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Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Katharine Jefferts Schori at Southwark Cathedral


- a sculpture from Southwark Cathedral

I saw mention of Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, in the news today. I feel weirdly proud of her, not because she's a woman in a position of power but because she wears it well, preaching (and acting out) the inclusive and unconditional love of Jesus/God for everyone.

She's in the news because she's been visiting in the UK and recently was invited to preach at Southwark Cathedral. Not everyone was happy about that. Conservatives sent a letter to the Times in protest, and .....

If the US Episcopal Church – still part of the worldwide Anglican communion despite having the temerity to elect gay bishops – feels nervous about the warmth of its welcome from the mothership that is the Church of England, perhaps there are reasons. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the US church and the first woman ever to lead an Anglican province, preached at Southwark Cathedral last weekend despite muted hisses of disapproval by conservative evangelicals. But close observers would have seen there was something missing: no mitre on her head. Who could be responsible? Step forward, Rowan Williams, Archbish of Canterbury, birthday boy (60 yesterday), who couldn't stop her preaching but said she could not wear the symbol of her office, or carry a bishop's crosier. Something to do with women bishops not yet being allowed in the C of E. A bit petty, some say, as Jefferts Schori is indeed a bishop and head of her national church – but in any event, she carried the mitre. And the subject for her sermon: God welcomes everyone, regardless of dress or condition. - Hugh Muir's Diary, The Guardian

You can read or listen to her sermon at the cathedral website, but here's just the end of it (the reading was Luke 7:36-8:3, Jesus eating with Simon and having his feet washed with a woman's tears) .....

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[...] Jesus invites us all to his moveable feast. He leaves that dinner party with Simon and goes off to visit other places in need of prodigal love and prodigious forgiveness. His companions, literally his fellow tablemates, are the 12 and "some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities." Hmmm. Strong, healthy women, and three of them are actually named here: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna. Together with many others they supported and fed the community – they became hosts of the banquet.

Those who know the deep acceptance and love that come with healing and forgiveness can lose the defensive veneer that wants to shut out other sinners. They discover that covering their hair or hiding their tears or hoarding their rich perfume isn't the way that the beloved act, even if it makes others nervous. Eventually it may even cure the anxious of their own fear by drawing them toward a seat at that heavenly banquet. There's room for us all at this table, there are tears of welcome and a kiss for the wanderer, and the sweet smell of home.

Want to join the feast? You are welcome here. Love has saved you – go in peace. Lean over and say the same to three strangers: you are welcome here. Love has saved you – be at peace.

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