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Troubling Questions Raised About PB Elect Katharine Jefferts Schori's Ministry

Troubling Questions Raised About PB Elect Katharine Jefferts Schori's Ministry

By Terry A. Ward
Special to VirtueOnline

An investigation into the background and credentials of the incoming Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's raises troubling questions about her ministry.

A booklet published by the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding listed her major qualifications as: Pastoral Associate and Dean Good Samaritan School of Theology Corvallis, OR 1994 - 2000. Priest-in Charge El buen Samaritano Corvallis, OR and six years experience as Pastoral Associate and Dean, Good Samaritan School of Theology.

There are three main sources of independent evidence for investigating Bishop Jefferts Schori's background. The Internet provides archived materials from churches, dioceses and organizations with which she has been affiliated. Traditional reference sources such as city directories and The Episcopal Church Annual (Morehouse Publishing) list addresses, phone numbers and program information for organizations and schools. Transcripts of interviews with Bishop Jefferts Schori and her colleagues are available also.

With the help of the Internet Archives (covering the years from 1996 to the present), I was able to examine:

The web pages and church newsletters of the Good Samaritan Church of Corvallis, Oregon.

The web pages of the ECUSA and the Oregon and Nevada Dioceses.

The web pages of the Association of Theological Schools which list all accredited and affiliated theological schools in the United States and Canada.

None of these sources showed any evidence that the "Good Samaritan School of Theology" existed as an independent organization with staff or facilities. There was no mention of the school or of the titles or positions (Dean, Pastoral Associate) associated with the school.

I found no reference to the Good Samaritan School of Theology in The Episcopal Church Annual for the years 1994-2002. This publication (known as "The Red Book" to church insiders) lists all programs, institutions, ministries and schools of the Episcopal Church in the United States for the preceding year.

A search of city directories for Corvallis, Oregon and Benton County, Oregon revealed no trace of the "Good Samaritan School of Theology." These searches were conducted by the Reference Librarians of both the Multnomah County Library (Portland, OR) and the Benton County Public Library (Corvallis, OR).

The Internet archive contains two interviews (dated January 13, 2001) that the Rev. Jefferts Schori gave to the Diocese of Nevada before her installation as Bishop of Nevada. At no time does she mention the "Good Samaritan School of Theology."

More recently, Bishop Schori was interviewed by The Living Church in their July 10, 2006 issue and was asked specifically about her lack of pastoral experience. Instead of pointing to her six years experience as Dean and Pastoral Associate at the Good Samaritan School of Theology, she replied: "I think that experience is a rather narrow perspective."

I am not aware of any interview in which Bishop Jefferts Schori has referred to the Good Samaritan School of Theology.

At the time of her consecration as the Bishop of Nevada in 2001, a biographical sketch of Jefferts Schori appeared in the 2002 edition of The Episcopal Church Annual. In the section entitled, Recently Consecrated Bishops, we find:

"As a priest, Bishop Jefferts Schori served the parish of Good Samaritan in Corvallis, Oregon, where she was instrumental in expanding educational offerings and in beginning Hispanic ministry." (pp. 421-422).

Carol Reeves interviewed the Reverend Bill McCarthy for the June 18, 2006 edition of the Corvallis Gazette-Times. He was rector of Good Samaritan Church during the time Reverend Jefferts Schori served there as Assistant Rector. He stated: "Fluent in Spanish, she began a Hispanic congregation and coordinated an extensive Christian education program."

On July 10, 2006, I sent the Bishop Jefferts Schori a series of questions; on July 14th I received her responses.

All responses by the bishop are unedited.

WARD: I have a few questions concerning the Good Samaritan School of Theology. How many students were there? Who were the faculty members? Where were the classes held? What was its theological orientation? What are the school's graduates doing?

SCHORI: "The Good Samaritan School of Theology was the then-rector's term for all adult education programs, both internally and externally focused. They included initiation of such programs as Education for Ministry; "popcorn theology" (movies and discussion); a weeknight meal and education offerings for all ages; Lenten and Advent series; satellite-downlink programs with discussion (begun in the days when ECTN and Trinity were doing so many effective ones); invited speakers; Sunday adult forums; inquirers' classes; confirmation classes; and so on. At one point, the School offered a set of historical liturgies, about seven or eight from the time of the church father Hippolytus through the 1928 Book of Common Prayer; the series featured instructed Eucharists."

"I also spent a year as Dean of the School of Theology and Ministry for the Diocese of Oregon (1990-1991). This was a more formal academic program intended to provide education for a variety of lay ministries. The faculty members included clergy and academics from across western Oregon. The classes were held at a parish in Wilsonville. I believe the alumni now include clergy and active lay people in several dioceses in the West."

WARD: As far as I can determine, this email is the first mention anywhere of the Wilsonville-based School of Theology and Ministry for the Diocese of Oregon.The 1992 Episcopal Church Annual from Morehouse lists her as the Dean of the "Lay School of Theology and Ministry - North." This was a training program for laity in the Diocese of Oregon. The 1993 and 1994 Annuals list only the program but no personnel. From 1995 to the present, there is no listing in the Episcopal Church Annual about this school.

The years of 1990-1991 listed in her response predate her ordination by three years.

An Episcopal News Service press release, issued at the time of her election as Presiding Bishop, lists one of her previous positions as "priest-in-charge" of "el buen Samaritano" in Corvallis, Oregon.

None of my sources showed any evidence of this organization or title.

The Episcopal Church Annual and the city directories likewise provided no evidence of "el buen Samaritano."

In her published interviews, Bishop Jefferts Schori made no mention of "el buen Samaritano."

WARD: What exactly is "el buen Samaritano?" Where was this ministry based? What were your duties as "priest-in-charge?"

SCHORI: El Buen Samaritano was the Spanish-language congregation based at Good Samaritan, essentially a parochial mission. I acted as vicar, with primary liturgical and pastoral responsibility.

---Terry A. Ward resides in El Paso, TX. He and his family attend St. Luke's Episcopal Church in La Union, New Mexico. He is a technical writer who has worked for Microsoft and a university statistician. He is a 1983 graduate of the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary.


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