Presiding Bishop announces she will not stand for reelection

Posted Sep 23, 2014

ens_092314_jeffertsSchori[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The following message is from Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:

To all the people of God in The Episcopal Church:

It is a great joy and privilege to serve as your Presiding Bishop.  I have been blessed to be able to meet and build relationships with people around the globe – in every diocese in this Church, most of the provinces of the Anglican Communion, our full communion partners (ELCA, Moravian Church, Old Catholics of the Union of Utrecht), as well as civic leaders and leaders of other denominations and faith traditions.  That relational work is fundamental to the reconciliation we seek in Christ.  As bridges are built, more and more people can begin to cross the divides between us, and God’s dream begins to take flesh in a more just and peaceful world.

Together, we have navigated a season of extraordinary change in recent years.  Our Christian values have been challenged and we are becoming clearer and more confident about the faith we share.  Today we are far more cognizant of the diversity of this multinational and multicultural Church, and the great blessing of the diverse peoples and cultures we represent.  Our life as a Church is enriched by the many gifts God has given us in people and contexts around the world.  Together we are striving to live out the Five Marks of Mission, we are exploring new and creative ways of engaging the societies around us with the good news of God in Christ, and we are increasingly willing to spend ourselves and the resources God has given us for the healing of the world.  We are more attuned to voices crying in the wilderness, those living at the margins of human communities, and those without a voice, including this fragile earth, our island home.  Together, we are moving into God’s future with courage, boldness, and the humility of knowing there is always more to learn.  For all that hope-filled movement, I give thanks in abundance.

I have spent many months in discernment about how I am being called to serve God’s people and God’s creation in this season.  I have resisted the assumption by some that presiding bishops can only be elected to serve one term, knowing the depth of relational work and learning that is involved in this ministry.  There is a tradeoff between the learning curve and the ability to lead more effectively as a result of developed relationships both within and beyond this Church.  At the same time, I recognize that standing for election as Presiding Bishop carries the implicit expectation that one is ready to serve a full term.  I do not at present believe I should serve and lead in this ministry for another nine years.

I believe I can best serve this Church by opening the door for other bishops to more freely discern their own vocation to this ministry.  I also believe that I can offer this Church stronger and clearer leadership in the coming year as we move toward that election and a whole-hearted engagement with necessary structural reforms.  I will continue to engage us in becoming a more fully diverse Church, spreading the gospel among all sorts and conditions of people, and wholeheartedly devoted to God’s vision of a healed and restored Creation.

I will continue in discernment about the ministry I may be called to in the coming years, but my present focus is and will remain on being the vigorous and faithful leader I believe I am called to be.  God has called us all to be instruments of shalom, and we have miles to go before we live in that world of justice and peace.  We are marching upward to Zion, the beautiful city of God.  Siyahamba!

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

ENS Editors’ Note:

There are no terms limits on the service of a presiding bishop. Jefferts Schori, who turned 60 earlier this year, could have served an additional nine years, had she been nominated and elected.

A presiding bishop is subject to the church’s mandatory clergy retirement age of 72. According to Canon 1.2.2, if a presiding bishop will turn 72 before the end of the nine-year term, then he or she must resign at the General Convention nearest to that birthday.

Presiding bishops serve a nine-year term. The General Convention in 1994 reduced the term from 12 years (via Resolution A130). Twenty-fifth Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, Jefferts Schori’s predecessor, was the first to serve a nine year term.

Jefferts Schori was elected in 2006 by the House of Bishops during a meeting of General Convention in Columbus, Ohio, and her election was confirmed by the House of Deputies on the same day. She was invested as the 26th presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church on Nov. 4, 2006.

Nominations for the 27th presiding bishop are due to the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop by Sept. 30. The election will take place during the 78th meeting of General Convention June 25-July 3, 2015 in Salt Lake City. The current draft of the convention schedule shows the election taking place on June 27.

More information about the election process is here.


Comments (36)

  1. The Rev. John Fisher says:

    I hope that the voices of TEC people who recognize what an extraordinary leader she is will persuade her to reconsider and stand for reelection.

