Election of Episcopal Presiding Bishop Could Split Anglicans

Erin Roach | Baptist Press | Friday, June 23, 2006

Election of Episcopal Presiding Bishop Could Split Anglicans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Controversy has escalated in the Episcopal Church after the denomination that three years ago ordained an openly homosexual bishop chose a woman as its national leader -- a move that observers predict could signal a major global split within the larger Anglican Communion.

Katharine Jefferts Schori, bishop of the Diocese of Nevada, is the new presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church after a vote by delegates to the Episcopal General Convention in Columbus, Ohio, June 18. Schori said she voted to confirm Bishop V. Gene Robinson in 2003, and she has said she does not believe homosexuality is a sin.

“Some people come into this world with affections ordered toward other people of the same gender and some people come into this world with affections directed at people of the other gender,” Schori told CNN.

Schori, 52, is married and has a daughter. Raised a Roman Catholic, the new presiding bishop is also a marine biologist with a doctorate specializing in squids and oysters, Reuters news service reported. She has been ordained for a decade.

The Bible was written in a very different historical context by people asking different questions, Schori said in response to a question about how she reconciles her position on homosexuality with God’s Word.

“The Bible has a great deal to teach us about how to live as human beings,” she said, according to Reuters. “The Bible does not have so much to teach us about what sorts of food to eat, what sorts of clothes to wear -- there are rules in the Bible about those that we don’t observe today. The Bible tells us about how to treat other human beings, and that’s certainly the great message of Jesus -- to include the unincluded.”

Some Anglicans now are predicting a split. The Episcopal Church is the American branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

“I think this fully shows a noncompliance of spirit with the rest of the communion,” Andrew Carey, son of a former archbishop of Canterbury and a commentator on Anglican affairs, told the Associated Press. He added that Schori was “the most liberal of the lot” of candidates for the post, which also included six men.

Already since Schori’s election, the Fort Worth, Texas, diocese, which opposes women bishops, has asked permission to leave the liberal Episcopal Church, which has seen declining membership for years and has experienced particular internal turmoil since Robinson’s ordination. Other dioceses are expected to depart the denomination in response to the latest leadership decision, observers say.

“Sometimes you have to recognize that there are two irreconcilable positions and you have to choose between them,” Michael Nazir-Ali, the bishop of Rochester in England, told The Daily Telegraph. “The right choice is the line with the Bible and the church’s teachings down the ages, not some new-fangled religion we have invented to respond to the 21st century.”

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