Sunday, July 09, 2006

10 Questions For Katharine Jefferts Schori

From TIME Magazine

10 Questions For Katharine Jefferts Schori
Rough waters aren't new to Katharine Jefferts Schori, 52, a former oceanographer who is the Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. Bishop Katharine, as she's known, takes over a denomination rocked by controversy at home and abroad for its liberal stance on gay clergy. She talked with TIME's Jeff Chu about her mission of social justice, the relationship between science and religion and whether faith in Jesus is the only path to heaven.

What will be your focus as head of the U.S. church? Our focus needs to be on feeding people who go to bed hungry, on providing primary education to girls and boys, on healing people with AIDS, on addressing tuberculosis and malaria, on sustainable development. That ought to be the primary focus.

The issue of gay bishops has been so divisive. The diocese of Newark, N.J., has named a gay man as one of its candidates for bishop. Is now the time to elect another gay bishop? Dioceses, when they are faithful, call the person who is best suited to lead them. I believe every diocese does the best job it's capable of in discerning who it is calling to leadership. Many Anglicans in the developing world say such choices in the U.S. church have hurt their work. That's been important for the church here to hear. We've heard in ways we hadn't heard before the problematic nature of our decisions. Especially in places where Christians are functioning in the face of Islamic culture and mores, evangelism is a real challenge. [But] these decisions were made because we believe that's where the Gospel has been calling us. The Episcopal Church in the U.S. has come to a reasonable conclusion and consensus that gay and lesbian Christians are full members of this church and that our ministry to and with gay and lesbian Christians should be part of the fullness of our life.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, who leads the Anglican Communion, wrote recently that a two-tier Communion may be a solution. What did you read in his message? The pieces that I saw as most important had to do with the complexity of the situation and the length of time that this process will continue. He's very clear that we're not going to see an instant solution. He's also clear about his role: it is to call people to conversation, not to intervene in diocesan or provincial life--which some people have been asking for.

There's much debate about whether science and religion can comfortably coexist. You're a scientist and a pastor. What do you think? Oh, they absolutely can. In the Middle Ages, theology was called the queen of the sciences. It asks a set of questions about human existence, about why we're here and how we should be in relationship with our neighbors and with the divine. And science, in this more traditional understanding, is about looking at creation and trying to understand how it functions.

What is your view on intelligent design? I firmly believe that evolution ought to be taught in the schools as the best witness of what modern science has taught us. To try to read the Bible literalistically about such issues disinvites us from using the best of recent scholarship.

Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven? We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.

Pastoral work can be all-consuming. How do you relax? I run regularly. I like to hike, and I take one long backpacking trip a year. Flying is also a focusing activity. I come from a family of pilots, and it's always been part of my experience. It takes one's full attention, and that's restful in an odd kind of way. It takes your mind away from other concerns, not unlike meditation.

Do you have a favorite Bible verse? Chapter 61 of Isaiah is an icon for me of what Christian work should be about. That's what Jesus reads in his first public act. In Luke, he walks into the synagogue and reads from Isaiah. It talks about a vision of the reign of God where those who are mourning are comforted, where the hungry are fed, where the poor hear good news.

What is your prayer for the church today? That we remember the centrality of our mission is to love each other. That means caring for our neighbors. And it does not mean bickering about fine points of doctrine.


Anonymous said...

"What is your prayer for the church today? That we remember the centrality of our mission is to love each other."

Ummm... silly me---I thought it was first "to love the Lord God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength..." and then loving our neighbor is what FOLLOWS from that. Since we are only capable of love since He loved us FIRST. KJS is a theological wasteland.


eve -- judging someone "a theological wasteland" based on one response to one question in a secular media interview strikes me as precisely the sort of narrow judgmentalism that has been the hallmark of those seeking to draw lines in the sand rather than build bridges between differences.

Anonymous said...

Rev. Susan,

Yes, I know it's your blog and your call - but perhaps it's time to institute some rules for your comment section that're similar to those Eliz. Kaeton recently made.

Esp. considering a subset of the crowd you draw ;)


david ... great minds clearly think alike ... or at least ours do! (See the post "What Elizabeth Said" just added!)

Anonymous said...

+KJS continuously misses the opportunity to express the good news of Jesus as the mediator for our sins and the sins of the whole world, and that through Him we will take on the mission she sees for TEC.

Maybe its her style, but it doesn't relate well to the Way, the Truth, and The Light understanding of who Jesus is.

Her new position has her as Presiding Bishop for the entire Episcopal Church - but her testament looks like its direct at a choir familiar to her.


anonymous ... And I would make the argument that in continuing to focus on grace rather than sin -- on how we are meant to be active in the world on behalf of the Gospel Jesus lived to show us how to incarnate and died rather than compromise -- +KJS is seizing the opportunity to offer Good News that is the essence of the Way, the Truth and the Light.

