- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 18, 2006

7:06 p.m.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Episcopal Church has elected the worlds first female presiding bishop, spurring a reaction of shock, delight and some dismay among thousands of delegates and bishops gathered here.

Katharine Jefferts Schori, 52, bishop of the 6,000-member Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, is the churchs new presiding bishop, a post equivalent to that of archbishop. She beat out five men for the post, winning on the fifth ballot this afternoon.

An amazed gasp and applause broke out from the approximately 820 deputies gathered in the Greater Columbus Convention Center as her name was announced. Women lined up at the microphones in the cavernous convention hall to praise the selection.

“They have chosen a qualified, visionary candidate,” one said.

“She is brilliant, thoughtful, and she speaks Spanish,” said another.

Despite repeated requests from the Very Rev. George Werner, president of the House of Deputies, no one spoke up against the nomination. However, some deputies privately wondered about the selection of a woman as presiding bishop when the Episcopal Church is in hot water with the rest of the worldwide Anglican Communion for the 2003 election of an open homosexual, New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson.

The Rev. Martyn Minns, rector of Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax and a leading church conservative, pointed out that Bishop Schori has voted in the past in favor of same-sex unions and the consecration of homosexual bishops.

“I don’t see how she can do other than lead the Episcopal Church from walking away from the Anglican Communion,” he said.

The House of Deputies quickly approved her election. Out of 108 dioceses, 93 lay delegations voted yes and 15 voted no or were divided. Of the clergy delegates, 94 voted yes and 14 voted no or were divided.

It is not clear what the reaction to her election will be from Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, which teach that women cannot be ordained. Only 15 out of 38 Anglican provinces ordain female bishops. Among the other 23, nine do not ordain women at all, three ordain them only as deacons and 11 ordain women as priests, but not as bishops.

Bishop Schori was considered a dark horse for the slot. However, she led the field on all five ballots cast by 188 Episcopal bishops. The Episcopal House of Bishops elects a presiding bishop, and their selection must be affirmed by the Episcopal House of Deputies.

From the start, the election was a race between Bishop Schori and Alabama Bishop Henry N. Parsley, 57. He trailed her by a few votes on each ballot. The winner needed 95 votes, and on the fifth ballot, she got exactly 95 votes; Bishop Parsley got 82.

Bishop Schori is married to Richard Schori, a retired theoretical mathematician. They have one daughter.

On other issues, Virginia Bishop Peter Lee, who voted to elect Bishop Robinson three years ago, has crafted a resolution that would lower the boom on electing future homosexual bishops.

He said this morning in an interview that he wanted his church to show “clarity” on whether it affirms homosexual bishops.

“It will give the convention an opportunity for an up-and-down vote,” he said. “Some of our critics said theyre expecting General Convention to fudge” its response. “Were trying to find language to bring us somewhere close to integrity.”

The original language of the resolution suggested that Episcopalians “exercise very considerable caution” on electing any future homosexual bishops and allowing same-sex blessings. The Virginia bishop said the original language was too vague. His substitute resolution, which was adopted by the committee, calls for a “moratorium” on the election of homosexuals for at least the next three years.

The word “homosexual” was not mentioned in the original resolution; instead, the reference was to electing “bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church.” Bishop Lee substituted bishops “living in a sexual relationship outside of monogamous heterosexual marriage.”

The resolution adds that it recognizes “the burden and hurt that such a moratorium imposes especially on gay and lesbian clergy and churches that discern their leadership gifts.”

The Virginia bishop, who retires next year, has undergone much criticism from conservative Virginia parishes for his part in approving the Robinson consecration. Two of his mission churches recently left the diocese over his leadership, and about 11 of his parishes, mostly in Northern Virginia, refuse to allow him to preach or confirm new members within their walls.

The committee meets tonight to fine-tune the resolution, which will be presented to Episcopal bishops and deputies tomorrow.

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