Anglican leaders who are guests at the General Convention spoke favorably about the June 18 election of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as the 26th Presiding Bishop, noting the important role of women in the church today.
Bishop Trevor Mwamba of Botswana in Central Africa, said that God is a God of surprises. "She is a servant of God and we thank God for what she has to contribute to the life of the Anglican Communion," he said. "This is a great year for women and we honor the role that women are playing in the world today."
The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, as well as three Anglican primates, said they look forward to welcoming Jefferts Schori to future Primates meetings.
Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said that it is a wonderful day in the life of the Anglican Communion. "I have enormous respect for her and her competence," he said, "and this will change the dynamics among the boys’ club of primates in the Anglican Communion significantly."
Hutchison acknowledged that the election will be a challenge in some parts of the world "because some countries have gender-specific expectations," he said. "Leadership in some traditional societies is very much in the hands of males and therefore presents a challenge."
Bishop Martin Barahona of El Salvador, Primate of the Anglican Church of the Central America, said that he is not surprised with the result because the work of women in the Episcopal Church is very strong. "In the Anglican Communion it will be a big challenge but women have the capacity to lead the church today," he said.
The Most Rev. Carlos Touche-Porter, Primate of Mexico, said he is "thrilled" and eager to welcome her as a fellow primate in the Anglican Communion. "We need to go back to the Anglican spirit of respectful diversity as a source of enrichment and not division," he said.
Asked about the impact this may have on the Anglican Communion, Kearon said the role of women in the church is being addressed by each province; thus, they would not want to deny the importance of the role of women in the church. "Some of them express it by having women in the priesthood and in the episcopate. Other churches are looking at it and others have made firm decisions against it," he said. "That doesn't alter the fact that women are important members of the Anglican Communion."
Thirty years ago, the General Convention voted to admit women into the priesthood and the episcopate. Fourteen of the 38 Anglican provinces make provisions for women in the episcopate. At present, there are 13 active and retired women bishops and bishops-elect in the Episcopal Church and three in the Anglican Church of Canada. The Anglican Church of Aotearoa, Polynesia and New Zealand, has one retired woman bishop.
The Church of England voted last year to remove the legal obstacles that stop women from becoming bishops over the coming years. Further debate is expected at the General Synod of the Church when it meets July 7-11, in York, England.
The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) adopted a resolution at its June 2005 meeting, acknowledging the Millennium Development Goal for equal representation of women in decision making at all levels. It requested the ACC Standing Committee "to identify ways in which this goal may appropriately be adapted for incorporation into the structures of the Instruments of Unity, and other bodies to which the Anglican Consultative Council nominates or appoints."