June 19, 2006

Episcopal Church names 1st woman leader

By Jim Leckrone

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - The U.S. Episcopal Church chose
Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on Sunday as its first woman
leader, a move unprecedented in the Anglican church and one
likely to produce more turmoil in a faith divided over the
ordination of an openly gay bishop.

Her election came 30 years after the 2.3 million-member
Episcopal Church, 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.

"It will be a great adventure," said Jefferts Schori, who
holds degrees in biology and oceanography and taught religious
studies at Oregon State University before her 1994 ordination.

Asked at a news briefing if her selection was designed to
"send a message" to the wider Anglican community upset with the
U.S. church, she said, "God welcomes all. Those who agree and
disagree." She promised to "bend over backwards" to reconcile
with those in the American church who are upset with its
current direction.

But the Rev. David Anderson, president of the conservative
American Anglican Council, criticized her selection saying she
lacked experience. In terms of the divisions in the church, he
added, "mom and pop are leaving" already.

Jefferts Schori was elected to succeed Presiding Bishop
Frank Griswold, who has led the church for nearly nine years,
by bishops attending its triennial convention.

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.

Jefferts Schori was narrowly elected from a field of
several candidates 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.


Jefferts 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, an
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 answer
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.

In the worldwide Anglican church women are bishops only in
Canada, the United States and New Zealand. The Robinson issue
has been particularly criticized in Africa where the church has
a large and growing membership and where homosexuality is often

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