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From Columbus: Jefferts Schori's 'Reign of God'

[Episcopal News Service]  Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori's vision to lead the Episcopal Church comes straight out of the prophet Isaiah's vision of the reign of God and includes such United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as eradicating poverty and hunger.

"The poor are fed, the good news is preached, those who are ostracized and in prison are set free, the blind receive sight," Jefferts Schori said June 18 during her first news conference after her election.

The Presiding Bishop-elect fielded questions on topics as wide-ranging as creationism, human sexuality, her call to the priesthood and why she became an airplane pilot.

Elected to the 2.4 million member church's top post on Father's Day, Jefferts Schori said she became a pilot after her father promised her flying lessons if she completed college. "I flew as recently as last Saturday … a Cessna 172," she said.

She drew upon her experiences as an oceanographer when asked how she'd reconcile with those who oppose her ordination and episcopate. While researching the living habits of worms, squid, octopus and shrimp 30 years ago, "a cruise captain wouldn't talk to me because I was a woman," she recalled. "That lasted about 15 minutes. We got over it."

"My training as a scientist has given me the gift of looking at the world carefully, and investigating. I take delight in the incredible diversity of creation, delighting in the view from several thousand feet above the earth."

When a reporter asked how the "average Anglican who is a black woman under 30, earns two dollars a day and is evangelical," might react to news of her consecration and to her consent to Gene Robinson's consecration, she responded: "If the average Anglican is as you describe, she is dealing with hunger, inadequate housing, unclean water and unavailability of education. Those are the places I would start. The issue of sexuality comes along much higher on the hierarchy of needs."

About creationism and evolution, she said: "Evolution most definitely should be taught in school. It's a well-tested premise and the best model that fits the data available. Creationism can't make that claim. I believe in the creeds. They say God created the world, but they don't say how." 

About homosexuality, she said: "I believe that God welcomes all to his table, those who agree and those who disagree. The Episcopal Church always has been a strong voice for including a variety of opinions; the marginalized are welcomed at the table."

She was invited to consider ordination by other members of her parish, Church of the Good Samaritan, in Corvallis, Oregon. A few years later, a priest invited her to preach and shortly afterwards, she began discernment for the priesthood, she said. She was ordained to the priesthood in 1994 and consecrated bishop of Nevada in 2001.

Jefferts Schori also thanked the leadership of current Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, along with the six other nominees for presiding bishop, the House of Bishops, the people of Nevada and her family, particularly her daughter and son-in-law, Kate and Aaron Harris, and her husband, Richard Schori, whom she introduced at the news conference.

"I want to express thanks for the love and support of my husband, Dick Schori, he's already had to move once to follow in the surprising ministry to which his wife has been called. He may very well have to do it again."