SALT LAKE CITY, UT: Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Tells the Episcopal Church to Warp Up
By Michael Heidt in Salt Lake City
June 23, 2015
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, opened the Church's 78th General Convention, by inviting assembled delegates and deputies to travel to a new galaxy of "interdependence" after a recent Episcopal history marked by "warring, chaos," and "collateral damage."
After referring to the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church (TREC), Jefferts Schori told her listeners to "warp up and get moving." The Presiding Bishop continued to borrow language from the hit T.V. series, Star Trek, to describe the mission of the denomination.
"We're bound for the galaxy called Galilee," said Schori, "And the edges of the known world, because that's where Jesus sent us and that's where he promises to meet us. The journey is likely to be a long one, in spite of the glimpses of heaven around us. We will measure this journey in light-years, and expect those years to be filled with growing awareness of the light of the world."
However, while acknowledging that the galactic journey was not for the "fainthearted," the Presiding Bishop reassured the Convention that church members aren't alone in their trek into space.
"We don't make this trek alone," said Jefferts Schori, "And we can't go alone even if we'd prefer a solo journey. We're tied to one another through the bonds of affection called the love of God. We will never live that interrelated life perfectly, but interdependence is our vocation and our destiny -- and we know it as the Reign of God."
For the Presiding Bishop, reaching this destiny meant "leaving behind the fortresses of the past, the bastions of privilege," and engaging the "dying and rising so essential to Christian life all around us." She described this way of life as "holographic," and "similar at different magnifications," an "integrity," or "congruence," in which "each part of the body is interdependent."
This new interdependent holographic reality would stand out from the Episcopal Church's recent history. Jefferts Schori acknowledged that this has been marked by "warring, chaos and quite a bit of collateral damage," which had arisen from conflict over same-sex unions, health benefits and budget.
Divisions over same-sex unions and LGBT advocacy have been especially damaging to the Episcopal Church during Jefferts Schori's nine year tenure as Presiding Bishop. Since taking office, 5 dioceses have left the denomination, millions of dollars have been spent on litigation, and Sunday attendance has declined by over 148,000 people. Lawsuits against departing dioceses continue, and recent statistics reveal a church that is shrinking as its members age while congregations decline in size.
However, the Presiding Bishop stated that this conflict had been replaced by a newfound "synergy," as the General Convention faces the ongoing challenges of working for "justice, peace and interdependence."
Continuing her outer space metaphor, Jefferts Schori compared the Episcopal Church to NASA, which launched "heroes into space," who were then supported from Houston by a global network of support. The "whole entity," she told delegates, "Is an interdependent system," in which "no part functions alone."
"The Episcopal Church," explained Jefferts Schori, "Is beginning to understand that we are never whole when we exclude members of the wider community." She went on to include the Anglican Communion, people of other faiths and God's creation in this community.
"The work we begin and continue here should keep us in mind of the larger body -- the Anglican Communion, our ecumenical and interreligious partners, many of whom are represented here today -- and the entire body of God's creation."
In conclusion, the Presiding Bishop urged delegates to, "Go into the neighborhood, across the tracks, and across the galaxy... to meet on the field of peace, draw the circle ever wider," and "turn guns into swing sets, turn chains into park benches."
It is apparently without irony that Jefferts Schori stressed "interdependence" within the "wider community" of the church, while her denomination continues to advocate policies that have proved internally and externally divisive.
The Episcopal Church, under Jefferts Schori's leadership, has enthusiastically supported the pansexual agenda of same-sex unions, abortion, and LGBT rights. It has done so independently, against the majority consensus of the Anglican Communion, worldwide Christianity, and the teaching of Scripture and apostolic tradition.
That the Presiding Bishop should describe interdependence as holographic, while comparing the warp trajectory of her church to a galactic trek into deep space, is perhaps apt.
The Rev. Michael Heidt is Editor of Forward in Christ magazine and a priest in the Diocese of Fort Worth
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