Friday, May 02, 2008

The PB and the Pope

In the eyes of some, mostly men, in this church, our presiding bishop can do nothing right. Their latest accusation against her is that she stood up the pope when he visited the U.S.

Jan Nunley of the Episcopal News Service and an excellent reporter AND a former resident of Fort Worth and now a priest, was AT the event that some conservatives are excoriacating the PB for missing. Here's what SHE says:
People, listen. I was there.

The Episcopal Church's Ecumenical Officer, Bishop Christopher Epting, was there.


It was an EVENT. A MEDIA event. Not much different from the Yankee Stadium Mass, except much, much smaller and no Mass.

Three hundred some odd Christian ordained and lay leaders packed like sardines into the pews of a church in Yorkville that had been spruced up for the occasion . . . The back row was filled with cameras and reporters.

His Holiness walked in, sat down, ecumenical prayers were said, hymns were sung, he delivered a 20-minute address from his chair, a dozen or so "representatives" of various faith groups were announced (including the Episcopal Bishop of New York), walked across the dais and shook the Pope's hand, exchanged a few niceties, sat back down, we prayed and sang again, and he left.

No one from the Vatican or the Archdiocese of New York was nonplussed that the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA sent a representative, and no one was nonplussed that the Presiding Bishop of TEC was represented by two Bishops--the local Episcopal Bishop, +Mark Sisk, and Bishop Epting--a member of her communications staff, and quite possibly others I did not spot in the crowd (mea maxima culpa).

Again: There was no "MEETING." No exchange of ideas and common concerns. Nothing more than "Welcome, Your Holiness, good to see you, glad to have you here, have a good time, try the cheesecake while you're here, it's fabulous." He was in, he was out, that was it.

There. Was. No. Meeting.


This is a manufactured controversy and it's a shameful waste of bandwidth and time. There really are more important things going on in the world and in the Church (both universal and particular). Get to them, for Jesus' sake, and stop majoring in the minors. Please.


And here is a reply from (The Rev. Cn.) Mary June Nestler of the Diocese of Utah to some of the attacks on the PB.

Posted with permission:

Today's posting by Dr. Phillip Turner showcased on Kendall Harmon's website (The Presiding Bishop: Does She Know What She is Doing?) contains the statement "To be specific, her decline of an invitation to greet the Pope on his present visit calls into question her understanding of the office of Presiding Bishop."

I hope the following information will finally put the bed the notion that Bishop Jefferts Schori was somehow avoiding the Pope or neglecting the duties of her office. I am posting this on the HOBD list because I called the Anglican Communion Institute to get Dr. Turner's email address to write to him directly and was told they don't give it out because of "a great deal of unpleasant email traffic."

I was advised simply to fill out their online form. I think I'd rather get the facts out more widely, as I've seen allegations of her supposed "dereliction of duty" in other internet material as well.

FACT: Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish wrote to the Presiding Bishop on April 17, 2007, to invite her to come to the Diocese of Utah to lead our Spring Weekend April 18-19, 2008. The Presiding Bishop accepted.

FACT: Beginning in May, 2007, considerable efforts began in Utah to prepare for the Presiding Bishop's visit. Facilities were reserved, planning committees began meeting, and expenses relating to the visit commenced. People across the diocese marked their calendars and planned to attend.

FACT: The press release announcing the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to New York was published by the Archdiocese of New York on November 12, 2007, half a year after the Presiding Bishop accepted Utah's invitation.

The Presiding Bishop kept her long-standing commitment to the Diocese of Utah by leading our Spring Weekend as planned. She was, in fact, doing some of the work The Episcopal Church called her to do and pays her to do: visit dioceses as Presiding Bishop, teach, preside and preach, bless and encourage Episcopalians and speak to the wider community. She worked incredibly hard while in Utah to keep up with our demanding schedule. While we wish she could have been both in New York greeting the Pope and in Utah leading our conference, we are nonetheless deeply grateful that she was present with us in Salt Lake City making a visit which at every moment revealed to us what an extraordinary leader she is and how capably and prayerfully she exercises the duties of her office.

I believe authors who would criticize her for this either don't understand the facts or are plain mean-spirited.

(The Rev. Cn.) Mary June Nestler
Canon for Ministry Formation, Member of the Planning Team for the Presiding Bishop's visit to Utah C1, Diocese of Utah

Of course, if she HAD cancelled the commitment with the Diocese of Utah to meet with the pope, they would be complaining that she was neglecting her responsibilities as presiding bishop and insulting the diocese.

Here's more information:

I've already received several emails sent to me privately insisting that the Presiding Bishop's proper course of action would have been to cancel her visit to Utah and to meet the Pope in New York. I look forward to hearing, should it ever be planned, that the Presiding Bishop will be received at the Vatican, which will be a much more powerful visit and statement than her being one of many religious leaders to encounter him in New York.

I have just this minute received a telephone call from the office of the Papal Visit at the Archdiocese of New York in response to my call earlier today. The office gave me the following information.

The press release issued in November, 2007, announcing the Pope's visit to the U.S., did not contain specifics of the Pope's visit or even his location. "As with all papal visits, " said Ellen in the office, "the Pope's actual destination and detailed schedule are released only one month prior to the visit. We knew from the Papal Nunzio only that he would be coming to the United States in November."

Ellen also told me that the Pope did not receive any ecumenical religious leader privately on his visit to New York or Washington. She said the only opportunity would have been for our Presiding Bishop to attend the ecumenical service scheduled for Friday night, April 18th, where she would have been one of many guests.

This means, in effect, that the Presiding Bishop would have had only one month's notice of the Pope's schedule. This means, in effect, that a year's worth of planning and a great deal of expense would have had to be blown off should she have cancelled her visit to Utah--to attend a group event.

Yes, it's critically important that she and the Pope meet. I want to be the first to get the photo of the two of them! But are the critics really suggesting that an entire diocese and state be stood up and a great deal of money squandered? She was not in Utah simply, as one person suggested, to dedicated the new Episcopal Church Center of Utah. That took 20 minutes. She met with 65 civic, religious, academic, and philanthropic dignitaries, before whom and 500 others she gave an address on "Religion and Civic Life." I wish you could have seen the Roman Catholic Bishop of Utah and other religious dignitaries sitting in the front row at the Holy Eucharist and her address following. The previous day she taught 310 people for 3 hours in formal lecture and question-and-answer. She was received by the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which may not seem like much compared to the Pope, but in Utah it's HUGE, and her visit was widely covered by Utah press. She met with the editorial board of the Deseret News and had private interviews with other reporters. In Utah, where the role of women is a major public and religious topic, the visit of our Presiding Bishop was major evangelism for the status of women in church and society. Some 40% of Utah Episcopalians are former members of the LDS Church, and for them the visit of a Presiding Bishop who is female was a watershed in their spiritual lives and growth--our own bishop who is a woman notwithstanding!

Yesterday's Salt Lake Tribune published this letter to the editor (with an unfortunate error stating the prayers of the people we used came from the Prayer Book). Her visit is still being praised!

(The Rev. Cn.) Mary June Nestler
C1 Utah

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