Episcopal Church Marks a Milestone

March 1, 2009

Author: Michael Paulson

Source: The Boston Globe


The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, who is l eading the denomination through a threatened schism over its approval of an openly gay bishop, visited Boston yesterday to mark the 20th anniversary of a previously controversial consecration: that of the first woman bishop.

Twenty years after Episcopalians in Eastern Massachusetts chose Barbara C. Harris as a suffragan, or assisting bishop, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori noted that she had "come into active leadership and ministry in this church at a time when it's become normal, when it's expected to see women as ordained leaders."

In an interview yesterday, she said that while she is hopeful the denomination will also come to see the presence of openly gay bishops as normal, she acknowledged that people struggle with change that is "not the traditional model of leadership - it's a different image, and it's not what we expect."

But Jefferts Schori said the controversy over the election of V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, which has led four dioceses to break away from the Episcopal Church and attempt to create a competing Anglican province, is not all that matters in the Episcopal Church.

"I think it's less and less the focus of what this church is about," she said. "The healthy parts are getting on with our mission. There are a few loud voices in this church who want to stir it up, but most of us are getting on."

Harris agreed, saying in a joint interview with Jefferts Schori, "It really is a non-issue for me and for most of the young people, but there are those who would continue to fan the flames of it to keep the controversy alive."

Jefferts Schori, who is herself a first - the first woman to head a province in the Anglican Communion - is spending three days in Boston.