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Church leader visits: Primate of Episcopal Church visits La Jolla parish

The Most Reverend Katherine Jefferts Schori made her first official visit to San Diego, April 4-6, since becoming the Presiding Bishop and Primate (Archbishop) of the Episcopal Church in June 2006.

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of worldwide Anglicanism. Jefferts Schori is a Ph.D. oceanographer and the first woman to lead the Episcopalian Church.

In her remarks at St. James by the Sea, Bishop Katherine (as she prefers to be called) said, “I’m deeply touched by the work the San Diego Diocese is doing with immigrants and refugees advocating for a just immigration policy, which is something that this church has been really adamant about. We need to find a fair and just way to include immigrants. It’s part of our strength and our history in this country and we shouldn’t be barring the door.”

She visited several diocesan ministries including the Episcopal Community Services Downtown Safe Haven.

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On Saturday, April 5, she held a conference which was organized by students of UCSD at Good Samaritan Episcopal Church where she discussed her experiences as an oceanographer, pilot and as the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

On Sunday, April 6, she celebrated mass at St. James by the Sea on Prospect St. During her sermon she spoke about her recent trip to Jerusalem. She preached about living together in peace and voiced her desire for acceptance of immigrants, aliens and refugees. She called upon everyone in attendance to do what they could to affect change in the world. Fred Rodgers of Rancho Penasquitos who has been attending mass at St. James for the past 30 years said, “Today is a very special day for us. The number one person in our church has come to visit us.”

As Primate, Jefferts Schori serves as chief pastor to over 2.4 million members in 16 countries and 110 dioceses. “She’s not just a church leader, with 38 provinces, and the Episcopal Church is just one of them, she’s a world leader,” said Rt. Rev. James Mathes, Bishop of the diocese of San Diego.

Born in Pensacola, Fla. Jefferts Schori worked as an oceanographer, earning her doctorate in the field in 1983 at Oregon State University. In 1994 she was ordained a priest and in 2001 was elected and consecrated Bishop of Nevada.

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She assumed her term as primate during an especially difficult time for the Episcopal Church. Many conservatives are leaving the Episcopal Church over its 2003 decision to ordain an openly gay priest as the bishop of New Hampshire.

According to an Associated Press report, about 55 conservative parishes have split from the church in the past several years. In California the San Joaquin Diocese voted to leave the U.S. church and join a conservative South American congregation of the worldwide Anglican Communion, making it the first full diocese to secede from the American church.

Mathes said, “There have been a few churches where some of the members have left. In three churches within the San Diego Diocese, we’re in conflict with them over church property.” Those three churches are St. Anne’s in Oceanside, St. John’s in Fallbrook and Holy Trinity in San Diego.

Those in attendance at St. James were reluctant to cast the current disputes in terms of liberal vs. conservative, however. Many touted the inclusive approach of current church leadership.

The Reverend Susan Russell, for example, of All Saints Church in Pasadena, said that Episcopalians are happy about the direction the church has taken and are committed to continuing to be an inclusive family of faith.

She said she feels that the percentage of people who prefer that the church be more limiting in its inclusion of women in ministry and issues about human sexuality is small.

“Bishop Katherine, our presiding bishop, has done an extraordinary job of modeling a sort of proactive commitment to inclusion in continuing to move the Episcopal Church forward,” said Russell, who also acts as president of Integrity, a group seeking full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons into the Episcopal Church.