That would be Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts-Schori, who briefed the people at the Church Center (also known as 815 because of its New York address on Second Avenue) yesterday. The Episcopal News Service had a short piece that said little:
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on February 23 told the community of people who work at the Episcopal Church Center in New York that the new structures asked for by the Primates in Dar es Salaam, and the clarifications they want about the Episcopal Church’s stance on blessing same-gender relationships and partnered gay and lesbian priests becoming bishops, can be a “container” in which the Anglican Communion can continue to discuss issues that many Anglicans would rather avoid.
I’m not sure what she means by a “container,” so I’m open to explanation from anyone who understands Episco-speak.
She told the gathering that the Episcopal Church is called to ensure that the conversation about the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church continues in the Communion.
“It is part of our mission as a church,” she said. “This conversation that has been going on for at least 40 years is not going away. God keeps bringing it back to us.”
Jefferts Schori said that she understands that some people feel that the Primates’ recommendations are a “hard and bitter pill for many of us to talk about swallowing.” But, she said, worldwide attitudes about the inclusion of gay and lesbian people are changing and “I don’t expect that to end.”
I think that last part means, “if we just wait long enough, eventually those reactionary Africans and Asians and South Americans who are giving us such a fit will die out and be replaced by civilized people who think like us.” But that’s just my interpretation. I could be wrong.
Evidently, however, this was not all that Bishop Jefforts-Schori had to say to the assembled multitudes, however. From the Christian Post:
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori spoke to church leaders at the Episcopal Church Center in New York saying that the Anglican Communion has given them a “hard and bitter pill” for them to swallow as to whether to remain in full communion with the worldwide denomination or become autonomous in its stance of fully supporting homosexual ordination and the blessing of same-sex unions.
“It’s an enormous cost and price that’s being asked of us,” Schori told Episcopal leaders, “and I don’t think we can or should pay that price.” Schori supports the full inclusion of homosexuals. [Emphasis mine]
If this quote in Lillian Kwon’s article is correct, I believe the Bishop just had a “Frank Griswold moment.” For those who don’t follow Anglican politics, that’s defined as signing an agreement abroad and then going home and repudiating it, as the former Presiding Bishop did after the Primates meeting in October of 2003. It has previously been thought by at least some conservatives in ECUSA that Bishop Jefferts-Schori would be the most influential voice in favor of the House of Bishops accepting the demands of the Dar es Salaam communique. If this quote is accurate, it now appears that she’s going to try to sink it instead, or at least try to fudge the response in the hopes of “keeping the conversation going.” Truth to tell, it’s hard to discern from her remarks what she’s going to do. Kwon goes on to expand on the ENS reference to a “container”:
[Jefforts-Schori said,] “My encouragement is that we might be able to see it as a container – that the structures that are proposed are really an invitation to hold this conversation and continue to hold it with people who don’t want to talk to each other.”
And the Episcopal head recognized that many people in the U.S. body, going along with American culture, say, “Who are they (Anglican Communion) to tell us what to do?”
“We were born in revolution and we retain a lot of that sentiment,” said Schori. But if they leave the Communion, Schori believes they would be losing the “advantage” of being able to “challenge” views expressed by other Anglican primates in regards to homosexuals.
It is one of the Episcopal Church’s “gifts,” Schori said, to help change other people’s understanding about gay and lesbian Christians.
In other words, even if the House of Bishops did vote to accept the Primates’ demands, it would only be so that they could continue to the effort to try to change the minds of the vast majority of the world’s Anglicans. That’s not agreement–it’s tactical retreat. Maybe she’s not being so ambiguous after all.
UPDATE: The Living Church has more:
“I ache for the pain that this communiqué is causing to people in our church who see issues of justice as absolutely central because I share that view,” she said. “I also hunger for a world where people of vastly different positions can sit at the same table and worship together at the same table, because I think eventually that’s how all of us are converted.
“People are converted by an incarnational encounter of something that has only been theory to them,” she said. “I think that’s another part of our gift. The fact that people from this church have missional relationships with other parts of the Communion is beginning to change people’s understanding. When they sit with a gay or lesbian Christian or with someone from this church who is able to speak about experience, they begin to ask questions and that conversation opens some possibility of conversion. That is a part of our gift.
“It’s an enormous cost and price that’s being asked of us and I don’t know if we can or should pay that price,” Bishop Jefferts Schori continued. “What I want to encourage all of you and the people you talk to to think about is that this isn’t a decision that’s made today. It’s a decision that the House of Bishops will have to make in September, ultimately.”
There’s a big difference between “I don’t think we can or should pay that price” and “I don’t think we can or should pay that price.” Fortunately, ENS has made a recording of her presentation available. So I gave a listen, and what she actually said was, “It’s an enormous cost and price that being asked of us, and I don’t know if we think we can or should pay that price.” So it’s a little different from either version–not as inflammatory as the Christian Post reported, and even more distant from her own opinion than The Living Church reported. There’s other interesting stuff in the audio version–take a listen for yourself.
(Hat tip: Chris Johnson)
UPDATE: Actually, there is one other thing I should get in here, and that has to do with same-sex union blessings. Right at the end of the presentation she said:
“The other piece that was discussed at some length has to do with blessing unions. What they’ve asked us to do is to refrain from authorizing that, and there was a clear recognition that ‘authorizing’ means official public liturgies. We talked about pastoral care, and that it goes on in many places, not just this church, and I think a recognition that it was part of, it’s been part of the conversation out of Lambeth and Windsor and Dromantine, as being an appropriate action, that we are called to effective and appropriate pastoral care for all people. We’re being asked to refrain from authorizing.”