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The Episcopal Church Discusses Mission, Idolizes Jefferts Schori

The Episcopal Church Discusses Mission, Idolizes Jefferts Schori

By Michael Heidt in Salt Lake City
VOL Special Correspondent
June 20, 2015

The House of Deputies and the House of Bishops met together on the 6th day of the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church to discuss mission. The joint session ended with a series of tributes to the outgoing Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, which praised her for being wise, brave and reconciling.

Upwards of 1000 bishops and lay delegates to this year's General Convention met together in the House of Deputies to hear and discuss a presentation on mission delivered by Jefferts Schori.

The presentation was themed on the Five Marks of Mission, which are: To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom; to teach, baptize and nurture new believers; to respond to human need by loving service; to seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation, and to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

Jefferts Schori introduced each of these "marks of mission" with a short video, and then asked the assembled bishops and deputies probing questions on the "mark" in question. For example, discussion of the 1st Mark of Mission, to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom, was prefaced by a video showing traffic scenes, a black busker, a sunset, the Venice Beach Laundry and a map of America.

Following the short but compelling film, Jefferts Schori posed a series of questions, "How are we proclaiming the Good News to different demographic groups? How do diocesan structures impede or hinder mission? What will we take home?" she asked. The deputies and their bishops were then given 12 minutes to discuss the questions before the next Mark of Mission was addressed.

Shortly before lunch, the fifth and final Mark of Mission was discussed, with Jefferts Schori asking, "What are the biggest ecological challenges where you live? This has been a green convention, what have you learned here that you might take home? How can you see Jesus in caring for the earth?"

After the joint session on mission closed, Ray Suarez, of PBS, took the podium and led a tribute to Jefferts Schori. "Thank you, with a big exclamation point to Katharine Jefferts Schori," enthused Suarez, "She helped turn our eyes to the future, to send us marching into the history we are yet to write."

A video tribute followed, featuring glowing testimonies about Jefferts Schori's character, work and ministry.

The newly elected Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, declared, "She was the Presiding Bishop this church needed for the last 9 years," and not only "called us to maturity in Christ," but had a "forceful, prophetic voice." Curry went on to extol Jefferts Schori as "deeply wise, quiet yet strong. That word has become flesh in Katharine Jefferts Schori."

The Bishop of Connecticut, Ian Douglas, was also glowing in his praise for the Presiding Bishop, saying that she had "deep wisdom, acuity, compassion" and worked for "reconciliation and restoration."

Not to be outdone, the Bishop of Los Angeles, Jon Bruno, described the departing leader of the Episcopal Church as "a woman of power, courage, and strength" as well as "vitality," and "wisdom."

As the moving tributes came to an end, Suarez introduced former presiding Bishop Frank Tracy Griswold, who mounted the podium to a standing ovation. Griswold said that "all are called (by God) to an open heart," and that this call was "particularly intense in the ministry of a Presiding Bishop." The Presiding Bishop, he said, had to "speak God's justice and holiness," and "bear witness to the life and mission of the Episcopal Church."

"Katharine Jefferts Schori has done this with great dignity and grace," he said, "God's mission and ministry of reconciliation have been her theme."

Jefferts Schori then rose to a standing ovation, accompanied by whistles and whoops of appreciation from the floor of the House of Deputies. She was joined by incoming Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, in what was declared by Suarez as a "jubilation of bishops."

Despite talk of "reconciliation" during the presentation on mission and the tribute that followed it, no mention was made of the gay rights policies that divided the Episcopal Church during Jeffert's Schori's tenure as Presiding Bishop. Neither was attention drawn to the unprecedented $40 million the church has spent in litigation against departing traditionalists, with the authorization of its Presiding Bishop.

Michael Heidt is Editor of Forward in Christ magazine and a priest in the Diocese of Fort Worth

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