The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori has not ruled out seeking a second nine year term as Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church of the USA.
Her comments came amidst a wide ranging interview broadcast on 25 Feb 2014 with Kansas City National Public Radio affiliate station KCUR.
Asked about the sharp decline in membership since the 1960s, Bishop Jefferts Schori said the decline did not worry her. While there were fewer Episcopalians today, they were nonetheless better Episcopalians. The “membership levels of 50 years ago are not reflective of the faith” of the people in the pews she noted.
Part of the decline was due to the sociological changes in society as “our grandparents joined institutions at far higher rates” in the past then the same age cohorts did today.
“We are not comparing apples to apples” when “looking at 50 year old statistics” she said. Numbers alone were of less consequence than “an active involvement in a community of faith,” said Bishop Jefferts Schori.
Asked by her interviewer whether she was forbidden from seeking a second term, the presiding bishop stated the canons were silent on the number of terms permitted. Presiding Bishops had to retire at the General Convention closest to their 70th birthday due to the church’s mandatory retirement age of 72. All of her predecessors were barred from seeking a second term due to age rules, while she would not be.
From 1789 to 1926 the office of presiding bishop was held determined by date of consecration, with the senior active diocesan bishop serving as presiding bishop. The Bishop of Pennsylvania, William White was the longest serving presiding bishop, holding the office for over 40 years.
In 1926 the office of presiding bishop became an elected post, and in the 1940s the position was separate d from diocesan responsibilities during the tenure of the 19th Presiding Bishop, Henry Tucker of Virginia.
Asked what her plans were, Bishop Jefferts Schori said she was “not clear yet. I am in discernment.”
She described the search process for the next presiding bishop, who will be elected by the 2015 General Convention in Salt Lake City. It was “too early for me to make a final decision,” she said.
Asked if she was ruling herself out of contention, Bishop Jefferts Schori said I am “not saying no.”