Presiding Bishop expands on her ‘literal’ comment

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Oct 18, 2012

[Episcopal News Service – New Brunswick, New Jersey] When Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council on Oct. 15 that the members “can’t always take General Convention decisions literally,” her comment caused a bit of a stir at least in the social-media world.

What she said was “Executive Council has a responsibility to make ‘thick’ interpretation of General Convention decisions and directives. We can’t always take General Convention decisions literally – in the same way we read Scripture and don’t take it literally.”

That suggestion prompted a number of comments on Twitter among those following council under the Twitter hashtag #ExCoun. One tweet said “Wonder if my diocese will decide not to take its payments to the national church literally” and another suggested “there are a lot of delegates who travelled great distances who must cringe at #excoun call to not take #GenCon too li…[literally].”

Asked Oct. 18 during a press conference before the end of council’s Oct. 15-18 meeting to interpret her remarks, the presiding bishop said she does believe that council’s “responsibility is to take the work that’s been done at General Convention and apply it during the coming triennium.”

“A very narrow interpretation or construal of what particular resolutions might say may not fit the context two years down the road,” she said. “In the same way we read the Bible given our current context, understand the context in which it was written and looking at how those things have changed, we have to use our reason as well as the tradition and I think you can look the resolutions of convention as a tradition. I’m expecting members of council to gather the best resources around them to respond to the needs of the church and the world.”

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.