COLUMBUS, OH: Bishop Jefferts Schori talks to VirtueOnline
By Hans Zeiger
COLUMBUS, OHIO (6/19/06)-VirtueOnline caught up Monday morning with the Rt. Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of Nevada and Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church. The previous afternoon Bishop Jefferts Schori became the first woman elected to the highest post of the 2.2 million member denomination and the first woman primate in the global Anglican Church's history.
It was around 7:30am this morning, and Jefferts Schori had arrived early to her meeting of the Ministry Committee in a back-hallway conference room. As I wandered the halls seeking out a meeting of the Social and Urban Affairs Committee, I stumbled into the room where stood the tall and dignified lady who will soon lead the Episcopal Church.
She was neatly dressed in elegant garb a bit more becoming a woman than the pomposities worn of most bishops at this concourse. Yet she wore not the apparent high of a victor having just headlined the top news of the world.
I approached her and introduced myself, congratulating her upon election. "Thank you," she said with a delicate smile in an air at once of magnanimity, grace, and the calculated smoothness becoming of a monarch.
I asked for an interview. "Quickly," she said. "I must get ready for my meeting."
I began by inquiring into her favorite Bible verse. "Isaiah 61," she replied. "I suppose that isn't a single verse, but it is my favorite." It is the mission of Christ, and it is the divine platform of social justice. The 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church approved its budget priorities last week, placing "Justice and Peace" at the head of the list. "Justice and Peace" includes the eight Millennium Development Goals prepared by the United Nations, which aim to eradicate poverty and ensure universal education.
For as Isaiah declares, "The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners."
It is a spirit that deeply inspires Katherine Jefferts Schori.
When I asked her favorite hymn, she told me, "Sweet, Sweet Spirit."
The hymn was written by Doris Akers, a popular Gospel choir leader and singer in the middle of the 20th Century.
There's a sweet sweet spirit in this place
And I know that it's the spirit of the Lord
There are sweet expressions on each face
And I know that it's the presence of the Lord
Sweet Holy Spirit Sweet heavenly dove
Stay right here with us
Filling us with your love
And for these blessings
We lift our hearts in praise (hearts in praise)
Without a doubt we'll know that we have been revived When we shall leave this place So I asked the Bishop of Nevada what the role of the Holy Spirit is in the 75th General Convention.
"To keep us on our toes," she said, "sometimes off center, sometimes to give us a sense of comfort, and to keep us aware that God is always doing a new thing. When we become confident that we are absolutely too certain, maybe it is time to be concerned."
There is, underlying the idea about the Holy Spirit that seems to predominate in the Episcopal Church-what classical Anglican writer Dr. Peter Toon has called the New Episcopal Church-a fervent relativism. Reality changes. Confidence in certain things is dangerous. Red flags must rise on the occasion of assurance.
It comes of an understanding of humanity and of the creation deeply impacted by the Darwinian theory of evolution. Mankind evolves, and so does truth, and so do the necessities of life.
Bishop Jefferts Schori is an evolutionist, not only in philosophy and theology, but in her training and career. She studied the evolution of squids and octopi as an oceanographer. And as a priest and bishop, Jefferts Schori affirms the changing nature of God's spirit in the creation.
I asked her about how her work in the theory of evolution impacts her theology of the Holy Spirit. "I believe in mystery and I believe God is always at work," she said. "Evolution is no problem for me. That's how I understand creation occurring."
To many clergy and laymen in Columbus this week, evolutionary theology means that Biblical truths are superceded by the higher truths of contemporary revelation. Homosexual conduct may not have been moral in the time of the Apostles, goes the reasoning. But surely it is moral today.
So Bishop Jefferts Schori went North on Front Street from the convention hall on Friday, just two days before her election, and turned left on Gay Street. She entered the doors of the historic Trinity Episcopal Church, founded in 1817 by the great presiding bishop Philander Chase. There she joined in a Eucharist sponsored by the homosexual lobby Integrity with over 1,000 gay and pro-gay Episcopalians.
So I asked her why she went. "I went to church," she said.
"And do you have second thoughts about having gone?" If she hadn't second thoughts, she might violate her own principle. She would be confident in a certain belief. So what did the Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church say?
"I never have second thoughts about going to church."
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