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Details Sketchy on Episcopal Visitor Proposal: TLC 9.21.07 September 26, 2007

Posted by geoconger in House of Bishops, Living Church.

Neither observers nor participants received many public clues how the new episcopal visitor proposal, introduced on the opening day of the House of Bishops’ Sept. 20-25 meeting in New Orleans, was conceived or how it is intended to function.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori began the first plenary session with an announcement that eight bishops had accepted her invitation to serve as episcopal visitors. Other than the names, no further details were given and there was no follow-up discussion.

Some of the eight episcopal visitors who spoke with reporters for The Living Church were equally uncertain of the scope of the proposal or how it would be implemented. None of those surveyed by TLC said they knew the identities of the other seven ahead of time. To a person, they said their primary reason for accepting was a willingness to be helpful at what they considered a critical time.

“The Presiding Bishop is open to considering more episcopal visitor invitations,” said the Rev. Charles Robertson, Canon for the Presiding Bishop. Canon Robertson said the Presiding Bishop envisioned the episcopal visitor plan being potentially applied in a wide variety of circumstances for parishes and dioceses. He noted it would be possible to discuss the plan in greater detail, including a consultative contribution by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, after Archbishop Williams’ final session with the bishops Friday morning.

Archbishop Williams held two of his three plenary sessions with the bishops on Thursday. During the morning session he listened, quietly taking notes as about two dozen bishops were recognized by Bishop Jefferts Schori. Many of the comments and questions were directed to Archbishop Williams personally.

Archbishop Williams then addressed the bishops shortly after lunch. The bishops are seated at table groups which were assigned at the start of the triennium. After Archbishop Williams spoke, the bishops participated in table group discussion which subsequently was reported and discussed further.

During a media briefing at the conclusion of the afternoon session, Bishop Robert O’Neill of Colorado described the conversation throughout the day as respectful. Prior to the start Bishop Jefferts Schori assured Archbishop Williams he would be received “with great respect and hospitality.” The primates and Anglican Consultative Council representatives from the joint steering committee who are present have been given seat and voice.

Archbishop Williams made a late afternoon pastoral visit to greet the neighborhood residents around All Souls’ Chapel, a newly planted congregation in the city’s Lower Ninth Ward. Many of the residents who have returned to the neighborhood in the wake of Hurricane Katrina remain in substandard, flood-damaged housing. Nearby, the Diocese of Louisiana has recently started converting a former Walgreen’s Drug Store into a church.

In the evening Archbishop Williams led an ecumenical jazz vesper service at the city’s rebuilt Morial Convention Center, which suffered severe damage after serving as a shelter for evacuees made homeless by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Published in The Living Church.

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