Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori highlighted areas of increased focus and activity at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. last Thursday evening.
In challenging her audience to find their passions, Jefferts Schori addressed efforts to re-focus, re-imagine and re-invigorate.
The Library of Congress provided an historic setting for the Presiding Bishop's remarks. A special exhibit of Founder's papers was prepared and presented by James Billington, Librarian of Congress (and an active Episcopalian). On display were documents and personal letters from Presidents James Madison and Thomas Jefferson containing references to a shared interest in the fullest possible freedom of the early Episcopal Church and the early United States of America.
"A world deeply hungry"
"We live in a world deeply hungry for the transcendent values of our faith - for holiness, wholeness, health, right relationship; for truth and beauty in human communities; for the justice and peace that characterize healed communities," the Presiding Bishop said.
"The urgent matters before us as a human community right now have to do with the response to ethical lapses behind the current financial situation; the growing inequity between rich and poor; how we care for creation - shrinking Montana glaciers, depleted fisheries in the Southwestern Pacific; the increasing difficulty of growing crops in Africa; how to have an impact on the violence in Gaza, pirates off Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq, and the drug war in Mexico."
She cited areas of special focus including communications, where we must "re-focus, re-imagine, and re-invigorate our invitation and welcome." The Presiding Bishop asked for increased energy for developing new congregations and redeveloping existing ones
Jefferts Schori addressed "how our stewardship can have a lasting and transformative impact on the world around us."
The Episcopal Heritage
Speaking of the long standing heritage of the Episcopal Church, she noted, "The values this church represents continue to be of utmost significance even after 400 years on these shores."
Jefferts Schori continued, "We live in a tradition that says each member has a vital role to play - at our beginning we insisted laity had a central governance role, and bishops should be elected rather than appointed. Today we talk about baptismal ministry, and unique and shared vocations."
In order to advance the Church's mission into the 21st century and beyond, the Presiding Bishop said leadership must be developed by "recruiting and educating inspired and inspiring leaders."
Jefferts Schori called for a strengthening and expanding of ministries to meet the needs of the global community.
In conclusion, she pointed out, "The first petition in the prayer that Jesus taught us is, 'your kingdom come.' This work is about the Reign of God, and how this Church can be God's partner in building a world that looks more like what God intends. We're meant to be heralds of resurrection to a world that still thinks death is the last word."