Tribal Gathering

It is Saturday, November 4th. In Washington, D.C., on a clear cool autumn morning at the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, some 4000 folk are gathering to celebrate the investiture of The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori as the Presiding Bishop, Primate and Chief Pastor of the Episcopal Church. There will be great pomp and circumstance, as befits the day and the role.

But at the end of the day it will still be Bishop Katharine. No "Archbishop this", no "Your Grace that." Bishop Katharine, taking her place in the government of the whole church, something she pledged to do when made a bishop, will now have to carry through with in ways she might not have ever imagined. She will do so as a bishop among the bishops and she like all members of that house will be bound by the oath which says, “I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.” So there is no oath to a Monarch, no oath to a Metropolitan or Archbishop. At the end of the day Bishop Katharine will be invested with grandeur so that she might be the servant of all.

In its own scrappy way the Episcopal Church is living out two visions of governance at once: (i) governance by a confederation of judges or rulers, much like that of Israel in the time of the Judges and (ii) governance oddly American, of the people, by the people and for the people. Bishop Katharine will be distinctly unlike Primates in some other Provinces of the Communion. She will serve with limitation of time, with powers that are shared with others, derived from the Constitution and Canons of this Church, in no way an ecclesiastical parallel to the monarch.

That means of course that the matter of magisterial powers, the powers of majesty and judgment, do not lie with her alone. Today she is exalted in community. Tomorrow she governs in community. It is both a gift of this Church to the larger Anglican Community that we try this, and it is a burden. For the tribal confederation of the Judges and the notion of governance of, by and for a people, is not easily shown to be successful. But it does mean that the “body” of the incarnation in the Church is not in its head alone, but in all its members. Our governance may in some way actually parallel the covenant of this community – the baptismal covenant.

At the meeting of The Episcopal Majority held yesterday it was pointed out that the Baptismal Covenant, which we repeat at every baptism and on several major feasts of the Church Year, profoundly grounds this Church in a sense that all ministry derives from baptism. That being so, how that works out for Bishop Katharine is no different then how it works out for all of us. The venue is different, but the call the same.

In the congregation today will be the major leaders of this Church, visitors from around the world, including several Primates, assorted dignitaries, and a whole crowd of witnesses from every part of this Church. We will be signs of that wider tribal confederation called the Church universal. And God willing, all will go well and it will be a day of real joy.

And deep in the center of the activity of giving Bishop Katharine the vestments of grandeur, there will the whisper that what she will really need to put on is the whole armor of God, which in a community such as ours will include the great rallying of Mother Jones, not just to criticize, but to organize. It is time to organize for mission again, for justice again, for the wide reach of inclusive love again.

May it be a fine day, and a good nine years.


  1. I am sure the liturgy will go well, we do that sort of thing with a great deal of style.

    So, what is a person to do after the pagentry? On the one hand I certainly want to be supportive, I was praying for her election prior to the convention, I was thrilled when it happened. Then the (and this is the only word I know of for it ) betrayal of B033. Let's face it, if she and her predecessor do not push it through, it likely fails in Deputies.

    I dunno. She blew away a lot of goodwill on one side of the aisle, and gained none from the right.

  2. Ah yes ... bishops and referees, the only two avocations where you are expected to be perfect from the beginning and then get better.

    B033 may have been a mistake. Her speaking at the House of Deputies may have been a mistake. But one day does not nine years make.

  3. Reverend Ref,

    The fact is that one slip can be all you get. Consider Gov. Dean in the last primary cycle.

    The two PB's and their house did indeed sacrifice a lot of the trust and fellowship with the other. It is not at all clear that anyone in a purple shirt is working to fix it. Without it, the next 9 years will be tough.


  4. The liturgy was positively glorious. It was wonderful to feel part of something big and wonderful again - that which puts the small "c" in catholic (as in one, holy and apostolic).

    I grow more and more convinced that the look on Bishop Katharine's face when she stood before the House of Deputies was the look of a woman with an ecclesiastical gun to the back of her head.

    As the wave of churches and dioceses who distance themselves from B033 and places like the Diocese of Pittsburgh tie the noose which they have placed around their own necks even tighter, we shall see the more and more of Katharine's courage and grace and style.

    It's going to be a GREAT 9 years.

  5. Rev. Elizabeth,

    I hope and pray you are right.


  6. I pray that Mother Elizabeth's general take on this is correct. So far, it looks like Bp. Katharine isn't standing for the nasty, divisive nonsense that's plagued TEC for too long now.

    And even as a straight, white, middleclass guy, I was appalled at B033. Hopefully the new PB won't push it, and it'll die in the HoD...

  7. I wonder if it occurred to anyone else that Bp. Katharine's choice of attire on Sunday -- a coat of many colors -- was singularly appropriate. It reminds those who describe TEC as two churches that it is, at pew level, a rainbow: We are red and blue (by political analogy), but also warm orange, sunny yellow, and rich green. To see only one or two colors is to lose the Church.

    Thank you, Bp. Katharine, for reminding us of the rainbow!


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