I have been observing in recent days an unfolding controversy involving the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori. Sometimes "controversy" means the standard blogs on the conservative side of things are running with some statement or action which is played out as significant, but which no one else picks up on. Recently, noticed here on ADU itself, such an action concerned a narrative of changes to the PB's Wikipedia entry and the statements made on the CV presented at the General Convention that elected her. No standard blog on the liberal/progressive side of things picked up this issue. The present unfolding controversy is quite different inasmuch as The Lead at the Episcopal Cafe is taking, well, the lead on it, and asking some hard questions of the PB. The story concerns the ordination of a man in the Diocese of Nevada when the PB was diocesan bishop there - a man (1) with a record of sexual harrassment involving youth during previous ministry in another church prior to joining the Episcopal church, (2) [correction: received as an] ordained [
On the face of it, the extraordinary aspect of this story is that any bishop would proceed to ordain//receive an ordained someone on whom a restriction in ministry relating to conduct around people was immediately placed. It raises significant questions about judgement, questions which are unlikely to be dispelled by a response which says the restriction was for the priest's benefit. Those questions can and should be played out within TEC's jurisdictional processes. I will not take comments on these questions - you can comment at The Lead.
But the question we can be concerned with here is whether this situation affects the leadership of the PB in two ways relating to the Communion. First, a few days ago a new canon on discipline of bishops came into effect. Some believe this new canon will be used to bring charges against the Bishop of South Carolina, Mark Lawrence, because allegedly there is a case which can be brought against him for the way in which he has handled some situations involving churches leaving his diocese, permitting property to go with the departure, rather than fighting to retain it for the future ministry of TEC. To bring such charges will be of great interest to many in the Communion because +Mark is a symbol of conservative presence in TEC: to charge +Mark would look to all the Communion as though TEC has no particular commitment to the diversity it professes. But now, there is a possibility the canon could be used against the PB herself. Or will both possibilities quietly die away, the embarrassment of the latter outweighing the advantages of the former?
Secondly, future involvement of the PB in Communion affairs will expose her to media questioning. Say, for instance, the PB visits with ++Rowan in England, and afterwards there is a media conference. Journalists there will not hold back on unresolved questions. This particular question will dog her unless it is squarely faced and dealt with. So, will we see the question of past judgement fronted, or will we see the PB's leadership presence in future Communion life hampered?
I will consider comments focused on the PB's role in Communion life, and whether this unfolding story has potential or not to hamper her leadership within the Communion. I make no commitment to publish comments made and will judge each on its merits as a constructive contribution to the life of the Communion.
Addendum: the story that is not going away quickly has now been taken up by The Living Church. I have found this US journal run by Episcopalians to be responsible and careful in its approach to the Presiding Bishop.
Additional addendum (23 July 2011): I see a second suit has been brought against the Abbey where the offending took place (one can say that as the perpetrator has admitted (some) fault) and this suit alleges that the Diocese of Nevada received information such that - if this allegation is true - will be a challenge to explain away. Again, so there is no implication that this is some kind of "right-wing conservative conspiracy" type news agin the PB, check out Jim Naughton here.