Monday, June 19, 2006

Proud to be an Episcopalian

Today I am so proud to be an Episcopalian!

The Episcopal Church USA elected the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori to be its 26th Presiding Bishop. She is the first woman elected to be the leader of the Episcopal Church as well as the first woman to lead any of the Provinces of the World Wide Anglican Church. She will be consecrated as Presiding Bishop in November at the National Cathedral.

This is a great day not only for the Episcopal Church but for the Christian community as a whole.

At a press conference and in interviews following Sunday's election, the Presiding Bishop-elect spoke with eloquence, compassion, humility and conviction as she answered challenging and forthright questions about the future of the Episcopal Church and its relationship with the Anglican Communion. Only two other provinces, New Zealand and Canada, have women Bishops though some allow women to serve in that position. Her election will be considered by some as a continued affront to the more conservative members of the Church. As quoted in a story by the Associated Press The Rev. Canon Chris Sugden, a leader of the Anglican Mainstream, a Church of England conservative group, said that her election "shows that the Episcopal leadership is going to do what they want to do regardless of what it means to the rest of the communion."

To those questions the Bishop-elect said that she believed that relationships are the most important component of reconciliation. She cited an example of being the lead scientist on a research vessel early in her career. The captain refused to speak to her because she is a woman. Jefferts Schori stated, "that lasted about 15 minutes and then he got over it. I think when we get to know one another we can work together."Her experience as an oceanographer and scientist, she said, has prepared her to be "open" and approach every circumstance with a "let's learn" about what "new adventure" we are on.

The Bishop-elect stressed the Millennium Development Goals as a priority. She constantly referred to the reign of God as being a place for the marginalized. She insists that the reign of God must focus on feeding the poor, working for health care for all and protecting the welfare of all children.

Jefferts Schori voted for the consecration of the Bishop Gene Robinson. When questioned about her support of Bishop Robinson and her views of gay and lesbian clergy she said, "God welcomes all to His table which includes a variety of theologies and opinions." She encouraged that those who disagree be willing to continue to stay in relationship and remain at the Eucharistic table.

Personally, I find this startling news to be so very encouraging and uplifting. This is powerful statement that the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies have made for and about the Episcopal Church. On a Sunday afternoon in Columbus, Ohio, they were able to speak for the inclusion of all of God's creation. For words of inclusion without the opportunity to be in position of power is just weak and worthless rhetoric. But, the Episcopal Church has once again proven that indeed the reign of God is alive and well.

No matter your position on this issue and any of the other hot topics being discussed at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, I might ask that you do offer prayers for the Bishop-elect, the Episcopal Church and World Wide Communion.

The prayer of St. Francis: Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

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