Katharine Jefferts Schori

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Katharine Jefferts Schori
26th Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church
ChurchEpiscopal Church
In office2006–2015
PredecessorFrank Griswold
SuccessorMichael Curry
Ordination1994 (priest)
ConsecrationFebruary 24, 2001
by Jerry Lamb
Personal details
Born (1954-03-26) March 26, 1954 (age 68)
ParentsKeith Jefferts
Elaine Ryan
SpouseRichard Schori
Previous post(s)Bishop of Nevada (2001-2006)
Alma materStanford University
Oregon State University
Pacific Church Divinity School

Katharine Jefferts Schori (born March 26, 1954) is the former Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church of the United States. Previously elected as the 9th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, she was the first woman elected as a primate in the Anglican Communion. Jefferts Schori was elected at the 75th General Convention on June 18, 2006, and invested at Washington National Cathedral on November 4, 2006, and continued until November 1, 2015, when Michael Bruce Curry was invested in the position. She took part in her first General Convention of the Episcopal Church as Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church in July 2009.

Early and family life[edit]

Of Irish and Swiss ancestry, Jefferts Schori was born in Pensacola to Keith Jefferts and his wife Elaine Ryan. Jefferts Schori was first raised in the Catholic Church. In 1963, her parents brought her, at the age of eight, into the Episcopal Church (St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, New Providence, New Jersey) with their own move out of Roman Catholicism. Her mother converted to Eastern Orthodoxy a few years later and died in 1998.[1]

Jefferts Schori attended school in New Jersey, then earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Stanford University in 1974, a Master of Science degree in oceanography in 1977, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1983, also in oceanography, from Oregon State University. She is an instrument-rated pilot, and both her parents were pilots.

She married Richard Schori, an Oregon State professor of topology, in 1979; they have a daughter.[2]


Jefferts Schori earned her Master of Divinity in 1994 from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific[3] and was ordained priest that year. She served as assistant rector to William R. McCarthy at the Church of the Good Samaritan, in Corvallis, Oregon, where she had special responsibility for pastoring the Hispanic community as a fluent Spanish communicator, and was in charge of adult education programs.

In 2001, Jefferts Schori was elected and consecrated Bishop of Nevada. The Church Divinity School of the Pacific gave her an honorary Doctor of Divinity in 2001. Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois awarded her an honorary degree in 2007, as did The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee the following year. (Most Episcopal seminaries award an honorary doctorate to alumni who become bishops.)[citation needed]

In 2006, Jefferts Schori was elected to serve a nine-year term as Presiding Bishop.

Election as Presiding Bishop[edit]

Jefferts Schori in 2008

The Episcopal Church met in General Convention in Columbus, Ohio, in June 2006. Jefferts Schori was elected to serve a nine-year term as Presiding Bishop by the House of Bishops, on June 18, from among seven nominees on the fifth ballot with 95 of the 188 votes cast. The House of Deputies, consisting of deacons, priests and laity, overwhelmingly approved the House of Bishops' election later that day. Jefferts Schori was the first woman primate in the worldwide Anglican Communion and the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Although Jefferts Schori's election was an indication of widespread support in the Episcopal Church in the United States for ordaining women to the historical episcopate, the Diocese of Fort Worth, which opposed women in holy orders, asked the Archbishop of Canterbury for "alternative primatial oversight"- a previously unknown ministry analogous to the "alternative episcopal oversight" suggested in the Windsor Report. Several other conservative dioceses affiliated with the Anglican Communion Network, including some that do ordain women, made similar requests. As not all churches in the Anglican Communion uphold the ordination of women, the election of a woman as primate also proved controversial in some other provinces.

Jefferts Schori voted to consent to the election of Gene Robinson, an openly gay and partnered man, as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003,[4] to which some conservative Episcopalians objected strenuously.[5]

At a news conference on June 18, 2006, the Presiding Bishop-elect articulated a willingness to work with conservatives. She expressed her hope to lead the church in the reign of God, rooted in imagery from Isaiah and including such United Nations Millennium Development Goals as eradicating poverty and hunger: "The poor are fed, the Good News is preached, those who are ostracized and in prison are set free, the blind receive sight."

Schori as presiding bishop in 2010

Jefferts Schori remained as Bishop of Nevada until taking up the position of Presiding Bishop officially on November 1, 2006; her investiture was held on November 4 at the Washington National Cathedral. Her official seating was held the following day, also at the National Cathedral. An Episcopal Presiding Bishop's term typically lasts for nine years, running in three-year cycles in conjunction with General Convention.

