Monday, June 19, 2006

The Episcopal Church - A Historic Time

Once again, the Episcopal church is breaking new ground, this time with the election of the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, bishop of Nevada, as its 26th presiding bishop. It's remarkable how far the role of women in the church has progressed in the past three decades; Jack Spong did a fine job in his autobiography of outlining the process through several general conventions of finally permitting women to seek positions in the ordained priesthood. Then -- as now -- there are many individuals who think that women shouldn't be allowed to don clerical attire and preach from the pulpit, let alone be the highest official of the denomination in the United States.

I know the months ahead will be difficult as those groups who were having a difficult time coming to terms with either the confirmation of Gene Robinson's bishopric in New Hampshire or the increasing role of women in the church grapple with this latest event. Already, within minutes of the announcement of Bishop Schori's election, several diocesan representatives labeled her choice a grave mistake and one that will further damage the church internally and in its relationship with the mother church in England.

The difficult decisions aren't over just yet, and more will be made during the final days of General Convention that will also have a tremendous impact on the future of the church. The one I am watching most closely is the resolution introduced (and being strongly supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury) which, if passed, would require the church to formally issue a statement of regret over their actions of three years ago. In my mind, we have done nothing to regret -- and a move to disavow decisions already made would take the church back further than just the 2003 General Convention.

But with Bishop Schori, I am particularly excited about what her election means for my daughter's life in the church in the years ahead. More and more during the course of my life, I have watched as women have taken more important leadership roles in the life of individual parishes, dioceses, and the national church. I never want my little one to grow up thinking that she can't do anything simply because of her sex, and I know my wife and I will make sure she knows all about the women who have succeeded in business, industry, politics, education, and any number of other areas.

More important than any of those areas, however, she will know that she has a place where she can do whatever she wants in the church: member of the vestry, committee chairperson, convention delegate, deacon, priest, bishop -- and yes, even the presiding bishop.

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