  2. Chuck Till says:

    As good a leader as she may be, the requisite gifts and experiences are widely distributed in the HoB. Time marches on.

  3. Bill Mchombo says:

    Thank you Katharine for your exemplary and selfless leadership to the Church of God. I have been privileged to interact with you. Wishing the very best as you discern the mind of Christ for your next station and service in God’s vineyard. Shalom.

  4. Scott Knitter says:

    I think nine years is enough for any one person to serve in such a position and would not like to see the same person serve for 18 years, however well he or she has done (and she has done well).

    1. Ted Thomas Martin says:

      I agree.

  5. Theodore G. Fletcher says:

    Thanks you to Bishop Katharine, and I too hoped she would continue, recognizing the toll the position takes on anyone.

  6. Barbara Miley says:

    Bishop Katharine has exhibited such Christlike Leadership and Grace under fire that it would be a real shame in the Biblical sense if she allows herself not to run for the position of Presiding Bishop for a last term of 9 years. Her Christian leadership has been exemplary, and her humility in the face of public rudeness among some circles has been remarkable. I beg you, in the name of God, Bishop Katharine, please serve His church once again as Presiding Bishop as only you have the grace to do so well and so beautifully. There are those who truly need your special gifts of guidance and insight concerning the needs of others, and the best fulfillment of those needs. Please don’t leave us by the wayside to continue our journey without you. You are a very important facet of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

    1. joelene young says:

      Bishop Katharine has done a wonderful job for the last 9 years putting her life on hold for the growth of the church. By not taking on another nine years she is not “leaving us by the wayside to continue the journey without her” but rather allowing someone else to lead. This decision shows growth and knowledge. The disciples argued with Jesus in the garden when it was his time to depart as they did not want Jesus to leave. Jesus knew what God was calling him to do and acted accordingly. It is now our turn to learn from the disciples and carry on as I am sure Bishop Katherine will be doing as I’m sure she will continue to be the person who is actively involved in the Episcopal Church. Yes, she will be missed as the BP but definitely she will not be sitting in her rocker on the porch while the rest of us continue on.

  7. Susie Engle says:

    I am so thankful to have had a leader like Bishop Katherine for the past nine years. She epitomizes calm, focused, strong leadership which keeps the needs of all in the forefront. Peace to you, Bishop Katherine, and may you continue to find strength in purpose.

  8. elizabeth pennington says:

    It is wise of her to step down..nine years is enough.

    1. Very wise…time for fresh energy and fresh thinking, another fresh/steady approach. Thank you Bishop Katherine for all that you do and have done.

  9. Anthony Christiansen says:

    She has done some of the most difficult work imaginable in bringing this church into relevance in the world today. In so many areas, she has helped to transform prophecy into reality. This includes an embrace of genuine values of inclusivity and she will be remembered as the PB that brought the LGBTQ out of its ecclesial captivity.

  10. Charles Kramer says:

    Thank you, Bishop Jefferts Schori, for your wise and faithful leadership. Personally can’t imagine serving in such a high-pressure position for more than nine years. She has indeed done the hard work of reconciliation, and for that, the church is richer.

  11. While the Constitution and Canons never categorically prohibited an otherwise-qualified bishop to serve for two (or more 9-year terms), the legislative history behind the change from a single 12-year term being shortened to a 9-year term clearly indicates the intent to:
    1) increase the number of bishops qualified to stand for election (there is a mandatory retirement age of 72); and
    2) offer a shorter term to candidates to consider giving their service to church in this special ministry.
    Having served under the last Presiding Bishop to serve a 12-year term as well as all 9 years with his successor, it was clear then as it is today that 9 years is long enough a time to lead, let us please not even seriously consider 18 years, this was never, ever the legislative intent, however permissive the text may appear.

