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From Columbus: Jefferts Schori gets glimpse of new life

By Pat McCaughan

ENS photo by Carol E. Barnwell
Reporters clamored June 19 for the chance to interview the 26th Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori of Nevada. Here Convention Nightly reporter Jan Nunley interviews Jefferts Schori.    (ENS photo by Carol E. Barnwell)

ENS photo by Carol E. Barnwell
Bishop Stacy Sauls of Lexington, one of the seven Presiding Bishop nominees, greets Katharine Jefferts Schori on June 19 as she makes her way through the convention center.   (ENS photo by Carol E. Barnwell)

[Episcopal News Service]  Within a day's time, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was already experiencing the shift from serving as Bishop of Nevada to also being the Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church.

"Frank will be the Presiding Bishop until November," she reminded enthusiastic deputies and news reporters shortly after her June 18 election. Referring to Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, she added: "I pray his health remains good until November."
And, while she made it clear after her election that she is the Presiding Bishop-elect until early November, Jefferts Schori discovered June 19 that her life is different.

 "A London Times reporter stuck a cell phone in her face and asked a question. I had to get it out of the way and to tell him to go through the church's press office," said a public safety official who was accompanying her June 19.

Jefferts Schori has had interviews with a number of media outlets in the U.S. and elsewhere; church officials fielded media calls from early morning until late in the evening.

Still, she attempted a degree of normalcy, assuming her customary post as secretary of the Convention's legislative committee on ministry, sharing in the opening prayers for the 8 a.m. session.

"What is the Church?" she began the prayers. "The church is the community of the New Covenant," the committee answered.

Well-wishers clustered around Jefferts Schori, offering congratulations, in the hallways of the Greater Columbus Convention Center as she made her way to and from the morning session of the House of Bishops and a joint budget meeting in the House of Deputies.

Convention planners arranged for the Presiding Bishop-elect to have office space in the convention center, near the Presiding Bishop's office. The office is outfitted with a desk, a couch, table and chairs, and fresh-cut flowers.

The day also brought international greetings and expressions of ecumenical support.

Calling her "Bishop Katharine," the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said Jefferts Schori "has my prayers and good wishes as she takes up a deeply demanding position at a critical time." His statement, released early Monday, continued, "She will bring many intellectual and pastoral gifts to her new work, and I am pleased to see the strength of her commitment to mission and to the Millennium Development Goals."

But, he added: "Her election will undoubtedly have an impact on the collegial life of the Anglican Primates; and it also brings into focus some continuing issues in several of our ecumenical dialogues."

Her election brought reactions from within the Episcopal Church as well.

Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth read a short statement on the floor of the House of Bishops, saying the election of Jefferts Schori prompted him to fax a letter to Williams, requesting that the Fort Worth diocese be placed under the oversight of another Anglican leader.

At about the same time, a member of the Forth Worth deputation was recognized at the beginning of the June 19 session of the House of Deputies and she read the following statement:

"The bishop and the standing committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth appeal in good faith to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the primates of the Anglican Communion and the Panel of Reference for immediate alternative primatial oversight and pastoral care following the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. This action is taken as a cooperative member of the Anglican Communion Network in light of the Windsor Report and its recommendations."

The House turned to other business when the deputy finished her statement.

Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh also objected to the election. "This is not about having a woman Presiding Bishop," he said. "This is about a particular woman who teaches particular things, who … stands with those in the Episcopal Church who want to go in a different direction."

"Her words have made it clear that she stands with those in the Episcopal Church who want to go in a different direction. If she's true to her convictions as stated, the Episcopal Church will have to walk apart from the world under her leadership."

The Anglican Primate of Canada Andrew Hutchinson, addressing the House of Bishops Monday, said he sympathized with those "for whom this is a difficult moment. Having a chief consecrator who is a woman may be a difficulty for some of you." His own church faces the same possibility at its General Synod meeting next year, he said.

Hutchinson added his own congratulations among those pouring in for Jefferts Schori: "I hope that we can reach across the border and support one another in years to come," he said.