Anonymous said...


I'm sorry that I couldn't come near reading (seeing) that message in her Time Magazine interview.

That is why I suggest she is speaking to an audience already familiar with her vernacular and is not speaking to the wider Episcopal Church or those seeking a personal relationship with Jesus.


Anonymous said...


In light of the problems you've been encountering over here (see the What Elizabeth Said post), let me make one observation (from someone deeply familiar with the mind of the conservativs--since I have one):

I have observed that the conservatives will most often not complain about what was actually said by the person quoted but will instead criticize what was NOT said by the person quoted. It drives me crazy at times.

I get the sense that you have noticed this, too, based on an earlier response on this thread.

That being said, there are some things that the PBE said in her answers that bother me, such as describing Jesus as our vehicle to the divine. That is just a description I have not heard before nor have I thought of Jesus in those terms. Is she harkening back to some midieval mystic again a la Julian of Norwich? Or maybe another culture's Prayer Book (such as New Zealand)?

Your silver looks great here in your living room, by the way.

Anonymous said...

While I support +KJS wholeheartedly, I have to agree that her theological responses could have been better. The first priority of the church is always to proclaim the good news of God in Christ--and the justice message flows from that. It sometimes seems as if "justice" is perceived, in reaction to conservative evangelicalism, as a wider, more basic and inclusive message than the gospel, but shouldn't we be insisting that it is the gospel that is the most inclusive of all messages, and any human notion of justice is going to be only an approximation of that?
Similarly, I would insist that saying Jesus is the only mediator is not an exclusive, but a genuinely universal claim, since he is the second person of the Trinity, and not only a human being. How that mediation happens for followers of other religions we do not know, but *that* it does is part of our faith. Of course, we should not be imperialistic in attempting to explain or apply this doctrine, but how could there be another road to God than God?

Anonymous said...

I am afraid I have to agree with Patrick that KJS did not do well in this interview. If this is the best she can do in explaining her faith, then it will not get us far.

However, it is early days so give her a chance to show her ability --- so far we have only seen such very shallow - almost trite - thinking.

We have to assume that her fellow bishops would not have elected her if there had been no more.


patrick, mng, et al ... a little "lesson in the ways of the world" AKA dealing with the secular media: odds KJS took an hour or so to answer those 10 questions ... and the reporter edited her answers down to the soundbites he/she chose to use. Odds are also most of her best stuff ended up on the cutting room floor. So let's cut her some slack and let her develop her theology more fully as we go along.

Anonymous said...

I will not hold my breath, as my father used to say ,

"this dog dont hunt!"

I am afraid


fear not ... for I have redeemed you ... I have called you by name ... and you are mine.

Anonymous said...


ok thanks-- well I will just forget about the hunting and treat the little doggy as a pet... but what about food for my family?? and the wolves arrrrg!!! the sheep oh no!!
well never mind then, look on the bright side--I suppose-- oh no its the Spanish Inquisition-- smell of burning flesh
o--I knew I should have listened to my fear-- too late now--
oh well never mind


Anonymous said...

My father was from the south so I sould translate for more cultured people. This dog dont hunt means " this dog does not hunt" and refers to a situation where you make a significant investment in an asset on trust but when you put it to work it does not deliver.
As a woman and a feminist I am very dissapointed in +KJSs performance so far. she comes across as a competent manager and that is important. She comes across as a NGO official with good social work intentions.She does not demonstrate theological or personal leadership at this critical time and time has pretty much run out.what a lost opportunity, one of several sadly.Others will step into this leadership vacuum how can we help her? time is passing let us not have too little too late but I fear it is so

Anonymous said...

Rev Susan

I am sorry I would expect a good spokesperson to be able to give such tantilizing quotes that the secular press could not help but print the bits that you wanted to have printed. That is the sign of a successful communicator.

As it is Vicki has said what I have felt about this, and the other interviews, that I have so far read, with much greater eloquence than I could:

"As a woman and a feminist I am very dissapointed in +KJSs performance so far. she comes across as a competent manager and that is important. She comes across as a NGO official with good social work intentions.She does not demonstrate theological or personal leadership at this critical time and time has pretty much run out.what a lost opportunity, one of several sadly"

It is early days, and perhaps with time she will be able to show leadership rather than sound like a wimpy echo of a UN-do-gooder-of-no-theological-substance.
I hope so because we certainly need more than that.


mng ... I guess it's an "eye of the beholder" thing ... I have experieced her to be concise, clear and articulate in print and engaging in person. Time will tell what kind of Presiding Bishop she will be but I believe she is precisely the right person to lead this church at this time.