Monday, April 14, 2008

The Seattle Times Interviews the Presiding Bishop

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was in Seattle for the Healing Our Planet Earth (HOPE) Conference. The Seattle Times is offering this interview. Here's part of it:

...Q: You recently went to the San Joaquin Diocese in California (which voted to secede from the Episcopal Church) to speak with those who remain Episcopalian. You said that healing is possible. How, when the issues seem so intractable and the divide getting wider?

A: The experience of the people present at the convention in San Joaquin is that healing is happening there. In groups of people with a variety of opinions about some of these hot-button issues, it's remembering what it is that originally calls them together.

Q: Property disputes with breakaway churches are a big issue and getting bigger. What do you say to people who feel it's unbiblical to take fellow Christians to court over issues like property?

A: We have a fiduciary and a moral responsibility as leaders in this church to use and steward the gifts ... for the purposes for which they were given. ... Generations before us gave permission in the name of the Episcopal Church and intended them (gifts and properties) for the benefit of communities and generations to come. (The breakaway churches) are clearly saying they're no longer part of the Episcopal Church.

Q: What about the argument of the breakaway churches and diocese that the Episcopal Church left them?

A: The church has changed repeatedly throughout history. The church has struggled with the place of African Americans in the church, the place of slavery in the church, the place of children in the church, women in the church, immigrants in the church, and today, the place of gays and lesbians in the church...
If what we hear from San Joaquin is any reflection of what is going on there, I'd say it is safe to assume that the healing process has been initiated, and is continuing.

Regarding property issues, Bp. Katharine makes clear that it is our "fiduciary and a moral responsibility" to not allow those who have left the Episcopal Church to engage in immoral and unethical behavior as they head out the door. It doesn't matter if we like it, or would rather not do it. Sometimes we all have to do things we don't want to do, especially if we are the person with the responsibility to make sure that the right thing is done, even if that is the more difficult path.

...Q: What do you think is the proper role for the Episcopal Church to play in the Anglican Communion on the issue of ordaining gay men and lesbians and same-gender unions?

A: It appears to be our vocation in this day and age to encourage conversation, to encourage theological reflection about how we're created, what the holiness of life looks like...
This is our vocation. I think this is an important point that doesn't get enough attention. The Episcopal Church did not choose to take on the issue of justice for all. It fell into our laps.

As I've said before, there are numerous other justice issues for which I find much more personal passion. As a straight white male, I've not personally experienced the kind of prejudice and bigotry that we have heard about in the many stories that have been shared here . But, as a former homeless person, poverty issues are something that I don't have to strive to understand. So that is where my personal passion is.

But, it's not just about me, is it? My salvation is yoked with your salvation. If we do not achieve justice for all, there is no justice. And so we have this current matter to contend with, following in the tradition of championing the inclusion of all God's people, regardless of their economic status, race, gender or sexual orientation. We're in this now. We'll not back down, come what may. Why? Because matters of justice are an integral part of the Gospel message. We are doing what we firmly believe God would have us do.

Continuing with the interview:

...Q: Some people find it hypocritical that church members in some parts of the world who are so outspoken against ordaining gays are allowed to have multiple wives. Are they allowed to, and if so, what are your thoughts on that?

A: The (1988) Lambeth Convention (the once-a-decade gathering of the world's bishops) made pastoral provisions for polygamists to be received into the church. ... It seems to me that the church throughout history has made different provisions in different provinces for circumstances that aren't universal...
Here is that 1988 Lambeth Resolution:

Church and Polygamy

This Conference upholds monogamy as God's plan, and as the ideal relationship of love between husband and wife; nevertheless recommends that a polygamist who responds to the Gospel and wishes to join the Anglican Church may be baptized and confirmed with his believing wives and children on the following conditions:

(1) that the polygamist shall promise not to marry again as long as any of his wives at the time of his conversion are alive;

(2) that the receiving of such a polygamist has the consent of the local Anglican community;

(3) that such a polygamist shall not be compelled to put away any of his wives, on account of the social deprivation they would suffer;

(4) and recommends that provinces where the Churches face problems of polygamy are encouraged to share information of their pastoral approach to Christians who become polygamists so that the most appropriate way of disciplining and pastoring them can be found, and that the ACC be requested to facilitate the sharing of that information.
Converts in polygamous marriages were allowed to be baptized. None of the wives were to be "put away" (strange wording, eh?). This was a pastoral response to a unique situation that rose up in certain parts of the Communion. While monogamy was held up as the ideal, authority was given for those in that cultural setting to explore the best way to meet this particular pastoral need.

But then, in 1998, when the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian Anglicans were brought forward at Lambeth, some of the same Bishops who had asked for leeway regarding polygamous converts just ten years before refused to consider any kind of compromise.

As a side note: Someone sent me an email in which they shared a rather interesting story about attending a conference in the US at which a few of the Global South leaders were present. This person bumped into a woman in the kitchen who introduced herself as a prominent Archbishop's "second wife." I cannot locate that email. If you are that "someone," could you please send me your story again? Thanks.

Returning to the interview:

...Q: Do you see the upcoming Lambeth Convention this year as settling any of these issues?

A: The Lambeth Convention's intent is to gather bishops in community and to meet each other as individual human beings. It's never been intended to settle issues...
According to Susan Russell's report, this is the same perspective held by Ian Douglas, a member of the Lambeth Design Team:

...Douglas made clear that the schedule for the Lambeth Conference, in fact, “has no large plenary session” where it would be even possible for “resolutions to be presented and voted up or down.”

In a nutshell, Douglas drew a picture of a 2008 Lambeth Conference dramatically different from its 1998 counterpart: a community of bishops gathered to converse rather than a conclave of bishops convened to resolve...

...During the Q&A following Dr. Douglas’ presentation, Ian was queried about whether the design team had “designed any contingencies” for the potential of having their best laid plans hijacked (I think that’s the word I used) by those who might be coming to Lambeth with juridical intentions in spite of the design team’s missiological intentions.

His response was that no one was more committed to keeping the design of the conference as described than the Design Team … and that the Archbishop of Canterbury had appointed the Design Team to act as the Management Team on the ground in Canterbury...
As Susan said,we shall see.

J.

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