New Episcopal Bishop Fails to Bridge Gap, says US Religious Institute

A leading religious institute in the US has warned that the liberal comments of the new Presiding Bishop of the US Episcopal Church have left many in the church feeling isolated.

Published 11 November 2006
The US-based Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) has criticised the first female head of the US Episcopal Church, as it warned that her many liberal comments on the Anglican faith have not helped to heal a "rapidly splintering church".

Katharine Jefferts Schori, former Bishop of Nevada, was invested as Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church in the US at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington DC last Saturday. She began her nine-year term on 1 November.

Her election as the new Presiding Bishop has sparked controversy not only within the US church but also within the wider Anglican Communion and her investiture comes at a time of great uncertainty for the US church as seven conservative dioceses have now sought oversight from a sympathetic bishop abroad.

IRD President Jim Tonkowich warned that Bishop Schori's investiture may only "exacerbate tensions already existing in the Anglican Communion," which is "still deeply wounded" as a result of the consecration of an openly gay bishop and approval of same-sex blessings as a local option subject to the approval of the diocesan bishop.

"As Bishop of a small diocese that failed to show any substantial growth in attendance, despite being located in the fastest growing state in the Nation, it is unclear how Schori is prepared to address the same problems taking place in the wider Episcopal Church from her new national office," he warned.

"The new Presiding Bishop's embrace of universalist language and progressive policies like gay ordination proved unsuccessful at attracting Nevada's booming population. There is little indication they will meet with warmer reception nationwide."

IRD's Anglican Action Director, Ralph Webb, commented: "While the bishop is meant to be a symbol of unity for the entire church, Bishop Jefferts Schori has continually made comments that make orthodox Anglicans feel less and less a part of TEC."

He added that her controversial comments concerning 'Mother Jesus' and her conviction that Jesus Christ is only one of many ways to salvation, as well as her use of progressive social justice terminology in communicating her vision of the mission of the church has "not helped heal a rapidly splintering church".

The TEC "is bleeding profusely from a self-inflicted wound that has spread to impact the Anglican Communion worldwide," he warned.

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