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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Episcopal Church elects woman bishop as new leader.

Mrs Philocrites called a few minutes ago from the floor of the House of Deputies at the Episcopal Church General Convention to tell me that the Rt Rev Katharine Jefferts Schori has been elected the church's next presiding bishop. Schori will be the first woman to lead a national church in the Anglican Communion. (Most Anglican provinces, including the Church of England itself, do not currently allow women bishops. That should make Lambeth fun!) Here's the AP report.

My money was on Alabama's moderate and widely respected bishop, which is why you should never ask me for gambling advice. If Schori is as impressive a leader as my wife has heard from delegates in Columbus, the election will change the tenor of the church's homosexuality debates. Bishops in the U.S. like the Rt Rev Robert Duncan and would-be pontiffs like the Rt Rev Peter Akinola of Nigeria have readily employed a divide-and-conquer strategy around homosexuality that simply won't get them as far when their opposition to ordained women pops back into focus. Complaining about deviations from "tradition" is easier when we're just picking on gay people, but when it involves dismissing women priests and bishops in a church that has become increasingly grateful for their leadership, I think the number of willing culture warriors drops off. It will be illuminating for people to see just how conservative the schismatics are.

(I don't actually know if Duncan still opposes the ordination of women, by the way, but many of the traditionalists in his network definitely do — and soon I think it will be worth finding out what the Anglican Network folks really think about women's leadership.)

Mrs Philocrites, by the way, is having a wonderful time at her first General Convention.

Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 18 June 2006 at 4:31 PM

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June 18, 2006 06:32 PM | Permalink for this comment

A response to my post over on the Ship of Fools discussion boards led me to post the following clarification:

Demas quotes me as suggesting that the election itself is "part of the culture war." That's not what I meant to suggest.

The election may help clarify what is at stake within the Episcopal Church, however, because the various differences of opinion within the church have been getting polarized into culture war. This election might help Episcopalians see where they really do have consensus even if that consensus isolates them from squeamish parts of the church elsewhere.

The election of a woman presiding bishop highlights the fact that the American church has reached much greater consensus around women's ordination than most other branches of Anglicanism have. In this respect the election can be seen as an assertion of the church's "liberal" consensus -- its willingness to say, "Yes, this is what we're about, and we've been coming to see women's leadership -- and the theological insights that support it -- as genuinely right." But the Episcopal Church also has much greater consensus around women's ordination than it has about homosexuality. So bringing the focus back to the role of women and away from homosexuality is, in the U.S., a more moderate and consolidating move.

Will it intensify some conflicts? Yes. But it may consolidate Episcopalians around broadly shared values and commitments in a way that a pitched battle over homosexuality alone just can't do. If gay rights represents the liberal pole in the culture war within the Episcopal Church, women's leadership represents a much more moderate and widely shared position. If it's about culture war, this is culture war from the center-left.

My wife, a candidate for the priesthood who is attending General Convention, is on cloud nine. Thirty years ago the General Convention affirmed women's ordination. She feels tremendous pride in her church today, and I'm happy for her.

Steve Caldwell:

June 19, 2006 07:03 PM | Permalink for this comment

At least one Episcopal Diocese (Ft. Worth) is asking Archbishop of Canterbury for alternative episcopal oversight due to the election of Rt Rev Katharine Jefferts Schori as the Presiding Bishop:


June 20, 2006 06:54 AM | Permalink for this comment

For one unused to Episcopal terminology, the phrase "Anglican Primates" produces fascinating imagery.


Res Publica:

June 20, 2006 06:22 PM | Permalink for this comment

My money was on Alabama's moderate and widely respected bishop, which is why you should never ask me for gambling advice.

Most everyone's money was on him. Jefferts Schori's election was a giant, albeit exhilarating, surprise.

Re: Bishop Iker in Fort Worth, the media skipped over all the relevant facts, as usual. Fort Worth had already requested alternative oversight through the ABC's "Panel of Reference" long before GC 2006. Iker is a schismatic right-winger, and Fort Worth is one of three dioceses in the EC that refuse to ordain women. If you ask me, the only lesson here is that permitting lawlessness in the name of hoped-for unity only breeds more lawlessness. Bishop Iker should have been deposed long ago, as he is barely fit to be an altar-boy, much less a bishop. Fort Worth, San Joaquin and Quincy should never have been allowed to discriminate against women in violation of the canons.

It's time for the Episcopal Church to reject the "It's OK if you're a conservative" syndrome.

Res Publica:

June 20, 2006 06:26 PM | Permalink for this comment

Also in re: Bishop Jefferts Schori's election, this blog entry is interesting. In it, the Bishop Don Wimberly of the Diocese of Texas basically says that the conservatives in the House of Bishops voted for Jefferts Schori with the hope of precipitating a schism.

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