TLC: (Interview) Bishop J Schori: Open to the Spirit’s Leading
Bishop Jefferts Schori: Open to the Spirit’s Leading
The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected June 18 by the House of Bishops on the fifth ballot as the next Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. She spoke recently with a reporter from The Living Church.
TLC: How do you think that Anglican women in other parts of the world—and how do you think the other primates—will receive the news of your election as Presiding Bishop?
Bishop Jefferts Schori: I think Anglican women will receive the news with rejoicing. I already know a few of the primates, having them at General Convention, so it will not be a matter of walking into a room of unfriendly faces.
TLC: Will you be invited to the next primates’ meeting?
Bishop Jefferts Schori: I don’t have any indication otherwise.
TLC: Would you please comment on the Windsor Report resolutions approved by General Convention and your reaction to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s report published after Convention?
Bishop Jefferts Schori: They are another stage in the process. This is not going to be resolved soon. The Archbishop of Canterbury gave clarity to his own role. He does not understand his role as that of the savior.
TLC: I was struck by the analogy you made to conjoined twins during your address to the House of Deputies on June 21. Could you elaborate on that?
Bishop Jefferts Schori: The image of two levels of communion has been around for a long time and will probably be around for a while longer. We are clearly in different places about human sexuality, but we also have a lot in common. I would hope that we could focus on poverty and Millennium Development Goals together.
TLC: What excited you about General Convention?
Bishop Jefferts Schori: I was excited by the Millennium Development Goals. Those are achievable. We would be shirking our Christian duty if we didn’t act on those. General Convention has asked all dioceses to be on board within a year. It is remarkable that more than 70 have already done so.
TLC: Your initial interest and education was in science. How has your background in science informed your faith?
Bishop Jefferts Schori: From the time I was a child I had a curiosity about the created order. I was fascinated by the diversity of life in the sea. I think my scientific training gave me gifts in looking at the world.
TLC: Could you elaborate?
Bishop Jefferts Schori: I tend to come to a situation with a hypothesis, rather than a set-in-stone agenda. It’s a spiritual practice of mine to hold my convictions lightly in order to be open to the leading of the spirit.
TLC: Some have questioned whether your lack of parochial experience as a rector will be a handicap. How would you respond to that?
Bishop Jefferts Schori: I think that experience is a rather narrow perspective. Before ordination, I was very active as a lay person both in my church and in the diocese. I served as both senior and junior warden. As a scientist, I developed experience managing grants and a laboratory. I have some questions whether leading a parish is all that helpful to being a diocesan bishop. A bishop is not resident in one place, for example.
TLC: You are an instrument rated pilot and have continued to fly since being consecrated Bishop of Nevada. Some companies include riders in the contracts of their senior executives forbidding them from engaging in certain risky activities. Since your election, has anyone cautioned you about continuing to fly after you are installed as Presiding Bishop?
Bishop Jefferts Schori: That came up in only one regard in Nevada. I encouraged the standing committee to take out a life insurance policy on me and it turned out to be a bit more expensive because of the flying. I think a leader should take a certain amount of risks, not over-the-top risks, but judicious ones.
TLC: What was your immediate reaction when you realized that you might actually be elected and when did you first allow yourself to believe that it might come true?
Bishop Jefferts Schori: I was surprised when I led after the first ballot. By the third ballot I had a real sense that it might actually happen. Afterward I was filled with a heavy weight, a sense of gravity. The Episcopal Church is rich with possibilities. There is plenty of work to do and now that Convention is over there is a clear sense of the direction in which to go. The Anglican Communion is not just the Windsor Report and the primates. There were some really interesting resolutions that the ACC [Anglican Consultative Council] passed. We have simply entered the next chapter in the process. The resolutions that we passed were the best that we could do in a limited period. We wrote in stone where we were at that time, but we will be wrestling with this for years. That was the clearest message from the Archbishop of Canterbury for me. That and the fact that he won’t try to settle it for us.
TLC: What about those both in The Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion who cannot accept your ordained ministry out of theological conviction. How, for example, would you deal with a diocese which elected as a bishop someone who does not believe that God has called women to ordained orders; would you insist on being the chief consecrator?
Bishop Jefferts Schori: They are a relatively small minority of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. There are plenty of ways to handle situations like that pastorally.
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