NEW YORK – Appearing on a live webcast, the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop began the painful task Wednesday of persuading members to roll back their support for gays – at least for now – so the denomination can keep its place in the world Anglican fellowship.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, who personally supports ordaining partnered gays, told a studio audience, callers and those who submitted questions by e-mail that they should make concessions that Anglican leaders are seeking to buy time for reconciliation.
“To live together in Christian community means each member takes seriously the concerns and needs of other members,” Jefferts Schori said. “If we can lower the emotional reactivity in the midst of this current controversy, we just might be able to find a way to live together.”
Asked whether she was abandoning gay and lesbian Christians, Jefferts Schori said, “My view hasn’t changed, but I’m called to be pastor to the whole church.”
Anglican leaders emerged from a closed-door meeting in Tanzania last week with an ultimatum for the U.S. denomination: They gave Episcopalians until Sept. 30 to unequivocally pledge not to consecrate another partnered gay bishop or authorize official prayers for same-sex couples. If it doesn’t, the church risks a much-reduced role in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion.
The Episcopal Church, which represents Anglicanism in the United States, caused an uproar in 2003 by consecrating its first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson. The decision put the liberal Christian focus on social justice directly at odds with the traditional biblical view of sexuality.
On Tuesday, Robinson made his first public comments on Anglican demands, saying the church should reject the ultimatum and instead “get on with the work of the Gospel” no matter how communion leaders react. Several other Episcopal bishops have issued similar statements.