Anglican unrest

Can the American Episcopal Church tolerate change, or will issues like same-sex marriage and a new female leader cause a schism?


Page Rockwell
November 6, 2006 7:00PM (UTC)

The Ted Haggard scandal is dominating religious headlines lately, but we wanted to call out another important nonsecular development: On Saturday, Katharine Jefferts Schori formally became the presiding bishop of the American Episcopal Church. As the New York Times notes, Jefferts Schori is "the first woman to hold such a post in the worldwide Anglican Communion."

Jefferts Schori has some conservative followers riled up already -- because of her support for gay and lesbian religious leaders and same-sex marriage, and to a lesser extent because of her gender, some bishops in the U.S. and abroad have objected to her election and said they won't recognize her authority. In Saturday's ceremony, she alluded to those tensions with some slightly sketchy language: "We cannot love God if we fail to love our neighbors into a more whole and holy state of life," she said in the homily. Jefferts Schori is a true pioneer, but that particular turn of phrase sounded creepily like something out of the ex-gay movement.

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And even these concessions are unlikely to mollify Jefferts Schori's detractors; the Times observes that dissenters may mount a parallel leadership. To that end, a conservative male rector from Virginia recently "became bishop of a missionary Nigerian Anglican church in the United States, a move many think is meant to establish him as an alternative for disaffected Episcopal congregations to turn to for oversight," the Times reports. It's hard to know whether the current unrest will blow over or lead to a real fragmentation in the church. Should a true schism arise, though, I'm hoping Jefferts Schori will live up to her potential and prioritize her principles over unity with intolerant leaders.


Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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