  12. What immeasurable service of grace for every one of God’s people. Thank you

  13. Frank Bergen says:

    Thank you, Katharine, for the privilege and pleasure it was for me to serve with you in Nevada. Thank you, Katharine, for your grace-filled leadership of our church these past eight years. And thank you, Katharine, for the recognition that there is no indispensable person and for sharing with us in timely manner that you will not stand for another term. You have been and will continue to be a blessing to our church, to the Anglican Communion and to the entire people of God. May the Spirit guide you and Dick into your next ventures along the mysterious road of life.

  14. Talmage G. Bandy says:

    Thank you Bishop Katherine. You have brought such wisdom and grace to all of us who have had the privilege of serving with you and to the entire world. It was a joy to be your deacon in Southern Pines, N.C.. I could not believe I was vesting in a small office with the PB ~ one so calm and comfortable. We could surely do with you another 9 years, but that is too much to ask of anyone. Please keep writing books.

  15. Chris Epting says:

    While Katharine has done an extraordinary job as PB, this is a wise and forward looking decision. Shared leadership has many dimensions.

  16. Michael Wainwright says:

    Thank you Katharine for your service to TEC. You have set the bar very high for whoever follows you as Presiding Bishop.

  17. Don McCleary says:

    A thank you seems hardly adequate for all that you have done for our church.
    Your commitment to inclusion and the grace you exhibited under unimaginable pressure and the horrific criticism you endured will not be forgotten. The Episcopal Church will be forever in your debt for keeping us together through many difficult days. May God bless you and your family.

  18. John F. Smith says:

    What an extraordinary person she is, and what a wonderful work she has done. We can’t thank her enough. She has been real and gracious. Nothing more need be said

  19. Charles W Jacocks says:

    Yes, she has done such a wonderful job. Under her direction TEC has driven off those pesky conservatives, spent millions in lawsuits and generally shrunk the communion, while enabling Muslims to buy formerly Episcopal properties. She is truly extraordinary! I wonder if General Convention will be able to find another Spong disciple to carry on her great work.

    1. Bob Boyd says:

      Charles…….. your snide comments are our of order. The TEC didn’t drive off anyone. Those “pesky conservatives” who seem to believe only they know God’s way took themselves out of communion with the rest of the church. I hope will some day you acknowledge their role in creating the schism.

  20. Gail McNally says:

    I am very grateful for the experience and leadership Bishop Katherine has given us. I am, however, very aware of the energy expended and the toll this leadership has taken on her, but am sorry that she will not stand for re-election. I thank God and am grateful for all that she has done.

  21. Raymond Hodgkinson says:

    If Bishop Katharine is remembered for nothing else she should be honored and remembered for her statement that “we have learned to disagree without being disagreeable”! Let this be our mantra whenever opinions differ in future!

  22. Richard Hamm says:

    As a former head of communion, 1993-2003, (Disciples of Christ), and as former executive, 2007-2012, of Christian Churches Together in the USA (in which The Episcopal Church participates), I give thanks to God for Bishop Katharine’s steadfast and faithful service to the whole church of Jesus Christ! These are days in which leadership is incredibly challenging, nowhere more so than as a head of communion. She has served with courage and grace. Thank you Bishop, and thanks be to God!

  23. Elizabeth Campbell says:

    I thank Bishop Katharine for serving as the first female PB, and I thank her for stepping down.
    My sentiments are entirely in line with those of Thomas Chu.

  24. Leila diab says:

    We had the honor to meet Bishop Katherine in Amman, Jordan, when she joined us in the Women’s meeting in the Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East. We were impressed by her humility, love and understanding. She is a great Bishop and enjoys sound leadership. She listened to our challenges and concerns in the region very well. We wish her the best of luck.

  25. Martha Jane Patton says:

    I will forever remember her visits to Birmingham, Alabama, and her sermon at the Day of Reconciliation in Philadelphia. She has a true gift of correcting wrong without rudeness, even when rudeness is cast in her direction. The search for the next PB will undoubtedly be impacted by her years as our leader, some of the best years of TEC in my lifetime as an older Episcopalian. Thanks be to God for PB Katherine!

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