Beliefnet News

Chicago Tribune – February 4, 2008
Feb. 4–Chicago’s new Episcopal bishop and the church’s national leader sent a clear message Sunday about where they stand on gay clergy, a smoldering issue that threatens to tear apart the denomination.
Wrapping up a five-day tour in honor of Jeffrey Lee, the new Chicago bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori declared that the American church will not stand alone in its support of gay clergy during an international meeting in July in Lambeth, England.
“Many more [bishops] than you might expect are sympathetic,” Jefferts Schori, the presiding Episcopal bishop, told parishioners at St. Nicholas Church in Elk Grove Village. “They are not, however, the loudest voices.”
Later in Chicago, Lee was seated at St. James Cathedral and reminded audience members of their call to ministry by virtue of their baptism, not their liberal or conservative interpretations of Scripture.
“That’s one of the tragedies afflicting the church right now,” he said. “So many of us seem to think that salvation depends on our theological correctness.”
Lee’s election capped a race that drew worldwide attention as the latest potential flash point since the 2003 consecration of V. Gene Robinson, the church’s first openly gay bishop. Conservatives believe homosexuality violates Scripture. Liberals support gay-clergy rights.
Of the eight nominees in Chicago, one was a lesbian in a committed relationship. Lee, who is not gay but supports full inclusion, quickly emerged as the overwhelming choice.
His election made him one of 10 new bishops to take over a diocese this season. All are said to represent a new generation of leadership in the church that cares less about imposing a certain brand of theology on their flocks and more about finding consensus and common ground to serve the poor, heal the sick and evangelize.
Jefferts Schori said the new bishops buck the top-down structure that has governed the Episcopal Church for nearly 500 years.
But it’s a shift in the right direction, she said.
“It’s a sign of great health of all the members of the church,” she said.
Lee said that regardless of where bishops fall on the theological spectrum, conversations during a meeting of new American bishops last month focused on building bridges rather than defending positions.
“I was struck by how much listening there was,” Lee said. “That’s becoming truer and truer of bishops in the Episcopal Church. In general, I hope that’s a trend.”
Lee will represent Chicago in England this summer. Robinson has not been invited.
But Jefferts Schori’s comment regarding bishops’ support reassured Rev. Stephen Martz, the vicar of St. Nicholas, where gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families are welcome to worship.
“It seemed to be an authentic remark,” Martz said. “I hope it’s true.”
It also reassured Rev. Alex Seabrook, 82, who was ordained in 1954 and attended the service at St. Nicholas to watch the presiding bishop baptize twins.
“I’ve seen the church of the past,” he said. “The whole service today was the church of the future.”

To see more of the Chicago Tribune, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to
Copyright (c) 2008, Chicago Tribune
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus