CARDIFF: American woman bishop visits Wales

david at virtueonline.org david at virtueonline.org
Sat Jul 24 19:16:59 EDT 2010


CARDIFF: American woman bishop visits Wales

by David Williamson, 
Western Mail
http://tinyurl.com/23duemu
July 24, 2010

WOMEN should be represented at all levels of the church, the most powerful Anglican in the US has said during a visit to Wales.

Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, has been a personal guest of Archbishop of Wales Barry Morgan, whose conviction that church leadership should not be a male-only preserve she shares.

The US church’s support for bishops in homosexual relationships has sparked conflict with traditionalists and the communion, which has adherents in more than 160 countries, is threatened with schism.

Critics see Bishop Schori’s church as responsible for the potential detonation of the international network, but she said she believed the changes ahead would reshape Anglicanism for the better.

She said: “I think the Anglican Communion is in the process of growing up and evolving into a set of relationships that will serve the wider church in the third millennium.”

A 2008 bid to introduce women bishops in the Church in Wales narrowly failed to secure the support of two-thirds of clergy in the governing body. It is likely the legislation would have passed if there had been special provisions for churches which would not accept a woman bishop’s authority.

Insisting that holding such beliefs does not reverse two millennia of church history, she said: “There has been remarkable women’s leadership throughout the church’s history. The apostle to the apostles, Mary Magdalene, who reports the resurrection for the first time, is a remarkable witness to women’s leadership in the early church.

“It’s clear that many of the early church communities were sheltered and led and supported by women. The church has elected to forget that in many instances.

“We’ve ignored a very significant part of our history.”

Despite the controversies surrounding women in the church she insists it was not a defining issue.

“I think in most provinces issues of life and death are much, much more central – starving people or disease that’s killing not just the Anglicans but everybody else in the nation,” she said.

She added she remained convinced that her denomination and her faith was of relevance to the world and relished the intellectual challenge thrown down by “new atheists” such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

Sitting in the archbishop’s living room, shortly before leaving for London for a meeting with other Anglican leaders, she said: “It’s a remarkable opportunity that really the church hasn’t had since Darwin. The questions that Darwin raised for the church have continued to be fought in the American context because of our interesting varieties of Christianity.

“But it’s been much less true in other parts of the world. That kind of fundamentalist atheism is, I would assert, a faith position.

“It is a kind of religion and when we engage it in that depth I think we have something very important to say.”

A former oceanographer, she is married to a retired mathematician, and said she saw no conflict between science and religion.

She said: “I think seeing the world only through a scientific lens or only through a religious lens is like walking around with one eye.

“Being able to use both world views and understanding that they answer different questions gives one a much deeper and fuller understanding.”

Many Anglican churches in both the United States and Wales have seen a decline in membership in recent decades but she said she believed this could be addressed by returning to the reformation principle of communicating in the language of the surrounding society.

She said: “We have failed to do that for new generations. I think that’s the biggest difficulty.

“We’ve ignored new idioms, new images, new musical styles, shifts in language. When we pay attention to those we discover that the supposedly irreligious around us are deeply interested in questions of spirituality, of ultimate meaning in life, and the church does have something to say.”

And in an era of globalisation, she said she was convinced that the Anglican family of churches could offer something to world communities which multinational companies cannot.

She said: “We’re the third largest distribution network in the world after the Romans and the Orthodox. We have an ability to serve people that is unmatched by the market.

“We have an ability to transform communities ... and that’s the power of the gospel.”

She has witnessed conservatives leaving her own denomination to form the Anglican Church in North America, which claims to have 100,000 members.

She said she hoped that the Anglican tradition of accommodating different standpoints in one church would not be lost.

“The gift of Anglicanism has always been to hold in tension, to hold in the same house, people with radically different understandings, because there is value in that whole spectrum.

“There is something good and blessed about that range of positions that we miss, that we lack, when some range of the tradition departs."

END




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