By RACHEL ZOLL 07.11.08, 7:03 AM ET
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was installed as head of the U.S. church less than two years ago, inheriting a mess not of her own making. The global Anglican Communion was in an uproar over the 2003 consecration of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Long-simmering differences over Scripture and the global Anglican fellowship erupted into a threat of full-blown schism.
Jefferts Schori, a theological liberal who supported Robinson's election, has tried to ease the tensions in meetings with other Anglican leaders. Starting next Wednesday, she will be explaining the church's actions in her broadest venue yet: the Lambeth Conference, a once-a-decade meeting of Anglican bishops from around the world. Jefferts Schori said she's looking forward to the "face-to-face conversation" at the event.
While Robinson won't attend the Lambeth meeting, he will be just outside the event.He is preaching at a British church, despite a request from Williams that he refrain from doing so. A group of Episcopal bishops will host two receptions for Robinson outside the Lambeth Conference grounds so other Anglican bishops can meet and speak with him.
Jefferts Schori said she didn't ask Robinson to refrain from preaching and said his presence on the outskirts the conference "doesn't make my life more difficult." "I think it's an opportunity for others to meet him as a human being, as a member of this church, as an honored member of this church," she said.
Liberal Christians believe that committed same-sex relationships are permitted under the Bible's social justice teachings. Conservatives disagree - and they are a majority in the 77 million-member Anglican fellowship.
"Some people think that you can read the Bible without understanding the original context and simply take literally what you read. We will interpret - and it's an important part of faithful living," Jefferts Schori said. "To assume there is only one way of reading is hubris."
To prepare for the meeting, the presiding bishop said she has been speaking and praying with other Episcopal leaders. She is urging them to have realistic expectations for the event…."Conversations that are challenging can't be solved in one meeting," she said. "These issues aren't going to be finished by the end of the summer."
Sounds like it will be a hot summer at Lambeth!