The Episcopal Church has a new Presiding Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, bishop of Nevada, a former working scientist (Ph.D oceanographer). The surprising vote by the House of Bishops was later ratified overwhelming by the House of Delegates. She'll take office in November 2006.
The new PB wrapped up her brief acceptance speech with this: "May this great and greatly blessed church of ours be the vehicle and leader in building the reign of God in our day."
The Witness magazine has excerpts here from some of her writings, including this:
We believe that revelation continues, that God continues to be active in creation, and that all of the many ways of knowing
--including geology, evolutionary biology, philosophy, and arts such as opera, punk rock or painting --can be vehicles through which God and human beings partner in continuing creation.
Given this worldview, we are compelled to use the resources God has given us. Not to use our brains in understanding the world around us seems a cardinal sin.
As a scientist and an Episcopalian, I cherish the prayer that follows a baptism, that the newly baptized may receive "the gift of joy and wonder in all God's works." I spent the early years of my adulthood as an oceanographer, studying squid and octopuses, including their evolutionary relationships. I have always found that God's creation is "strange and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139). ...
Making any kind of faith decision is based on accumulating the best evidence one can find -- what one's senses and reason indicate, what the rest of the community has believed over time, and what the community judges most accurate today.
That is not to say that the tradition or community understanding is always correct, as we might note in the aftermath of Galileo's discoveries. When the various sources of authority seem to be in tension, we must use all our rational and spiritual faculties to discern the direction in which a preponderance of the evidence points. To do otherwise is to repudiate the very gifts God has given us.
Her interview with Episcopalian gay activist Louie Crew is here. Excerpt:
What about those who seem bent and determined to leave or to wound the body if they don't get their own way?
I think they need to be challenged, more so than they have been. I see signs of hope in the House of Bishops, an unwillingness to continue to put up with bad behavior. We haven't seen any action yet, but I think it is coming.
Do you have any sense of what that action might be? Would a verbal rebuke be enough?
It won't be enough in some cases, I am sure. But I have the sense that there is some desire to hold each other accountable for actions that are not canonical, for actions that have the appearance of being downright schismatic.
Like a separate church ... not even doing Eucharist together: I find that the most painful part.
* * *
Some have noted that three of you who are nominees have served only 5-6 years as bishop, and I think you served as priest from only from 1994 to 2001. Your length of service is not an issue for me personally. Would you like to comment on it for others?
I don't bring the history of forty years in the same parish,
But I bring different life experience. I bring the training to see the world carefully, which comes along with a scientific background and an analytical mind. The gift to me has been to be able to serve in a lot of different ways in the church
--as an active lay person and as a priest later.
I particularly like your emphasis in your part of the DVD on how you struggled to reconcile science and faith and did so by an awesome recognition of Mystery.
I am most worried when people are absolutely sure that their view is the right one.
What do you value most about the Episcopal Church?
I value most its historic ability to live with diversity and to celebrate that diversity. We have gotten better in some areas over the years, like liturgical diversity. We are wrestling mightily at the moment with theological diversity.
I love the Episcopal Church's ability not to define everything, to allow for a varied interpretation. Some see that as a mighty sin, but I see it as one of the gifts of the creator. To be created in the image of God doesn't mean just one thing.
Do you favor Dean Werner's movement to have both Houses elect the Presiding Bishop in 2015?
I would. Our current practice of having only the bishops elect is the legacy of the time when the Presiding Bishop functioned only as presiding officer in the House of Bishops and was not the Primate of the whole church. We are far the most democratic creature in the Anglican Communion, and it would make theological sense for us to invest the wider body with the responsibility for that election.
Is there anything I haven't asked that you would like to add?
I think the structure of the Episcopal Church needs to be far more agile than it has been. It needs to be dispersed across the breadth of the church. I am not sure yet what that looks like.
We need to be clearly semper reformanda. We didn't get it totally right when we first put it together. There has got to be more goodness and truth out there that hasn't been realized yet.
To see her on video, look at her PB-candidacy interview.