's and doctorate in oceanography at Oregon State University. Her master's work dealt with "things that live in mud," on the Oregon coast, she said.
Bishop Jefferts Schori's family seems to be defined by staggering competence.
Her father was an atomic physicist who became an astrophysicist and then went on to help invent a system to tag and code salmon. Her mother had a degree in comparative literature but later became a microbiologist. Her husband of 27 years, Richard M. Schori, is a retired theoretical mathematician. Her 24-year-old daughter, Katharine, is a pilot in the Air Force.
Bishop Jefferts Schori has been flying airplanes since college and took up rock climbing with her husband, a skilled mountaineer. She is fluent in Spanish.
Bishop Jefferts Schori's parents were Catholics who left the church when she was about 9 to join an Episcopal parish, she said.
"We went from a liturgy in Latin to one in English," she said, "from a large and anonymous church to a small and intimate one."
Her turn toward the ministry began more than 15 years ago, when her opportunities for work in oceanography were narrowing. At the same time, several people in her congregation told her she should become a minister. She said she studied and prayed with her pastor in Corvallis, Ore., and the answer became clearer over a period of years.
"My sense of call was like looking at a series of doors closing and others opening, not like there were words on fire on the wall," she said. "It was this dawning awareness that, 'Yes, it makes sense, that there is a coherence to the pieces I am experiencing.' "
Bishop Jefferts Schori was ordained in 1994. The church first ordained women in 1976.
When she walked down the hall toward the Eucharist, a woman in a wheelchair flashed her a smile and a pink button that read, "It's a girl!"
But to the Episcopal Church's critics, Bishop Jefferts Schori's election is another step in the wrong direction, given her liberal theology and her sex. Already, the diocese of Fort Worth, one of three that does not ordain women, has sent a letter to the archbishop of Canterbury asking to be placed under the oversight of a different primate. No decision on that is expected soon.
The archbishop himself sent rather wan greetings to Bishop Jefferts Schori, that in part cautioned that "her election will undoubtedly have an impact on the collegial life of the Anglican primates; and it also brings into focus some continuing issues in several of our ecumenical dialogues." That translates into concerns that other Anglican primates may not accept her, and the Vatican and Eastern Orthodox bishops might not, either.
If her fellow primates are not willing to sit at the table with her, Bishop Jefferts Schori said, she is willing to get up and follow them as they walk away.
"I think that building trust in other parts of the communion is crucial because there is anxiety about a woman in the boys club, as some have said, though I already know a number of the primates," she said. "There is anxiety about the place of the Episcopal Church in the communion. But we want to show that the main thing is that we aren't here to argue about matters of sexuality. We are here to build a holy community."
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company