Episcopal Head Shifts Focus from Gay Row to World Healing

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori opened her first Executive Council meeting Sunday as head of the Episcopal Church, saying their larger mission work can transcend the homosexual controversies dividing the body.

Drawing attention to the U.S. Anglican body's goals of eradicating poverty, halting the spread of AIDS and other Millennium Development Goals, Jefferts Schori addressed council members on how to communicate the Good News at a four-day meeting in Chicago.

"We have remarkable opportunities to speak and do Good News to people who don't know what that means," she said, according to the Episcopal News Service.

And as they are engaging in "the larger work" of healing the world, the new woman head said such efforts would enable the Episcopal Church to transcend the differences that divide it, including the debates over homosexual clergy and marriage, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Jefferts Schori was formally invested as presiding bishop of the 2.4 million-member church on Nov. 4, becoming the first woman to head the U.S. church body and the first to hold such a position in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Her election has been surrounded by controversy as she had approved the consecration of openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire and expressed her support for blessing same-sex couples.

While eight Episcopal leaders have rejected her leadership, requesting alternative oversight from the Anglican Communion, others have remained confident of her ability to bridge gaps and disagreeing parties.

Days before the investiture service, former presiding bishop Frank T. Griswold said he will "confidently entrust the primatial staff" to Jefferts Schori to lead the church. He also believes his successor will bring the wide range of opinions within the Episcopal body to the primates' meetings.

Jefferts Schori was also met by applause at All Saints Episcopal Church earlier Sunday

Speaking to council members, the new presiding bishop said, "We've got a long road and the journey begins today, and I am delighted that you're all here.

The Executive Council meeting marks the unofficial start of the Episcopal Church's 2007-2009 triennium of mission and ministry, which the council oversees.