The Presiding Bishop’s visit to the Diocese of Milwaukee

This weekend was Annual Convention for the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee. The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefforts Schori and her husband Richard Schori were in attendance. Yesterday morning, the PB spent two hours with diocesan clergy while her husband met with clergy spouses. She began her session with us by asking us to meditate on the words Jesus heard as he came out of the Jordan River after being baptized, “You are my Beloved. In you I am well pleased.” After meditation and conversation in small groups about what we heard during our time of meditation, and how we responded to those words, we had the opportunity to ask questions of her.

During that time, and later in the afternoon during an open conversation with clergy, lay delegates, and other interested people, the Presiding Bishop spoke about what she saw as she traveled around the church in the US and the world. One of the things she stressed repeatedly is that the Episcopal Church is a world-wide church. It is not just an American, or even North American denomination.

She was honest about all of the ways Episcopalians do mission, both here and abroad, and she had a lot of positive things to say about the impact of the emergent church on our denomination. But she was also honest about the challenges facing us. One of the greatest may be demographic. According to her, while the average age for Americans is 37, the average age for Episcopalians is 57. Another theme that came back both in her remarks and in questions from the floor was the challenge we face with our aging physical infrastructure. To one question, she answered bluntly that some buildings need to be abandoned, given over to other purposes, while others can be revitalized and can continue to be the focal point of ministry. She also stressed that we have to get out of our buildings to do ministry in new places and in new ways. “Those churches that thrive,” she said, “are more than a worship space; meaningful to the larger community; while some of them are albatrosses.”

There were questions concerning the Anglican Covenant, to which she pointed out that “covenant” can mean very different things in different cultural contexts. For the Maori of New Zealand, who were victimized by a treaty that the settlers labeled a “covenant,” the term is deeply painful.

It was a good visit, an opportunity to hear from someone who has a much wider perspective on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion than we can have in the local parish. It was also a powerful reminder of the challenges that we face as well as the world of possibilities that lies before us.


More on the Anglican Covenant

Today came word that the Church in Mexico has approved the Anglican Covenant. The Bishops of the Church of England have commended it to the General Synod for approval.

Provocative comment in The Guardian today that describes the proposed covenant as a “power-play.”

Meanwhile, Presiding Bishop Jefforts Schori is visiting Australia, where she has received a hearty welcome from the Primate of [All] Australia.


If it weren’t so pathetic, it would be amusing. Clearly the Archbishop of Canterbury (or someone in his office) stepped way over the line. They’re back-pedalling now, promising an “investigation” of the Presiding Bishop’s treatment, although they aren’t moving as fast as the GOP did after Representative Barton’s “apology” to BP yesterday. Still both are public relations disasters.

Various sites are keeping track of those women bishops who have preached and celebrated in England while wearing their mitres. Among them:

The Rt. Rev’d Mary Tottenham, Area Bishop of the Credit Valley Diocese of Toronto (Canada), who preached and celebrated at Southwark Cathedral on November 9, 2002. More on that here.

Presiding Bishop Jefforts Schori did the same in 2008 at Sudbury Cathedral. More on the issue at the Episcopal Cafe and Preludium. Plus, Diana Butler Bass has comment on Beliefnet.

Now we learn that the Bishop of El Camino Real, the Rt. Rev’d Mary Gray-Reeves, is currently visiting the Bishop of Gloucester and is reported to have worn a mitre.

It was clear at Clergy Day yesterday in our diocese that many of those in attendance were outraged by the treatment of the Presiding Bishop and that whatever sentimental attachment that many of us had to Anglicanism, and the respect we had for the Archbishop of Canterbury is quickly dissipating. If the goal was to get the Episcopal Church to leave the Anglican Communion on its own, it may be in sight.

Perhaps it is all about Katharine Jefforts Schori

There’s a report making the rounds that during her visit to England, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori was asked by the ABC not to wear her mitre  while preaching and celebrating the Eucharist at Southwark Cathedral. Apparently there were hisses from the reactionaries while she preached. Apparently, too, she carried her mitre with her. The Bishop of Southwark, who extended the invitation comments here.

No doubt the ABC is concerned about what will transpire when the Church of England’s General Synod meets soon to discuss (again) the ordination of women to the Episcopate. It is a very sensitive issue with both Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals resistant to change. But it seems quite an affront to our Presiding Bishop, and to the American Church, that our chief representative not be allowed to wear the symbols of her office.

And if he’s willing to do that, it’s likely he’s willing to sacrifice all of us to appease opponents of women’s ordination.