Jefferts Schori was the 963rd bishop consecrated in the Episcopal Church. She was consecrated by Jerry A. Lamb, Bishop of Northern California; Robert L. Ladehoff, Bishop of Oregon; and Carolyn Tanner Irish, Bishop of Utah.


Jefferts Schori's tenure was highly controversial and marked by unprecedented schism, with groups from four dioceses (Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy, and San Joaquin) breaking off to become part of the Anglican Church in North America.[6] At her direction, the national church initiated lawsuits against departing dioceses and parishes, with some $22 million spent as of 2011.[7] She also established a policy that church properties were not to be sold to departing congregations.[8]

Jefferts Schori is a supporter of same-sex relationships and of the blessing of same-sex unions and civil marriages.[9] Like her predecessor, she is a supporter of abortion rights, stating that "We say it is a moral tragedy but that it should not be the government's role to deny its availability."[9] She also supported the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate on birth control.

Some within the church questioned the orthodoxy of her theology. For example, her statement that "the great Western heresy – is that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God" in her opening address to the 2009 General Convention was widely criticized and prompted a clarifying statement from her in the following week.[10][11] In 2013, Schori gave a sermon in Curaçao about Paul driving out a demon from a slave girl (Acts 16:16–34), and was criticized for characterizing the event as an act of patriarchical oppression and failing to accept diversity.[12][13]

End of term[edit]

Jefferts Schori announced on September 23, 2014, that she would not seek another term as Presiding Bishop.[14] On June 27, 2015, the General Convention elected Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina as the 27th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.[15]

From 2017 to 2019, Jefferts was an assisting bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Carole Beers (7 April 1998). "Obituaries: Elaine Ryan; To Her Life Was Just A Smorgasbord To Be Sampled". Seattle Times Newspaper.
  2. ^ Presiding Bishop: Biography Archived 2011-07-02 at the Wayback Machine. Episcopalchurch.org (2001-02-24). Retrieved on 2010-11-25.
  3. ^ Episcopal Life Archives Archived 2009-04-20 at the Wayback Machine. Episcopalchurch.org. Retrieved on 2010-11-25.
  4. ^ "Homepage".
  5. ^ Davey, Monica (6 August 2003). "Gay Bishop Wins in Episcopal Vote; Split Threatened". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Goodstein, Laurie (Dec 3, 2008). "Episcopal Split as Conservatives Form New Group". New York Times. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  7. ^ "Twenty-First Century Excommunication". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  8. ^ Conger, George (2009-08-07). "Presiding Bishop steps in to prevent church sales". Church of England Newspaper. p. 7. Retrieved 24 November 2012.
  9. ^ a b "Katharine Jefferts Schori, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop, Speaks About Gay Clergy And Birth Control, 27 March 2012". Huffington Post. March 27, 2012. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
  10. ^ Kwon, Lillian (August 28, 2009). "Episcopal Head Clarifies 'Heresy' Comments". The Christian Post. Retrieved 2012-11-25.
  11. ^ Chemberlin, Peg (July 12, 2009). "Great Western heresy — that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God?". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Retrieved 2012-11-25.
  12. ^ Hylden, Jordan (28 June 2013). "Bishop Jefferts Schori's Two Sermons: Curacao and Charleston". First Things. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  13. ^ Oppenheimer, Mark (21 June 2013). "For Episcopal Church's Leader, a Sermon Leads to More Dissent". Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  14. ^ Jefferts Schori, Katharine (September 23, 2014). "From Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori". EpiscopalChurch.org. Archived from the original on 2014-10-06. Retrieved 2014-10-05. I recognize that standing for election as Presiding Bishop carries the implicit expectation that one is ready to serve a full term. I do not at present believe I should serve and lead in this ministry for another nine years.
  15. ^ Schjonberg, Mary Frances (2015-06-27), "North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry elected as 27th Presiding Bishop: History-making decision will bring first person of color into church's top leadership office", Episcopal News Service, The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, archived from the original on 2016-01-18, retrieved 2015-06-27
  16. ^ "Katharine Jefferts Schori to be assisting bishop in San Diego". Episcopal Church. 2017-06-29. Retrieved 2018-05-24.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Episcopal Church (USA) titles
Preceded by Bishop of Nevada
Succeeded by
Preceded by Presiding Bishop
Succeeded by