Home > Queensland Synod News > Archbishop of Canterbury says US female bishop faces critical time

Archbishop of Canterbury says US female bishop faces critical time

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has said the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as the first woman to lead the US Episcopal (Anglican) Church will "impact on the collegial life" of the world’s other Anglican leaders, but he has stopped short of congratulating her.

"I send my greetings to Bishop Katharine and she has my prayers and good wishes as she takes up a deeply demanding position at a critical time," Williams, the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said in a 20 June statement following the election of Jefferts Schori as presiding bishop of the US denomination.

Jefferts Schori is the first woman to hold the top post in any of the world’s Anglican churches, some of which do not recognise the ordination of women as priests.

In 2003, she gave her support to the consecration of openly gay V. Gene Robinson as bishop of the US state of New Hampshire, a matter of strong disagreement within the Anglican Communion that threatens to split it.

Her election on 18 June came at a meeting of Episcopal Church’s general convention, which is debating how to respond to demands from other Anglican churches around the world that it offer repentance for the consecration of Robinson.

"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," said Williams, who is known as a supporter of women’s ordination. He noted, "We are continuing to pray for the general convention of the Episcopal Church as it confronts a series of exceptionally difficult choices."

Following Jefferts Schori’s election, the US diocese of Fort Worth, which does not accept women priests, appealed to Williams to be placed under a jurisdiction outside the Episcopal Church.

Only two other Anglican churches – those in New Zealand and Canada – have appointed women bishops, although another 11 of the Anglican Communion’s 38 provinces have accepted the principle.

Earlier in June, the Vatican’s top official for promoting Christian unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, warned the Church of England against introducing women bishops. "It would be a decision against the common goal we have until now pursued in our dialogue: full ecclesial communion, which cannot exist without full communion in the episcopal office," he told a meeting of the denomination’s bishops.

(c) Ecumenical News International