From Canterbury to Columbus: And from Rowan to Katherine
By Peter Toon
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams issued a Short statement June 19 on the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of Nevada, as the next Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Jefferts Schori was elected June 18 to succeed current Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.
The second and third paragraphs of his statement read:
"Her election will undoubtedly have an impact on the collegial life of the Anglican Primates; and it also brings into focus some continuing issues in several of our ecumenical dialogues."
"We are continuing to pray for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church as it confronts a series of exceptionally difficult choices"
Let us seek to unpack these two sentences.
He does not say "will have an impact" but will "undoubtedly" have one! He knows the 36 male Primates well and so speaks here from both knowledge and first-hand experience. Introducing a woman into this "college" of senior bishops will change its character dramatically. In fact, it may cause the absence of some Primates. This is because most of these men practice in their own provinces a kind of generous and gracious patriarchy (headship) and are not sympathetic to women being bishops, let alone archbishops or presiding bishops. And even where they may be tolerance of a female bishop, they may not be tolerance for this one because she is a supporter of the consecration of Gene Robinson and of blessing persons in same-sex partnerships.
In Dialogues with the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, the presence of a female Presiding Bishop in the Anglican world will bring into focus the fact that these two major Churches do not ordain women to any order of the Ministry. Recently Dr Williams invited Cardinal Kasper from the Vatican to address the House of Bishops of the Church of England as that House seeks to come to a common mind as to the introduction of women bishops into the mother Church of the Anglican Communion.
Finally, Dr Williams says he is praying for the Episcopal Church as it faces not merely "choices", but "exceptionally difficult choices." It is fairly certain that he has in mind the debates on June 19 & 20 on several resolutions (A159-A163) that seek to deal with the requests made by The Windsor Report of the Episcopal Church. These deal with - expressing regret and moratoriums on the consecration of actively "gay" persons and the blessing of same-sex partnerships. The whole Anglican world is awaiting the text of these Resolutions when finally passed in order to see whether they actually make clear that the Episcopal Church is intending to walk together in spirit and truth with the rest of the Anglican Communion.
What the Archbishop does not raise at this stage - for it would be ungracious and out of order - is whether in fact by electing this particular female bishop, with her known progressive and liberal views and commitments, the Episcopal Church has already declared its intention to walk alone.
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