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US Episcopal Church installs first female presiding bishop

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, 52, has been installed as the first female presiding bishop in the US Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion, at a time when the denomination’s relationship with the Worldwide Anglican Communion is tense.

She was installed in her leadership role for the 2.4-million-member US church in a ceremony at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

Jefferts Schori, called on members of the denomination to recommit themselves to the concept of "shalom". She explained: "Shalom means all human beings live together as siblings, at peace with one another and with God, and in right relationship with all of the rest of creation."

In a reference to the recent disputes within the Episcopal Church over issues such as the ordination of homosexual clergy, which Jefferts Schori is widely seen as supporting, the new presiding bishop said: "We cannot love God if we fail to love our neighbours into a more whole and holy state of life.

"If some in this church feel wounded by recent decisions, then our salvation, our health as a body, is at some hazard, and it becomes the duty of all of us to seek healing and wholeness," she said.

Some Episcopal bishops, who have allies among non-American bishops angry with what they see as the new course of the US church, are uneasy that a woman is presiding bishop. They have also said they will not recognise Jefferts Schori’s authority because of her support of V. Gene Robinson, the denomination’s first openly gay bishop whose consecration has threatened to split the Anglican Communion.

Jefferts Schori’s ascent to the top position within the denomination has been termed "meteoric" by The New York Times in part due to her being ordained a priest a mere 12 years ago. A one-time oceanographer, she comes to the post of presiding bishop after having served as bishop for the Episcopal Church in the state of Nevada since 2001.

She succeeds Frank T. Griswold, 69, who served as the presiding bishop for nine years and who has accepted a post as the Canon for International and Interfaith Ministry at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City.

(c) Ecumenical News International