Church must push for inclusiveness, Episcopal bishop says

Kristyna Wentz-Graff

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, chief pastor of the world’s 2.4 million Episcopalians, is here for the Diocese of Milwaukee’s annual convention. She plans to visit some of the diocese’s poverty ministries.

The Episcopal Church must open its doors to become more inclusive and find ways to make itself relevant beyond Sunday mornings, its presiding bishop said Friday as she prepared to take part in the Diocese of Milwaukee’s annual convention.

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, chief pastor of the world’s 2.4 million Episcopalians, downplayed the schism that has rocked the church over its liberal views on homosexuality and gay clergy, and emphasized the importance of mission and ministry both at home and abroad.

“We need to speak the good news where people can hear it,” said Jefferts Schori, who planned to visit some of the local diocese’s poverty ministries – The Gathering meal program, the Red Door clothing ministry and an indigent burial program – during her stay.

“One of my jobs is to tell the story of the good works being done here,” she said in brief remarks to local media at the diocese’s All Saints Cathedral downtown.

Jefferts Schori, elected in 2006, is the first woman to head a province in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, which traces its roots to the Church of England. She has presided during one of its most tumultuous times as the church’s stance on sexuality prompted hundreds of conservative parishes to break away and drew criticism from more conservative provinces in the broader Anglican Communion.

Jefferts Schori said Friday that the Episcopal Church has more relationships within the Anglican Communion than it did a decade ago, and that archbishops around the world are more concerned with life and death issues within their own provinces than sexuality issues in the Episcopal Church.

“The level of confrontation has come down significantly,” she said. “The number of conversations are beginning to have some impact.”

More important, she said, has been the Episcopal Church’s work in places such as Haiti, after this year’s devastating earthquake, and in Latin America, where it’s seeing its greatest growth.

She said the church is growing in Haiti because of its mission work there, and is preparing to launch a $10 million campaign to restore churches and other facilities.

At home, she said, the church is making inroads, particularly among Hispanic women, who are drawn by its sense of inclusiveness and opportunities for women in leadership roles, but that it must do more to improve diversity.

“The challenge for most Anglo congregations,” she said, “is to find the space and generosity to invite others into the worship.”

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