The Rt. Rev. William Love of the Diocese of Albany is in a quandary. The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, who is extremely popular with the faithful, but not with Bishop Love and the leaders of his diocese, is coming to town. He can't tell her to stay home--the visit is canonically mandated--but he doesn't want her appearance to energize the moderate and progressive Episcopalians who constitute a far larger portion of his diocese than he would like to admit. What to do?
Well, you could limit the number of people who will have an opportunity to see Bishop Jefferts Schori, and limit her opportunities to speak. The folks at Openly Episcopal in Albany see the matter this way:
Bishop Love’s letter makes it clear that his goal is to “share with her the many different aspects of our diocesan life and ministry together. We have much to share with the wider Church.” But what about the message that the Presiding Bishop has to give to the Diocese of Albany? Are we open to listening to her as she shares what The Episcopal Church is doing and becoming? Are the leaders of our diocese as eager to be taught as they are to teach? Once again the diocese is conveying an attitude of exceptionalism that places higher value on our own gifts and ministries than on those to be found in the wider Church.
Nor do the venues chosen for her visit permit the Presiding Bishop the time and audience appropriate to her position or her message. Priests will be granted access to the Presiding Bishop on one occasion, and deacons on another, but there is no gathering in which the leader of our national church can address all interested laity, let alone the general public. At the Saturday healing service, the one event advertised as open to all, the letter says only that “the Presiding Bishop will be invited to be part of the prayer team.” Apparently no sermon, no questions, no answers.
The next occasion at which The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori can meet members of the diocese is one that invites only a small representation of laity. Nor is it a convenient time for laity in our far-flung diocese to meet the Presiding Bishop. Several members of the diocese have pointed out to Albany Via Media that having to be absent from one’s own parish on any Sunday, especially Lent 1, would discourage many otherwise interested Episcopalians from attending the Cathedral service and reception.
A member of AVM who has attended both conventions of neighboring dioceses has noted that the Presiding Bishop was much more accessible to the people when she attended the diocesan conventions of Western New York and Central New York. It is notable that the Presiding Bishop has not received an invitation to address a convention of the Diocese of Albany. Bishop Love has proudly described our diocesan convention as “a family reunion.” One must conclude, then, that the Presiding Bishop is not part of our family, not one of “us”. Nor, apparently, is she a guest who can be invited to speak freely or at any length within the family circle.
It is true that the Presiding Bishop typically draws large crowds, and that she is extremely effective in a town hall format. It is too bad that the people of Albany won't have a chance to interact with her more directly--but perhaps the Albany media--who don't report to Bishop Love--can be prevailed upon to give the Presiding Bishop a greater audience.