INTERVIEW Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

Read more of the R & E interview with the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:

Q: How important a moment is this for the Episcopal Church?

A: This is an important moment because it’s an opportunity for us to gather with representatives from around the Anglican Communion and to have conversation together. It’s an opportunity for us to meet each other, to hear something about other people’s experience, and for them to learn about ours.

Q: Is the Episcopal Church’s role in the Anglican Communion in jeopardy?

A: I think the whole Communion is in a process of development. We affirm the relationships that we have across the Communion, and those relationships are healthy. The mission partnerships that are going on are incredibly healthy. We’re struggling with the place of authority within the Communion, and that’s a developmental piece, and it’s an important one.

Q: How much pressure is the Episcopal Church under from the rest of the Anglican Communion?

A: The Episcopal Church, and it’s beyond the U.S., it’s not just the United States part of this church — some people are feeling a great deal of pressure from other parts of the Communion. Other people say that this is an opportunity for us to be clearer about who we are. We are eager to continue in our partnerships and our relationships around the Communion, and I don’t think that’s going to change abundantly. We are eager to continue and grow our relationships around the Communion, and I think most people believe those relationships will not change significantly.

Q: What message will the Archbishop of Canterbury be bringing to the U.S. bishops? What do you hope he will say?

A: I can’t tell you for sure what he’s going to say. He’s going to lead us in Bible study one of the days he is with us. He’s been invited to come and listen to the bishops here. We will listen to him. We will have conversation together.

Q: What is your reaction to the consecration of some Americans as bishops of churches in Africa?

A: Well, the consecration of those bishops would be more helpful if they were going to work in those countries. It’s exceedingly unhelpful to have them consecrated to work here in the United States.

Q: Why is it unhelpful?

A: Because it generates confusion among the faithful, people who do not understand that the Episcopal Church consecrates its own bishops. We elect our own bishops, we do not appoint them, and they are elected and consecrated for work in a particular diocese by the members of that diocese.

Q: Is reconciliation possible?

A: Reconciliation is always possible. Christians live in that eternal hope of complete reconciliation. Signs of reconciliation within this church are, I think, abundant. When people really do sit down and have honest conversation with each other in a way that does not immediately leap to judgment, we begin to make some progress in understanding each other’s beliefs and circumstances.

Q: How should the U.S. church overall provide spiritual oversight for more conservative Episcopalians who feel alienated?

A: We’re working toward that, and I think you’ll hear more news coming out of the meeting in New Orleans.

Q: In February you called for a season of pausing on gay issues so that a solution could be found. An openly lesbian priest is now on the list of nominees for bishop in Chicago. Is the season of pausing over?

A: I was especially talking about a season of reflection, a time in which people could reflect on their actions and their attitudes. The diocese of Chicago has every right to nominate anyone who is qualified in the church, and we do understand that gay and lesbian priests in relationships are qualified at this point. That’s where it is.

Q: What do you want to come out of the meeting in New Orleans?

A: Greater understanding, both within this church and across the Communion. A greater sense that we are one in our diversity and that we can continue to be one.

Q: Do you think that will happen?

A: I have every hope that it will happen.