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Episcopal Church elects Jefforts Schori
as the first woman Presiding Bishop

By Pat McCaughan

Columbus, Ohio, June 18, 2006 The Episcopal Church, 30 years after it allowed women to become priests and bishops, has elected a woman as its Presiding Bishop.

Katharine Jefferts Schori, 52, bishop of Nevada, was elected from a slate of seven nominees, on the fifth ballot June 18, as the 26th Presiding Bishop. She is the first woman to hold the top post in the church's nearly 400-year history. Her nine-year term officially begins November 1; she will be invested and seated November 4 during a liturgy at Washington National Cathedral.

Jefferts Schori breaks tradition in other ways. The airplane pilot and former oceanographer addressed deputies and visitors who gathered in the Columbus Convention Center in both Spanish and English. She thanked the other nominees and reassured the church of her passion for mission.  She also offered a vision of reconciliation and actualization of the reign of God.

The other nominees were bishops J. Neil Alexander of Atlanta; Edwin F. Gulick Jr., of Kentucky; Henry N. Parsley, Jr. of Alabama; Stacy F. Sauls of Lexington; Charles E. Jenkins III, of Louisiana, and Francisco Duque-Gomez of Colombia.

"I give deep and abiding thanks for the ministry of the current Presiding Bishop," she said after an introduction by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold. She added that she hoped his "gifts continue to be shared within the church and the world in years to come because he has very much to give us all. 

Griswold, in a statement issued later, said "The decision today is the fruit of the witness and ministry of women bishops, priest, and deacons in the life of our church."

Enthusiastic applause, cheers and shouts of joy erupted in the House of Deputies as President George Werner read Special Order E017, the resolution asking the Deputies to approve Jefferts Schori's election. A two-thirds majority of both clergy and lay deputies then confirmed her election.  

Jefferts Schori was consecrated the ninth Bishop of Nevada on February 24, 2001. She serves a diocese of some 6,000 members in 35 congregations. In the House of Deputies she spoke of needing time to "leave Nevada well," and thanked her diocese for the wonderful ministries in which they engaged.

Her service to the wider church includes current membership on the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion; the Board of Trustees, Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California; the CREDO Advisory Board; the House of Bishops peer coaching program; the General Board of Examining Chaplains; the Board for Church Deployment; the House of Bishops' Pastoral Development, Racism, and Planning Committees; the Court for Review of a Trial of a Bishop; the Episcopal visitor team for the Community of the Holy Spirit; and the Bishops of Small Dioceses group. From 2001-2003 she was a member of the 20/20 Strategy Group and served as secretary of the House of Bishops Ministry Committee at the 2003 General Convention.

She is the author of "When Conflict and Hope Abound," in "Vestry Papers" (March-April 2005); "Building Bridges/Widening Circles" in "Preaching Through Holy Days and Holidays: Sermons that Work XI," (Roger Alling and David J. Schlafer, eds., Morehouse, 2003); "Multicultural Issues in Preaching" in "Preaching Through the Year of Matthew: Sermons That Work X," (Roger Alling and David J. Schlafer, eds. Morehouse 2001); and "The Nag" in "Preaching Through the Year of Luke: Sermons That Work IX," (Roger Alling and David J. Schlafer, eds. Morehouse 2000). One of her Maundy Thursday sermons was included in "What Makes This Day Different?" (David Schlafer, Cowley 1998).

At the time of her election in Nevada, Jefferts Schori was assistant rector at the Episcopal Church of the Good Samaritan in Corvallis, Oregon, where she also served as pastoral associate, dean of the Good Samaritan School of Theology, and priest-in-charge, El Buen Samaritano, Corvallis. She was ordained deacon and priest in 1994. Prior to ordination, she was a visiting assistant professor in the Oregon State University Department of Religious Studies; a visiting scientist at the Oregon State University Department of Oceanography; and an oceanographer with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle. She is also an active, instrument-rated pilot, who has logged more than 500 flight-hours.

She received a B.S. in biology from Stanford University, 1974; an M.S. in Oceanography from Oregon State University, 1977; a Ph.D. from Oregon State University, 1983; an M.Div. from Church Divinity School of the Pacific, 1994; and a D.D. from Church Divinity School of the Pacific, 2001.

Jefferts Schori was born March 26, 1954, in Pensacola, Florida. She has been married to Richard Miles Schori, a retired theoretical mathematician (topologist), since 1979. They have one child, Katharine Johanna, 24, who is a second lieutenant and pilot in the U.S. Air Force.

The Presiding Bishop serves as spiritual leader to more than 2.4 million Episcopalians, is responsible for leading the church, and must oversee the planning, development, implementation and assessment of its programs.

The Presiding Bishop is elected every nine years to serve as the chief pastor and Primate of the church. Canon law (Title I Canon 1.2.4(a)(1)), charges the Presiding Bishop with responsibility for leadership in initiating and developing church policy and strategy, and for representing church policies, strategies and programs authorized by the General Convention.

The Presiding Bishop is also charged to speak God's word to the church and to the world, as the representative of this church and its episcopate in its corporate capacity (Title I, Canon 1.2.4(a)(2)). In addition to these key roles, the Presiding Bishop oversees and presides at meetings of the House of Bishops, provides for episcopal ministry in cases of vacancies and visits the dioceses of the church (Title I, Canon 1.2.4(a)(3-6)).


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