Thursday, June 29, 2006

Katharine Jefferts Shori responds to a caller on NPR

Presiding Bishop Elect Katharine Jefferts Schori was on the Diane Rehm Show on NPR today. I'm going to post some highlights from throughout the interview later this evening, but since I've seen a lot of comments in recent days that interpreted her support of Resolution B033 as a betrayal of GLBT Episcopalians, I thought I'd post this part first.

Dan from Syracuse, NY: I've heard tremendous things about you and your call for full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church. I joined St. Paul's Cathedral in Syracuse on the strength of Bishop Robinson's election, and because I could no longer stomach the awful things the Roman Catholic hierarchy says about gay and lesbian people. But the wording of the resolution is troubling to me--the moratorium resolution, that is--because it suggests to me a certain church-sanctioned immorality now, that now becomes part of the official doctrine of the church because it was passed by General Convention. What's my incentive now to remain in the Episcopal church in light of the passage of this resolution? I was very, very devastated by the passage of the resolution?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: I think many of us were disappointed that it came to that. My sense was that it was the most that we were going to be able to manage at that late hour in the convention, and the reality is that the Convention makes policy, it doesn't rule on matters of doctrine. And those policies are routinely reversed and revised every three years. I think it is a pause, but, as I said to the convention, I do not see it as slamming the door. It simply is an unfortunate way of inviting us into the next chapter of the conversation.

Dan from Syracuse, NY: What happens if the other provinces of the Anglican Communion don't want to listen?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Well, I think it's clear that many of them do. We hear from the loudest portions of the Communion and the loudest portions of this church, about their dissatisfaction with the decisions of our convention, but Canada is, obviously, in very much the same place we are, the church in Scotland has expressed similar opinions. Interestingly, the church in Latin America has said that they have a variety of opinion within their diocese, and they're not going to come down on either end of the spectrum. The church in Japan has expressed an opinion that it's far more open than we hear from places like Nigeria and Uganda. It's obvious once you look below the surface that there is an incredible diversity of opinion and approach to such issues around the Communion.

But it seems to me that the shame in all of this is that we're being diverted from feeding people who are starving, and treating people with AIDS, and malaria and tuberculosis, and providing basic healthcare for children who are suffering in other parts of the world, because we can't get get away from bickering about these issues. They are certainly important, but they're not the most important thing in the lives of the whole world.

Diane Rehm: Thanks for calling, Dan. I wonder, Bishop Jefferts Schori, if you would explain to us briefly exactly what that Windsor resolution says?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: The one I think he's referring to was titled B033. It asks that standing committees and the bishops of the Episcopal Church to refrain from granting consent to the election of a person whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and would lead to further strains on the Communion at this time.

Diane Rehm: I would imagine there was a great deal of politicking--that is, going back and forth--before that final resolution came to be.

Katharine Jefferts Schori: I think that's correct. I was sitting in the House of Bishops and not the House of Deputies, so I can only give you one side of the conversation. In the House of Bishops it became quickly clear that--substitutes were offered, and amendments to the language--and it appeared to me that we were not going to get anywhere unless we accepted the basic resolution that was offered by the Presiding Bishop.

Diane Rehm: What do you think might have happened if you had stood up and said "I do not accept this wording."

Katharine Jefferts Schori: I think we would have not passed anything. I think we would have come out of convention with no formal response.

Diane Rehm: And would that not have been preferable, perhaps, to what you got?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Well, in my personal viewpoint, if we were only dealing with the Episcopal Church, perhaps so. It would certainly make me more comfortable in relationships with gay and lesbian Christians in this church. But the reality is that we're part of a larger body. If we're at the table, if we're able to continue this conversation, we retain the ability to "converse with and convert", as the current Presiding Bishop is fond of saying, those others at the table. We retain the ability to advocate for basic civil rights for gay and lesbian people, where they are threatened across the Communion. I note that Nigeria has recently passed laws that not only criminalize same-sex activity but also criminalize speaking about it. I think that this church has something to say to that.

Diane Rehm: And how do you see that dialog continuing?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: I think it will continue both at formal levels and in informal relationships. The reality is that the Communion most effectively exists at the interpersonal level, when people from Sparks, Nevada go to Machakos, Kenya to help build a medical clinic. Anglicans from across the globe meet each other, they begin to learn something about each other's contexts. When people from Kenya come to Nevada to our Diocesan Convention, they begin to see how we govern this part of the church. It is cross-fertilization, it is an enrichment of the Body in all places.

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