Thursday, June 17, 2010

More on the missing mitre that matters

Episcopal News Service has checked in with a fuller story on how Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was told by Lambeth Palace (i.e., the Archbishop of Canterbury) to not wear her mitre on Sunday while preaching and celebrating at Southwark Cathedral in London. The Dean of Southwark Cathedral, Colin Slee, was hugely embarrassed by Lambeth's slights.

Adding to the slights, Bishop Katharine was also told to prove each level of her ordinations before being allowed to come to Southwark Cathedral. I might note that when I was invited to vest and process at Canterbury Cathedral in 2003 no one asked me for proof of my ordinations. Hmm, double standard? Here is the story from ENS below:

Lambeth Palace tells presiding bishop not to wear symbol of office

Jefferts Schori carries mitre during recent visit to Southwark Cathedral

[Episcopal News Service -- Linthicum Heights, Maryland] When Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schoripreached and presided at a Eucharist June 13 at Southwark Cathedral in London, she carried her mitre, or bishop's hat, rather than wear it.

She did so in order to comply with a "statement" from Lambeth Palace, the London home of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, that said "that I was not to wear a mitre at Southwark Cathedral," Jefferts Schori told the Executive Council June 16 on the first day of its three-day meeting here.

Jefferts Schori made her remarks to council during a "private conversation" session attended by council members and church center staff, and later told ENS it could report her remarks.

The Church of England ordains women to the diaconate and the priesthood, but does not allow women to be bishops. Its General Synod is due to consider legislation to change that policy.

In the week before her visit, the presiding bishop said, Lambeth pressured her office to provide evidence of her ordination to each order of ministry.

"This is apparently a requirement of one of their canons about the ministry of clergy from overseas," she said.

The presiding bishop said both the ordination and mitre issues put the Very Rev. Colin Slee, Southwark's dean, "in a very awkward position."

She called the requirements "nonsense" and said, "It is bizarre; it is beyond bizarre."

On the day Jefferts Schori was at Southwark, Slee later preached at the cathedral's Evensong and said that Jefferts Schori was one of a long line of bishops and archbishops who have preached and presided at the London cathedral. Slee said, "On evangelical and ecclesiastically conservative websites I have been denounced this week for being 'provocative' and 'discourteous to the Archbishop of Canterbury' for extending this invitation."

"There are several reasons for the fury," he said in his sermon. "The presiding bishop is a woman and some people hate the idea of women as bishops. The General Synod of the Church of England is about to debate the admission of women as bishops within the Church of England. The church in the United States has just consecrated an openly lesbian woman as a suffragan bishop in Los Angeles and so they are accused of breaking an embargo on such consecrations. It is not nearly so simple."

"We welcome Katharine Jefferts Schori to this pulpit because we love our sisters and brothers in the Episcopal Church of the United States; not because she is female, or a woman bishop ahead of us, or has permitted a practicing lesbian to become a bishop (as it happens, she couldn't have stopped it after all the legal and proper canonical electoral processes resulted in the election and nomination), we welcome her because she is our sister in Christ," Slee said.

He said that "some Anglicans will decide to walk a separate path," but said that he believed Southwark "will walk the same path" as the Episcopal Church. "Their actions in recent months have been entirely in accord with the Anglican ways of generosity and breadth," he said. "They have tried to ensure everyone is recognized as a child of God. They have behaved entirely in accord with their canon laws and their freedom as an independent province of the church, not imposing or interfering with others with whom they disagree but proceeding steadily and openly themselves."

The text of the gospel appointed for the day was Luke 7:36-50, in which a woman washed Jesus' feet with her tears and then let down her hair to dry them.

In her sermon, Jefferts Schori asked, "What makes us so afraid of the other?"

"There's something in our ancient genetic memory that ratchets up our state of arousal when we meet a stranger -- it's a survival mechanism that has kept our species alive for millennia by being wary about strangers," she said. "But there's also a piece of our makeup that we talk about in more theological terms -- the part that leaps to judgment about that person's sins. It's connected to knowing our own sinfulness, and our tendency toward competition -- well, she must be a worse sinner than I am -- thank God!"

The text of her sermon is here.

-- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is a national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and editor of Episcopal News Monthly and Episcopal News Quarterly.

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