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Bishop Roskam preaches truth to House of Bishops

Bishop Roskam preaches truth to House of Bishops

Tom Jackson writing on the Diocese of California news site:

Yesterday Bishop Catherine S. Roskam stood and preached truth to one of the most powerful men’s club’s of the Episcopal Church: the House of Bishops.

If Katharine Jefferts Schori were a man, Bishop Roskham argued, the bishops wouldn’t be debating a measure to make the job of being Presiding Bishop into a part time post.

One of these currents holds that the church is too expensive, that we can no longer afford this “bloated bureaucracy.” There’s an overlooked and inconvenient truth, one Deputy told me. “If you look at what we spent on the national church in the late 1960s and adjust for inflation, then in real dollars we are spending half as much on the national church as we did back then,” he said. “The irony is that we were talking about the same ‘structural problems’ then as we are here.” Cast in another context, of every $100 our church gathers only $1.50 goes to the national church. “Our budget probelms aren’t because we spend too much. We are in trouble becuase some dioceses who could pay their assessment don’t,”another deputy said. “One Texas diocese paid 5% when the assessment was 19%.” The bishop of that diocese often argues for cutting costs and minizing the influence of the national church.

Another current is amove away from the “Presiding Bishop as CEO” image that some now see in our church leadership. To the extent that image exists it may have been created by requirements established by past General Convention – expectations such as the one that says the Presiding Bishop will visit every diocese during their tenure. Yet others, as the Bishop of California, Marc Andrus, suggested see the Presiding Bishop as both leader and chief pastor.

A third current centers on the Presiding Bishop’s power. Some bishops – who have since left the church – thought electing a woman to lead our church was a masterstroke in their battle against the ordination of women, homosexuals, and anyone who disagreed with them. They thought leaders of other Anglican churches would break off their relationship with our church because our Presiding Bishop was a woman. Worse they believed their own theology that women are weak and submissive. They were wrong on both counts. Not only does Bishop Katherine serve as an equal amongst the men who lead the Anglican Communion, she has stood firm in defense of our church. She has fought those bishops who left and tried to take their diocese with them, arguing a diocese if not the personal property of the bishop. She has fought them in court and mostly she has won. And she has made it clear no bishop will by hook or crook remove their diocese from our church during her term as our Presiding Bishop. All of which makes some current men who lead our chruch a little uncomfortable.

It is no accident that someof our church’s biggest steps towards inclusion of all of God’s children have come when two women were in our top leadership posts. …

Bishop Roskam also reminded the House of Bishops that as the first wave of women bishop retires the church is not electing women as bishops fast enough to maintain the current ration of men and women in that house.

Worse, she reminded them, most of the women elected bishops are not chosen as bishops who will run a diocese. Regularly, some bishops propose that only bishops who run a diocese should be allowed to vote on financial matters. If passed that move would disenfranchise most of our women bishops.

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Chris Arnold

It’s true that we as a church and as a society are still a long way from recognizing the full equality of women, but Bishop Roskam’s argument isn’t helpful. She’s effectively posited that it would be impossible to re-think the position of Presiding Bishop because we’re caught up in gender issues. Should we next block the call to restructure the whole church’s infrastructure because there aren’t enough women represented?

Leslie Scoopmire

I guess I’m the only one who has noticed in the last few elections for bishop that there is a token woman candidate or two but the election almost inevitably goes to a male.

I think our culture is still phenomenally uncomfortable with/resistant to the idea of women in positions of power and influence in politics, business, and the Church.


If Katharine Jefferts Schori were a man, Bishop Roskham argued, the bishops wouldn’t be debating a measure to make the job of being Presiding Bishop into a part time post.

Well, I might. I’m quite concerned about the apparent aggregation of power to the office of the Presiding Bishop, and it has nothing to do with the fact that the PB is a woman. I like the idea of the PB also having a position as – for instance – a diocesan bishop or the dean of a cathedral.

It’s quite true that women have a long way to go before reaching a position of equality in the episcopacy, but that’s another matter entirely and has nothing to do with the fact that the present PB is a woman, whom I favored from the beginning as the best candidate of the lot for the position.

Most certainly, I would be against any restructuring legislation that would diminish the role of the House of Deputies in the governance of the church.

June Butler

C. Wingate

Whenever I hear or read the phrase “speaking truth to” I assume that I’m about to get treated to some empowered liberal pretending to be otherwise, and Jackson does not fail to meet my expectations. I also expect to be served up some sort of wild theory about the liberal opposition, and again the article does not disappoint.

The truth, as I recall it, was that even back in Griswold’s day, if not earlier, there were those who had come to rue the creation of the monarchic archbishopric in this church; and at any rate, if KJS’s gender figures in this, it is because there seems to have developed a trope of women who become rector or bishop and then move on to embrace the stereotype of power exercise which liberals like Roskam and Jackson like to ascribe to the conservatives, not to mention their predilection for questionable theology. I have always wondered whether the presiding bishop’s sex led people to overlook her faults in favor of making history, but at any rate she didn’t waste much time in making those faults plain, to my eye.

As for the allegations as to how and why various troglodytes voted, until she can give names and citations, I would assume that the bishop (or Mr. Jackson, it being hard to tell who is responsible for the statement) is engaging in political rumor-mongering.

Charles KS

Thanks, Matthew, for that. I’d like to add that we should seriously consider going back to the days when the presiding bishop was the most senior diocesan bishop in the House of Bishops.

Charles Everson

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