Tuesday, June 22, 2010

One wears her mitre, another told to remove it

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is not the only woman American Episcopal bishop who has been on an official visit in Britain in recent days. But the difference in hospitality could not be more stark.

Bishop Mary Grey-Reeves of the Diocese of El Camino Real (central California) is on a visit to the Diocese of Gloucester. Bishop Mary was not asked to remove her mitre, and indeed wore it. Nor was Bishop Mary (photo at right) asked to prove her ordination.

The dust-up over telling Presiding Bishop Katharine to remove hers is proving embarrassing to the host Brits (as it should). The only conclusion possible is that Bishop Katharine was subjected to petty harassment by Lambeth Palace, the headquarters of the Archbishop of Canterbury. What the denizens of Lambeth intended to accomplish other than showing their disdain for Bishop Katharine is beyond me.

Below are letters written by Bishop Mary followed by a letter from her host, Bishop Michael Perham, Bishop of Gloucester (photo at right):
Dear Friends,

Some of you may have heard that on a recent visit to England, +Katharine Jefferts-Schori was asked to verify her orders of ordination and asked not to wear her miter. As you know, I am here on a partnership visit in the Diocese of Gloucester. Attached is a greeting and explanation from Bishop Michael regarding our own correspondence with Lambeth Palace, hopefully clarifying a policy that has been in place but not enforced. The incident with +Katharine was of course exacerbated by +Rowan’s Pentecost letter and +Katharine’s response. I must say that I have not met anyone here that is happy with +Rowan’s letter and the actions that it announced; but are rather many are embarrassed and upset.

As you will see from an update that Celeste Ventura and Channing Smith will send shortly, we are having a wonderful time in Gloucester being treated very well and shown great hospitality. There are no major issues regarding the wearing of my miter or being a woman bishop, although of course there are those who do not approve of women’s ordination. It is a very live issue here and there are lots of feelings and emotions as the Church of England approaches another vote, hopefully towards women in the episcopate, in just a few weeks.

In the meanwhile, I send greetings from everyone participating on this triangular partnership and ask your continued prayers. I will send another update at the end of the week after my return late on Wednesday night.

With love and blessings,

A message from Michael Perham, Bishop of Gloucester

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Diocese of El Camino Real

I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, rejoicing as always in our partnership, drawing together your diocese, the Diocese of Western Tanganyika and my own.

It has been a great joy to have Bishop Mary with us these last few days, sharing in our partnership meeting, speaking to our Diocesan Synod, preaching in the Cathedral and visiting parishes. It will be a particular joy when, on the last day of the partnership gathering, she presides at the Eucharist in the Lady Chapel of our Cathedral.

People here in the Diocese of Gloucester share my respect and affection for Bishop Mary. Once again having her here has been a delight and an encouragement to us all. Her graciousness is a wonderful gift to our partnership and companion relationship and I believe the partnership is a gift to our troubled Anglican Communion.

I am attaching a note I have written to try to explain some of the difficulties we have run into in England these last few days in relation to the ministry of visiting bishops. The difficulties have felt to be a long way away from the happy acceptance of one another here.


Background explaining the need for permission to her diocese

Under the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure of 1967, which in my view needs urgent revision, but which is still in force and which must therefore be respected, clergy from abroad (Anglican or otherwise) need the permission of the Archbishop to officiate here. My understanding is that over the years, this rule has not been tightly followed in the case of those visiting partner dioceses for short periods of time, but only for those seeking to take up a ministerial post here. However, with all the present tensions in the Communion and with some people prepared to use legal processes to challenge bishops and others who do not follow the letter of the law, the Archbishop’s office has thought it best to ensure that the rule is strictly adhered to. Thus I have sought and obtained permission for Bishop Mary for preside at the Eucharist in Gloucester Cathedral.

(Bishop Gerard is also presiding at the Eucharist while here, but in his case in a private chapel where no such permission is required.)

The Measure makes no reference to what the bishop wears. As it happens, the simple weekday Eucharist at which Bishop Mary will preside is not one when either she or I would expect her to wear a mitre. However in the Cathedral on Sunday, when she stood at my side when I presided at the Eucharist and again when she preached at a Partnership Service later in the day, she did, like me and Bishop Gerard, wear her mitre.

The triangular partnership that draws the dioceses of Western Tanganyika, El Camino Real and Gloucester into a companion relationship emerged from the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops. There has never been any doubt within our dioceses that the three bishops are equally bishops of the Anglican Communion and not for a moment would we have treated one bishop differently from the others. We recognise and honour the ministry of all.


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