Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori sat for an interview with the Houston Chronicle during a recent visit to Texas. As usual, she acquits herself–and represents our church–well.
Q: What’s behind the growth of Latinos in the Episcopal Church?
A: The popular caricature of the Episcopal Church is white people, maybe rich white people, in the Northeast. That isn’t true, if it ever was. The church started there, as a planting of the Church of England during Colonial days, but it has spread west and south and into immigrant groups. The Spanish-speaking part of the church is one of the fastest-growing parts. In addition, the overseas part is growing. The Diocese of Haiti is our largest. The church in Honduras and the church in the Dominican Republican are both growing. We serve people of Hispanic heritage very well because our liturgical framework is familiar, and we seem to be attractive to them because we don’t provide ready-made answers to the questions people ask. We encourage people to wrestle with those questions, to come to their own faithful decisions, rather than doing what the church tells them.
Q: Obviously, a major issue has been the schism over the ordination of gay and lesbian priests and bishops. Can you keep the church together if some people don’t, in your view, respect what you see as full human rights?
A: The church has struggled with inclusion from the very beginning. The first Christian fight was whether gentiles could be followers of Jesus. The history of the Episcopal church has been confronting a series of questions about who can be a full member of the church, beginning with African-American slaves. Could you teach slaves about the faith? Eventually, most places they decided yes. … Could the church ordain women? That took longer. At the moment, we’re still wrestling with full membership for gays and lesbians. The church isn’t finished with that discussion.