Search profiles the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori and recounts the story of her movement from a career in science to her vocation in the church and how the two intertwine.
Jefferts Schori believes her scientific background is more pertinent and unique to her current job than her gender. “It’s been a very long time since somebody trained in the way I have been has held an office in the church like this,” she said during a recent interview in the church’s Manhattan headquarters. Most Episcopal bishops, and bishops of any stripe for that matter, tend to study the liberal arts. Many are idea men, the theoretical physicists of the religious world, who keep their heads in the sky and hands clean of life’s messy particulars. While Jefferts Schori has studied theology in depth, she says her way of looking at the world has been shaped by her training as a scientist digging for cephalopods in the sediment. “I look carefully, collect data and make hypotheses,’’ she says.
Jefferts Schori is quoted using an image which may seem at first to be fodder for a David Walker cartoon, but reveals a deeper understanding:
She compares Episcopal bishops to humpback whales because they gather for a few days each year, learn to sing a new song together, then head home to teach the song to others. She says “gravity” is an apt translation of “kabod,” the Hebrew word for God’s glory, because it suggests something pervasive, substantial, and inescapable. And while God shouted down Job’s doubts by pointing to His awesomely fashioned hippopotamus, Jefferts Schori urges Episcopalians to consider the anableps.
These four-eyed fish can see above and below water simultaneously—a good example for Christians conflicted about whether to salvage this world or just wait for the next one. The point of such examples, Jefferts Schori says, is to encourage the church to see itself with new eyes, stop bickering about finer points of doctrine, and get about the business of healing the sick, clothing the naked, and relieving the impoverished.
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