June 18, 2006

First woman chosen to lead Episcopal Church

By Jim Leckrone

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - The U.S. Episcopal Church chose
Bishop Katharine Schori on Sunday as the first woman leader of
the 2.3 million-member denomination, a vote likely to produce
more controversy in a group already divided over the ordination
of its first openly homosexual bishop.

Her election came 30 years after the Episcopalians, the
U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion, approved the
ordination of women to the priesthood. The selection seemed
likely to provoke controversy, since most other Anglican
communities, including the Church of England, do not allow
women bishops.

Schori, who holds degrees in biology and oceanography and
taught religious studies at Oregon State University before her
1994 ordination, was selected by bishops attending the church's
triennial convention from a field of several candidates.

A majority of U.S. bishops backed the consecration of Gene
Robinson of New Hampshire, the first openly gay bishop in more
than 450 years of Anglican history, when the Church last met in
convention three years ago.

Schori was narrowly elected after five ballots and was the
front-runner from the start of voting, church officials said.

Coming in second was the Rev. Henry Parsley, bishop of the
diocese of Alabama, who opposed the elevation of Robinson three
years ago.

Schori, 52, is the bishop of the Diocese of Nevada. She
will be installed at a ceremony in Washington's National
Cathedral later this year.

Her selection won immediate praise from Integrity USA, the
organization representing Episcopalian gays.

"We look forward to continuing the process of working
closely with the presiding bishop toward the full inclusion of
the gay and lesbian faithful in the Body of Christ," said the
Rev. Susan Russell, head of the group. "The historic election
... is something for us and the whole church to celebrate."

How to address fallout from the Robinson consecration has
dominated the convention.

The gathering must still act on proposals that would
address concerns raised by a report commissioned by the
Archbishop of Canterbury. That report advised the church to
apologize for the Robinson consecration, promise not to elevate
any more gays in same-sex relationships to the episcopate and
take a stand against the blessing of same-sex unions.

When news of Schori's selection reached the convention, one
delegate from Nevada described her as a person of prayer and
action. Another commented that he could hear the glass ceiling
shattering with her selection.

The 77-million-member worldwide Anglican communion is a
broad grouping of churches across 164 countries always run by