Monday, June 19, 2006

Electing Schori

Let me say that I don't have any chromosomal issues with the Rt. Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori. She's not whom I would pick for the job, male or female, and if I were to pick a woman, it would probably be the Rev. Fleming Rutledge, who is probably the female cleric in PECUSA who is least acceptable to those who voted for Schori (or practically anyone else, for that matter). I mean, how many priests of either sex in the country appear in Geneva bands?

I don't doubt that Bp. Schori brings some considerable gifts to her new position. But she also brings considerable symbolism. At least one of those symbols is positive by anyone's standards: no longer need I suffer self-indulgent hand-wringing about the need for further empowerment of women in the church. I suppose I can sigh with the flounder and the fisherman when this turns out not be enough, and it must be that the Archbishop of Canterbury, and then the Pope, and the God in His/Her/Its/Their heaven must be a woman, but I personally think Presiding Bishop is enough of an aspiration for any Episcopalian.

The problem end is epitomized by this spin from Jim Naughton:
I don't know how the politics of this is going to shake out in the Anglican Communion yet. On the one hand, this is another "first" from the Episcopal Church, and maybe that won't be well received. On the other hand, the hand I favor, it now becomes clear that attacking the Church that deals fairly with gays and lesbians also means attacking the Church that deals fairly with women. The cause of the small, vulnerable gay population is now linked to the large and much less vulnerable female population.

That's one way to put it. But here's a better one: Schori's election is very much about rubbing it in the rest of the communion's faces that the leaders of PECUSA are going to do what they want, and to hell with everyone else. PECUSA is already the church whose female bishops represent a problem for the rest of the communion, and a problem which somehow has managed to remain dormant through the last Lambeth conference. Now, in the midst of a severe strain over the one issue, the other issue has been raised again.

Naughton has it exactly backwards. In the current context, Schori's election has linked the women to homosexuality, and not the other direction. The position of women in the communion has been weakened, not strengthened, because the coupling of the two issues has given conservative, moderates, and even some liberals a very strong reason to chuck us out of the communion. The message is that we are willful and don't care about the consequenceds for anyone else, and are in general impossible to live with. Everything that Rowan Williams and his emmissaries have said over the past few months indicates an increasing frustration with PECUSA. And on the other hand, I'm hearing increasing resentment from the liberal vanguard that Cantuar dares even to express an opinion, however veiled. Meanwhile, there are rumblings from the center, with Bp. Peter "Schism is worse than heresy" Lee of Virginia propsing a moratorium on such extreme terms that I can only read this as realization that (a) the current course is going to get us thrown out of the communion, and that (b) he values communion unity higher than PECUSA unity.

That last evaluation will destroy the denomination, or at the very least cleave it in two. Fudge is becoming increasingly difficult to make; and for that, too, perhaps we can thank Schori's electors.

My prayers for you, Bp. Schori. You are going to need all the Divine Help you can get.

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