Episcopal Head Urges Healing, Reconciliation

The head of The Episcopal Church addressed hundreds of black Episcopalians at a Wednesday morning Eucharist, speaking on reconciliation between individuals and "even theological factions."

"We live in a world that is not yet whole, and we understand our vocation to be its healing or repair," said Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at the Union of Black Episcopalians' annual conference in Houston, Texas, according to The Houston Chronicle.

UBE's July 2-6 conference theme is "Hearing God's Call for Reconciliation" and attendants have a chance to understand some of the key issues facing the church and the black church specifically, according to Dianne Audrick Smith, annual meeting coordinator.

Many conference participants called Jefferts Schori's sermon the highlight of the meeting.

"Over and over again, the prophets railed against those who brought greater divisions to the world, those who bring more injustice, those whose deeds sow destruction," Jefferts Schori told the attendants, according to the Chronicle.

She said there are reconciliations "between individuals, within families, among nations, between politicians and, yes, even theological factions."

The head bishop's comments come amid deep divisions in The Episcopal Church - the U.S. branch of Anglicanism - and the global Anglican Communion. A minor but growing number of conservative Anglican parishes in the United States have left The Episcopal Church citing the U.S. church body's departure from Christian orthodoxy and Anglican tradition, particularly when The Episcopal Church consecrated an openly gay bishop in 2003.

The Episcopal Church also faces a Sept. 30 deadline to respond to the requests of Anglican leaders, called Primates, to unequivocally pledge not to consecrate another openly gay bishop or bless same-sex unions.

"Why is loving our neighbors such hard work?" she asked at the UBE conference.

Gays, Native Americans, women and descendants of the African diaspora "look to this church and are asking for restorative justice after centuries of exploitation," Jefferts Schori said, according to the local Chronicle.

The Episcopal head has stated previously that Episcopal leaders do not plan to go "backward" on their controversial 2003 decision and has called for conversations and to find common ground with those who disagree.

"In confession, we tell a story, then we hope to be heard and look for some outward sign that the pain has been acknowledged and a movement toward healing has begun," she said. "Then, and only then, will we all be truly and finally free."

The Very Rev. C. David Williams, dean of Trinity and St. Philips Cathedral in Newark, N.J., had called The Episcopal Church an institution that is "changing and dynamic" in an earlier sermon.

"We are part of the Episcopal Church, an institution that is changing and dynamic," Williams said. "It's a church where people with HIV and AIDS can come, a church that is open to gays and lesbians and the homeless. The church must be there for them and open to all. "

The Anglican Communion rejects homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture but calls on its people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals.

The Union of Black Episcopalians conference is also recognizing the 30th anniversary of women's ordination in the church. Jefferts Schori became the first female priest to lead The Episcopal Church when she was installed last November.