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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

An inheritance of earth, ocean and sky

When the delegates to the Episcopal General Convention voted to install Nevada Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori to head the American branch of the Angelican Communion Sunday, they may have done more than elect the first woman to preside over that body, as significant as that is, they may have in fact made a decision, conscious or otherwise, to reaffirm a more basic construct, a natural order to the affairs of man, nature and God.

We decided to look at not who Bishop Schori will be after her installation November 4th in a ceremony at Washington National Cathedral, rather we wanted to understand who she has been up until now.

At 52 years of age, Bishop Schori, like many Americans, is firmly engaged in a second career with no plans to stop anytime soon. Speaking with the Las Vegas Review Journal last June, Bishop Schori, regarding her nomination to the office, said, "She was not losing any sleep over the prospect of either winning or losing the presiding bishop's post. Buddhists and Christians," she notes, "share the notion of nonattachment, the ability to "be able to embrace what is in the now. And I think that has been one of the gifts of this process for me," she concluded, "remembering how to do that."

A native of Pensacola, FL, Jefferts Schori lived in the east and graduated from high school in New Jersey. Her life long love of the ocean compelled her to excel in her studies of marine biology at Stanford. After graduating she moved to Oregon and earned her master's and doctorate degrees in oceanography at Oregon State University in 1974.

She returned to Oregon in 1985 along with her husband, Richard Schori, a mathematics professor at OSU after finishing her work in Seattle at the National Marine Fisheries Service there. She began volunteering, with Habitat for Humanity, serving as the treasurer of the Assistance League and as president of the Parents-Teachers Organization at her daughter's school.

By 1994, she had graduated with a degree in theology and began her ministry at the Las Vegas Episcopal Dioceses where she quickly rose to become the Presiding Bishop. Her husband, Richard Miles is a theortical mathematician; they have a daughter, Kate Harris, now 24 and a pilot in the U.S. Air Force.

In an article written for the NPR series Taking Issue: Evolution and Religious Faith, August 2005, Schori wrote, "Human beings are meant to be stewards of creation. Everyday, creation and revelation continue in divine-human partnership as God works in the minds of scientists, inviting us all to share in discovering the wonderful mysteries of creation. In this light, I find no difficulty in holding together my faith and the best of recent science. She concludes, “We are compelled to use all of the resources God has given us. Not to use our brains in understanding the world around us seems a cardinal sin.”

The environment, our earth habitat, faces extreme challenges placed before it by globalization, increasing population pressures, global warming and crushing poverty. In many ways, and to countless millions of human beings, the future seems forebidding, destitute of hope. Perhaps, for those most often overlooked by society, the elevation of such a person, a scientist, and activist, theologian and reformer a person the likes of Katharine Jefferts Schori to head the American Angelican Communion and its 77-million members will send a hopeful message to the world that science, society and theology can work together as natural partners in the drive for social change and environmental stewardship. Our only inheritance is after all, just that, the earth, the ocean and the sky, no matter how you define them.

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine

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