Presiding Bishop's webcast gets reviews from participants, viewers
By: Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted: Wednesday, February 28, 2007
People around the world, as well as the 25 in the webcast studio facilities of New York's Trinity Church, Wall Street, listened on February 28 as Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori discussed the recent Primates' Meeting and answered listeners' questions.
One of the members of the invited audience for the webcast was Maori Anglican theologian Dr. Jenny Plane Te Paa, the "ahorangi" or dean of Te Rau Kahikatea (College of St. John the Evangelist) in Auckland, New Zealand. Te Paa said afterward that she was impressed with the "grace and dignity and clarity" she thought Jefferts Schori showed during the webcast.
She said she was glad that the Presiding Bishop had also brought those qualities to the Primates' Meeting. Speaking as a member of another province of the Anglican Communion, Te Paa said Jefferts Schori "is a gift to us all," in part because of her urgency in calling Episcopalians and all Anglicans to God's mission.
Te Paa, who is in New York attending the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) as part of the Anglican delegation, said she appreciates the urgency of that call because there is a "groundswell" of feeling around the Communion that is "recognizing how far we have gone away from God's mission."
Anglican women, she reported, are saying that Anglicans can only be distracted from God's mission "if we allow it to happen," she said.
Three seminarians from the General Theological Seminary (GTS) in New York were part of the studio audience. Meagan Sanders from the Diocese of Minnesota said that she came into the webcast "exhausted and I leave hopeful."
"The energy that [the Presiding Bishop] exudes makes me feel privileged to serve the God I've always felt called to serve," said Sanders, who will graduate from GTS later this year.
"Ultimatums bother me," she said, "but [the Presiding Bishop] communicated clearly that she doesn't see this as an ultimatum. And her understanding and her role in the listening process is a gift ... and I feel like we can trust her."
Steven Paulikas of the Diocese of Southern Ohio said after the webcast that he too was hopeful that "issues of polity both in our church and in the Communion will not obscure the mission of our church both here and globally."
Still, he said, "patience in terms of civil rights is problematic and I look forward to seeing how the Presiding Bishop will steer us in this time of patience."
Jeff Thornberg of the Diocese of New Hampshire said he came to the Trinity studio worried that gay and lesbian members of the church "were being ignored the sake of global unity." At the end of the webcast, he said he had a sense that the contributions of gays and lesbians are in fact not being ignored.
"The Presiding Bishop mentioned that this is an opportunity to look at who we are" as a church, he said, adding that he is concerned that "when we emerge from this at the end of the day, who are we going to be."
The Rev. Mittes DeChamplain, who teaches preaching at GTS, said after the webcast that she felt hopeful after seeing what she described as Jefferts Schori's "sense of charity" toward others.
DeChamplain said that members of the GTS community who are gay have been "deeply concerned" about what the Primates' communiqué meant for them. She said she heard Jefferts Schori being "steadfast" in her determination that the Episcopal Church would maintain the progress it had made in fully including gays and lesbians in the life of the church.
"What she said made me feel confident that love will find a way," she said.
The Rev. Rick Brewer, priest-in-charge of Christ Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, watched the webcast online and said that, throughout all of Jefferts Schori's communications since the Primates' Meeting has been "a voice that has asked us to stay centered and open."
He said that interest in his congregation runs from curiosity about what the news reports mean to a lack of willingness to be distracted from outreach and building the community of Christ Church, which began after a large number of members of the previous congregation left the Episcopal Church. Of the current members, Brewer said, three are from Canada and they are among the few who express concerns about the Anglican Communion and its future.
Brewer said that he was concerned that most people in the pews would have had trouble understanding Jefferts Schori's webcast presentation without a "significant" amount of education about the polity of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
"I think we're in this pickle," Brewer said, in part because of what he called the "deplorable state" of education throughout the Communion, "beginning with the Primates."
"I have difficulty being patient when I don't see any interest with them to learn how we think," he said. "I can't be very hopeful because I do not think people are negotiating in good faith."
Shirley and Bruce Jackman, members of Trinity Church who live in Brooklyn, New York, said afterward that they sensed calm, generosity and intelligence in Jefferts Schori's presentation and in her approach to answering the 35 questions that came to her from the audience and via email and telephone.
Shirley Johnson expressed confidence that the Presiding Bishop's "clarity of vision" will help her to lead the Episcopal Church through the decisions it faces.
She said that Jefferts Schori's call for patience must be heeded, noting that patience was part of the civil rights movement in the United States. "It was really a patient struggle by the very fact that it was peaceful," she said, recalling Martin Luther King, Jr.'s commitment to non-violence.
"You can't work through these problems without patience," Bruce Jackman agreed.
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