My more formally journalistic coverage of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s election as our next presiding bishop is online at edow.org, along with a couple of pictures. I will have more to say later, but let me just quickly mention that people are really excited about what the bishops have done and hardly believe they had the courage to do it. There has been a tide of anxiety building all week as we approached some final decision on the Windsor-related resolutions, and now it has been at least partially dispelled.
Let me say four quick things before I get something to eat:
1. The conservative press came at her pretty pointedly with questions about how she will be received by the rest of the Anglican primates. I don’t know how she will be received, but I can tell you that the press didn’t lay a glove on her. She responded in utter charity, with total equanimity, and still got the best of the exchanges. If she were my client I’d say, “You don’t need my help. Keep doing what you are doing.”
2. The mood among women at this convention, especially female priests, is ecstatic. “Tears of joy,” as one deputy put it. Lots of moms talking about what this will mean to their daughters. Lots of oldtimers reminiscing about all the fights they fought and slights they endured. We dive back in to all of the Windsor stuff tomorrow, but this is a triumphant moment tonight. And as someone who left the Roman Catholic Church primarily over the ordination of women, who was received into the Episcopal Church by Bishop Jane Dixon, and who gets a chance to work with Bishop Barbara Harris, all I can say is YAHOOOOO!!!!!!!!!
3. I don’t know how the politics of this is going to shake out in the Anglican Communion yet. On the one hand, this is another “first” from the Episcopal Church, and maybe that won’t be well received. On the other hand, the hand I favor, it now becomes clear that attacking the Church that deals fairly with gays and lesbians also means attacking the Church that deals fairly with women. The cause of the small, vulnerable gay population is now linked to the large and much less vulnerable female population.
Seems to me the Episcopal right can either accept Bishop Jefferts Schori as a woman and go after her as someone who supported the consecration of Gene Robinson, or pursue the nutball logic, already on the Web although I won’t link to it, that her election is a “slap in the face to the Global South.” (Good luck with that by the way. She had heavy support from the Latin American countries in our Church and probably speaks better Spanish than any of the mostly Anglo bishops of the tiny but ultra-conservative province of the Southern Cone.)
4. Bishop Jefferts Schori served on the Special Commission on Windsor, the precursor of the Special legislative Committee on Windsor. Her election gives additional momentum to a trend that was building earlier in the day. The deputies, but not necessarily the bishops, seem to be giving the committee a good reception. Its recommendations are passing despite attempts to amend from both left and right.
I think the showdown will come over the language the Special committee endorsed tonight regarding the consecration of non-celibate gay bishops. It says that they are “obliged to urge” that bishops and standing committees “refrain” from giving consent to the election of what from now on I am going to call an NCGB.
As it has been explained to me, this isn’t as harsh as it sounds (to my two left ears) because a) the General Convention cannot bind standing committees and bishops via resolution. Binding them would take a change in the canons, and that would require approval of two conventions. As we aren’t in a position to consider such a change at this convention, the earliest it could be imposed would be six years from now, so… b) saying the committee is “obliged” to urge the convention suggests it woueldn’t urge the convention if left to its own devices. I appreciate, actually, I really admire the wordsmithing here. It is first class. But it shouldn’t have to be. The original resolution urging considrable caution was good enough, and, as far as I think we can go without domestic consequences.
At some point we need to recognize, just for self-preservation, that meeting the needs of Rowan Williams’s diplomatic agenda could cost us evangelical opportunities here in our own backyard. We have already alienated the people our actions were likely to alienate, but we haven’t reached out as energetically as we should have to the un-churched people who might find our actions appealing, who might think that finally there is a Church that takes them seriously.
Bishop Jefferts Schori’s election gives us a new opportunity to do so. Let’s not blow it by going all “wobbly”, as a certain conservative British icon once said, on Windsor. We keep trying to be some of what God calls us to be and avoiding the pain. Let’s be all of what God calls us to be, and reap the benefits.