The Presiding Bishop, The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, reflects on this past year with Editor of Episcopal Life, Solange de Santis:
The year 2008, it seemed, was crammed more-than-usually with momentous events for the Episcopal Church and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.
Internationally, Anglican bishops gathered for the decennial Lambeth Conference and the church continued to work for the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals for social progress. Domestically, some members left the church due to theological differences and the church confronted its past with an apology for involvement in slavery.
As the year drew to a close, Jefferts Schori’s thoughts turned toward the Middle East, where Israeli and Palestinian forces were battling in Gaza — a place she had visited the previous spring.
On Lambeth and the Anglican Communion:
Six months later, Jefferts Schori said what continued to resonate with her was “the ability to learn about contexts in other parts of the [Anglican] Communion … what the challenges are in other dioceses, what the opportunities are … what the needs and hungers of the local population are. In most parts of the Anglican Communion, those needs and hungers are far more basic than in much of the Episcopal Church — adequate food to eat, education for children, any semblance of health care, a peaceful society … Those are things we tend to take for granted in the United States part of this church,” she said.
On the Millennium Development Goals:
Jefferts Schori said she’s seen positive developments in the past year. “Every diocese I visit knows something about the MDGs; that wasn’t true five years ago. Increased numbers of congregations and dioceses are building relationships with developing parts of the world. They are learning what it is like to live on less then one dollar or two dollars a day,” she said.
On church growth and plans for the future of the Episcopal Church:
Recent statistics have shown that Episcopal Church membership — along with that of some other mainline denominations — is declining. What plans are there to address this trend? “There are many plans to address that trend. Among the new staff at church center [in New York] are ones dedicated to church planting work, one dedicated to work in evangelism, one for work with small congregations. We’re going to bring aboard another person who will help to teach the rest of us and challenge the rest of us to think about emergent church models — how the church can as a whole be more effective in presenting the gospel in language and images and idioms that can be more readily understood by new generations,” she said.
On the future with those who are in disagreement with church’s stance on same sex blessings and inclusion of gays and lesbians.
Is there hope for reconciliation with disaffected Episcopalians or former Episcopalians? “When we’re clearer about our identity, there is abundant room for reconciliation. The challenging part of the environment is that some have said they can no longer be Episcopalians because the Episcopal Church believes ‘X.’ The Episcopal Church has always had a wide range of belief. The challenge comes when some find that range too wide for their own comfort. There have always been times in the church when some have decided to follow their spiritual journey in another faith community. We are embracing, we are a wide tent. If you are reasonably comfortable with that diversity, you are more then welcome,” she commented.
On the passage and possible repeal of B033:
The 2006 convention passed a resolution called B033, which called upon the church to use restraint when electing and consecrating bishops “whose lifestyle poses a challenge to the wider church.” It was seen as an uneasy conservative-liberal compromise and there have been calls for its repeal or modification in 2009. “I’ve said I don’t think it’s helpful to revisit B033. It is far more helpful for us to say something significant about where we are in 2009. Conventions have passed resolutions in the past and they have rarely been revisited. New resolutions have been passed that state where the church is at that point,” said Jefferts Schori.
Many other items are discussed by the Presiding Bishop on the video of the interview here.