Women, the priesthood and the episcopate

Thinking Anglicans links to a couple of posts about the ongoing debate over the consecration of women as bishops in the Church of England. Although ordination of women as priests has been possible since the early 90s, there are no women bishops in the Church of England, and in order to make that possible, legislation has to be passed by General Synod. There continues to be controversy as Anglicans from the Evangelical wing and from the Anglo-Catholic wing resist the move. Most commentators think the Pope’s overtures to Anglo-Catholics last fall had more to do with the debate over women bishops in the CoE than with the larger debate in Anglicanism over sexuality.

Thinking Anglicans also points to an essay decrying women’s ordination in the Church of Australia.

While all this is going on, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefforts Schori, has been visiting the United Kingdom, speaking to the gathering of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and preaching at Southwark Cathedral.

Mark Harris argues that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sanctions of the Episcopal Church have more to do with the fact that we have a female Presiding Bishop than with our actions concerning sexuality. He also hints that the ABC began his current campaign by asking ++Katharine to step down from her position on the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.

All of this is especially interesting in light of today’s gospel reading in which Luke makes clear that there were women disciples, following Jesus, and ministering to him.

More Anglican developments

There continue to be interesting responses to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s letter and the disinvitation of Episcopal participants in ecumenical dialogues. Inclusive Church, a movement within the Church of England has spoken sharply against the ABC’s actions. They did it in an earlier letter, but now have responded forcefully to this week’s developments. Most criticism has focused on the unequal treatment of the different moratoria breakers–the Episcopal Church is sanctioned, but those who “crossed borders” have not been punished.

But there’s another important issue raised in the Inclusive Church letter and in the blogosphere as well. That is the matter of inculturation. In other words, in our contexts, it seems to many to be a gospel mandate to be inclusive, to open our churches fully to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

There is also growing resentment of the Church of England’s hypocrisy, which I’ve mentioned before. With animosity growing toward British Petroleum in the States, there seems to be something of a snowball effect among progressives.

Coincidentally, both the Anglican Church of Canada and the Scottish Episcopal Church were meeting this week. Presiding Bishop Jefforts Schori attended and spoke at both, and ironically, Kenneth Kearon, General Secretary of the Anglican Communion spoke to the Canadian Church on the very day that his letter was made public.

The Canadian church debated the Anglican Covenant as well as issues of sexuality. The primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church offered a thoughtful discussion of the covenant.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of the State of Virginia decided in favor of the Diocese in a long-running property case with dissident parishes.

It’s early in the game yet (strange to say, since we’ve been arguing over this stuff for over a decade), but I think we are beginning to see real fracture in the communion. My sense is the Episcopal Church is beginning to make its peace with the future, and seek alliances with like-minded folk across the communion, whatever the ABC may say.

The ABC lowers the boom

In his Pentecost letter, the Archbishop of Canterbury asked that the Episcopal Church’s representatives to interfaith and ecumenical conversations be lowered to “consultant” status. This week, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Kenneth Kearon, did his master’s bidding, effectively disinviting Episcopal involvement in dialogues with the Orthodox, Lutherans, and Methodists.

The internet is abuzz with stories concerning the “sanctions” imposed on the Episcopal Church. There’s a wonderful irony here, because the Lutherans and the Methodists have each seen controversy in the US over sexuality, although apparently the Lutherans’ decision last year to permit the ordination of gays and lesbians went relatively smoothly.  Even more amusing is the fact that last year there was great concern when the Church of Sweden voted to allow gay marriages. Not only that, the Bishop of Stockholm, Eva Brunne, is a lesbian in a registered partnership, with a three-year old son. Because of the Porvoo Agreement, the Church of England is in full communion with the Church of Sweden. As a punishment, it seems rather silly to prevent Episcopal representatives from meeting with Lutherans whose policies on sexuality are more clear and more open than ours.

Of course there are other matters at stake. One of the key issues in the reception of the Anglican Covenant is section four which deals with disciplinary action. There has been some resistance from various sectors of the Anglican Communion to these proposals for a more tightly-run ship. I suspect the ABC would have liked to do something a little more ruthless to the American Church but lacked the nerve. Where’s Ratzinger when you need him?

There’s a local connection to this controversy. Tom Ferguson, who is Chaplain at St. Francis House and who also works for the national church on ecumenical matters, is one of those who has been disinvited. He was a participant in the Anglican-Orthodox dialogue.

The Presiding Bishop has also commented on recent developments.

As always, you can follow developments at Thinking Anglicans and The Episcopal Café.