A great piece just posted to Witness Magazine by Barbara C. Harris (of first-woman-bishop-in-the-Anglican Communion fame). Read it here and then bookmark The Witness as the go-to place for must read articles on faith and conscience since 1917.
[Friday, June 30, 2006 ] The conventional wisdom was that a "compromise" person, palatable to both sides of the church and the rest of the Anglican Communion, would be chosen in the hope that we might "get on with it" -- whatever "it" is.
The election of the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori as 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church is momentous for several reasons -- not the least of which is that many General Convention deputies, visitors and bishops themselves did not believe the House of Bishops had the moral courage to choose the obviously superior nominee. The conventional wisdom was that a "compromise" person, palatable to both sides of the church and the rest of the Anglican Communion, would be chosen in the hope that we might "get on with it" -- whatever "it" is.
It has been reported that a few retired conservative bishops (as many as nine) voted for her to demonstrate the split in the American church, but that can be documented only by those who would have concocted such a self-defeating scheme. That Bishop Jefferts Schori becomes the first known woman primate in the history of the Anglican Communion sends positive as well as negative shock waves around the world.
The hope that this self-assured, intelligent, poised and compassionate woman -- one might even say regal in bearing -- brings more than just a passive commitment to full inclusion of all of God's people in the life of church and society and an equal commitment to reconciliation bodes well. Similarly, her election brings a new sense of belonging to the many voiceless women throughout the Communion who can see in her not only an icon but also an advocate. But as in most situations, not all is sweetness and light.
Even as many of us embraced and celebrated Bishop Jefferts Schori's election in those early moments at Trinity Church, Columbus (where we were, by rule and custom, to be sequestered until the House of Deputies could be notified by two representatives of the House of Bishops and could vote to concur in the election) the whining, dissident so-called " traditionalists" were out the front door and on their cell phones conveying the balloting results to their constituents. One phone call recipient was overheard in the men's room back at the convention center to say: "the bitch got it."
Many of us lamented that on the final day of General Convention Bishop Katharine vocally supported acceptance of Resolution B033 which, in effect, became a moratorium on consent to the election of a gay or lesbian person in a same-sex relationship (despite the numbers of which we already are aware) and what this has said to our GLBT brothers and sisters.
Whether she was pressured to do so remains an open question. Even before she spoke, the House of Bishops was told that passage of the resolution was the price of the "ticket" to the Lambeth tea party. It would have been more honest for Presiding Bishop Griswold to have said this up front and saved us the time and the torture of pointless discussion, amendments and substitues. Similarly, her appearance in the House of Deputies -- which caused a deputy who had approached the microphone to speak against the resolution to instead dissolve in tears and urge its passage -- threw that chamber into confusion and resulted in its passage there. What remains to be seen in the church at home and beyond is how Presiding Bishop-elect Jefferts Schori will be received and treated.
The diminutive bishop of Fort Worth immediately appealed to Canterbury, the primates, the Panel of Reference and whoever else would listen for "alternative primatial oversight," whatever the hell that means, since, given our polity, dioceses are the recipients of precious little "primatial oversight" at best and Fort Worth is one of three dioceses that consistently have ignored the Canons regarding ordination and refuses to ordain women.
Some Primates, egged on by disaffected U.S. bishops who fomented strife and dissention in 2003 over the election, consent and consecration of Bishop V. Gene Robinson and who have continued to work for a church or denomination of their own that would be recognized by Cantebury and other provinces of the Communion, and especially those from Provinces that do not ordain or recognize the orders of women, will probably be demeaning, disrepectful of, or openly hostile toward her.
Presiding Bishop-elect Jefferts Schori can take it, but she will not be alone. Women bishops of the Episcopal Church have pledged that she will never be unescorted, unprotected and unsupported wherever she goes in the Anglican Communion and in the ecumenical or interfaithcommunity.