Home > Queensland Synod News > US Anglicans elect first female leader

US Anglicans elect first female leader

The US Episcopal (Anglican) Church has elected Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as its first female leader, a move seen as creating further strain in a denomination already divided over the consecration of an openly gay bishop.

"I will bend over backward to build relationships with people who disagree with me," 52-year-old Jefferts Schori told reporters after her election on 18 June as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the US branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The election came at the US denomination’s general convention in Columbus, Ohio, which is debating how to respond to demands from other Anglican churches around the world that it repent for the consecration of openly gay V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

Jefferts Schori, the Episcopal bishop of Nevada, endorsed Robinson’s election in 2003.

She is the first woman to hold the top post in any of the world’s Anglican churches.

"The election speaks for itself," said Bishop Robert Duncan, moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, a group that says the denomination has abandoned biblical teaching by consecrating Robinson. "For the Anglican Communion worldwide, this election reveals the continuing insensitivity and disregard of the Episcopal Church for the present dynamics of our global fellowship."

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.

Still, Jefferts Schori’s election won praise from Integrity USA, which promotes the cause of lesbians and gays in the Episcopal Church.

"The historic election of Katharine Jefferts Schori is something for us and the whole church to celebrate," said Integrity president Susan Russell. "We look forward to continuing the process of working closely with the presiding bishop toward the full inclusion of the gay and lesbian faithful in the Body of Christ."

Episcopal bishops elected Jefferts Schori on the fifth ballot. She collected 95 votes with 93 others split between the other six candidates, all men.

The election came 30 years after the 2.3-million-member Episcopal Church approved the ordination of women to the priesthood.

"The decision today is the fruit of the witness and ministry of women bishops, priests, and deacons in the life of our church,"
said presiding bishop Frank Griswold, who will retire in November.

The presiding bishop represents the US denomination in meetings with other Anglican leaders and with leaders of other religious groups. But the presiding bishop’s powers are limited because of a strong tradition of diocesan autonomy.

Jefferts Schori was consecrated bishop of Nevada in February 2001. A licensed pilot, she has logged more than 500 flight-hours. She holds degrees in biology and oceanography and taught religious studies at Oregon State University before her 1994 ordination.

She will be installed to her nine-year term on 4 November at a ceremony in Washington National Cathedral.

(c) Ecumenical News International