Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was installed as
head of the U.S. church less than two years ago, inheriting
a mess not of her own making.
Anglican Communion was in an uproar over the 2003
consecration of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop,
V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Long-simmering
differences over Scripture and the global Anglican
fellowship erupted into a threat of full-blown schism.
a theological liberal who supported Robinson's election,
has tried to ease the tensions in meetings with other
Wednesday, she will be explaining the church's actions in
her broadest venue yet: the Lambeth Conference, a
once-a-decade meeting of Anglican bishops from around
the world. Jefferts Schori said she's looking forward
to the ''face-to-face conversation'' at the event.
''We're far more
diverse than we're presented in some quarters,'' she
said in a recent interview with the Associated Press at
Episcopal headquarters in New York City. ''We have
people all over the theological spectrum and
It won't be an
conservative Anglican bishops won't even be there. They are
boycotting the 18-day event outside London because the U.S.
bishops who consecrated Robinson were invited. (For
the sake of unity, the Anglican spiritual leader,
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, barred
Robinson and a handful of other bishops from the assembly.)
But that won't
mean a conflict-free Lambeth for Episcopal bishops.
church leaders who want the Anglican family to stay
together despite its rifts will attend. They will
undoubtedly ask Jefferts Schori about complaints that
the 2.2 million-member U.S. church is mistreating its
Of the tensions
within the American church, Jefferts Schori said ''we've
attempted to deal with it in the Christian community'' but
haven't always been successful.
exact figure is in dispute, Episcopal officials say that
fewer than 100 of the more than 7,000 U.S. Episcopal
parishes have voted to split off since Robinson was
Diocese of San Joaquin, based in Fresno, Calif., voted to
withdraw from the denomination, and the Diocese of
Pittsburgh, is poised to do the same this fall.
church is suing to retain hold of the San Joaquin diocese
and its many millions of dollars in property. Another
lawsuit is moving through the courts over 11 breakaway
churches in Virginia. Critics have called the legal
fights ''un-Christian'' and have asked Episcopal leaders
to halt the lawsuits.
Schori said, ''We really don't have the authority or the
moral right to give away those gifts that have been given by
generations past and for the benefit of generations
now and the benefit of generations to come.''
Last month in
Jerusalem, conservatives from around the world held the
Global Anglican Future Conference and said they hoped to
create a North American province for breakaway
conservatives in the Episcopal Church and the
liberal-leaning Anglican Church of Canada.
archbishops, called primates, from Nigeria, Rwanda,
Uganda, and South America have taken oversight of seceding
U.S. parishes. At Lambeth, Jefferts Schori said she
will ask Williams ''to encourage other parts of the
Communion to cease their incursions.''
opposed to a traditional Christian understanding of how
bishops relate to each other,'' she said. ''That's the
biggest difficulty. They're setting up as something
else in the same geographical territory.''
already spoken out against the idea of a North American
province, but Anglican conservatives defend the idea as
critical for the spiritual well-being of
won't attend the Lambeth meeting, he will be just outside
He is preaching
at a British church, despite a request from Williams that
he refrain from doing so. A group of Episcopal bishops will
host two receptions for Robinson outside the Lambeth
Conference grounds so other Anglican bishops can meet
and speak with him.
said she didn't ask Robinson to refrain from preaching
and said his presence on the outskirts the conference
''doesn't make my life more difficult.''
''I think it's an
opportunity for others to meet him as a human being, as
a member of this church, as an honored member of this
church,'' she said.
Christians believe that committed same-sex relationships are
permitted under the Bible's social justice teachings.
Conservatives disagree -- and they are a majority in
the 77 million-member Anglican fellowship. The
Communion, a group of churches that trace their roots to
the Church of England, has a long tradition of accommodating
different views, but it's unclear whether that broad
practice will continue.
think that you can read the Bible without understanding the
original context and simply take literally what you read. We
will interpret -- and it's an important part of
faithful living,'' Jefferts Schori said. ''To assume
there is only one way of reading is hubris.''
To prepare for
the meeting, the presiding bishop said she has been
speaking and praying with other Episcopal leaders. She is
urging them to have realistic expectations for the
that are challenging can't be solved in one meeting,''
she said. ''These issues aren't going to be finished by the
end of the summer.'' (Rachel Zoll, AP)