Thursday, June 29, 2006

KJS+ on inclusiveness and diversity

Selected excerpts from Katharine Jefferts Schori's interview with Diane Rehm on NPR today.

Diane Rehm: Born a Roman Catholic, Katharine Jefferts Schori was pursuing a degree in oceanography when she found her religious calling. She joins me this morning from KNPR in Las Vegas to discuss her own journey, and the one she sees for the Episcopal church.
This seems an extremely tumultuous time for the Episcopal church. What do you regard as your immediate challenges once you are elevated to the post of Presiding Bishop in November?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: When I am installed in November, my sense is that the church's primary focus needs to be on mission. We have finished this past General Convention with a great advantage of having identified our priorities for the coming years, and the first of those is justice and peace work, to be framed by the Millennium Development Goals, and I look forward to calling the whole church to continue to work on those goals.

Responding to a question about the three diocese rejecting her leadership

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Those dioceses have been unhappy with the decisions of the past General Convention for the last three years. They've been dissatisfied with some of the direction in the church for longer than that. And the current actions, I think, are newsworthy simply because they all come at the same time, and at the close of this General Convention.
The reality is that dioceses cannot leave their member churches. Individuals can leave, but the diocese as an entity is a creature of General Convention. And unless and until General Convention were to consent to permit them to leave, it simply represents the departure of a few individuals.

Rehm comments on Jefferts Schori's "meteoric rise", having been ordained as a priest in 1994, became a bishop in 2001, never served in a parish, formerly an oceanographer and "I must say, you are quite young to have assumed such an extraordinarily elevated position." Asks her to talk about her career path.

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Well, I was an active layperson in the Diocese of Oregon before I was ordained, I served both in the parish in a variety of leadership positions, and in the diocese. And in the year before I went to seminary, I was the Dean of the School of Theology in Ministry for the Diocese of Oregon.

I think often in the church we fail to recognize the baptismal ministry of all our members, and my experience as a layperson is part of what I bring to this position. I did serve in a parish in Oregon. I was not the rector but I acted as the rector during times when he was on sabbatical. And I did serve as priest in charge of a Hispanic congregation there in Corvalis, Oregon.

Diane Rehm asks about KJS's career change from oceanography to the priesthood.

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Well, when people ask about that, I say that I'm still fishing, I'm still working "in the depths". I struggled with that transition for a good while. I think that some of the skills that I learned as an oceanographer, especially having to do with looking carefully at the world around me, and a scientific approach to the wonders of creation have been a blessing in my work in the church.

You know, I come to a situation usually without a preconceived notion of what ought to result, I'm willing to make a hypothesis and test it, and gather data, and make the best informed decision that I can.

Diane Rehm asks KJS+ to explain her previously stated views that unity and inclusiveness are important to this church.

Katharine Jefferts Schori: The Anglican tradition, of which the Episcopal church is the American expression, has always valued comprehensiveness. We come with a variety of strands of belief and emphasis, and we are only a healthy body when we can incorporate the best of all of those strands. If we focus completely on one of those strands, we lose the diversity that makes us healthy. And, one of the perspectives of a biologist is to look at the natural world and see that--you know, if a farmer tries to grow only corn in a field, tries only to grow one crop, one quickly discovers that it takes massive inputs of fertilizer, of nutrients, of insecticides, and then you might get a crop. But the natural world flourishes when there is a diversity of creatures in the environment.

Photo credit Iain Kerr, Ocean Alliance

...the House of Bishops and, certainly, by extension, the General Convention, is not unlike what happens in the Pacific Ocean every year. Humpback whales sing songs--you've probably heard recordings of them. Indeed! When they come together--they come together a couple of times a year, one of the places is off the Hawaiian islands. They come together for a time, and while they are together, they learn a new song. Each of their individual songs changes, and they begin to sing a common tune. When they go home again, they teach that song to their neighbors in their home localities, and over the coming months, that song changes again. And the next time they come back together, they learn a new song together.

And to me that was an image of what the church in its legislative gatherings might imitate. What can we learn from each other? How can we come to sing a common song?

Do you have a song in mind?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Ahh! "The glory of God is evidenced in human beings fully alive, and that means all human beings, and that means alive in all the facets of their being.

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