Many of the Early Church Communities Were Led and Supported by Women. the Church Has Elected to Forget That in Many Instances; AMERICAN WOMAN BISHOP VISITS WALES
Byline: DAVID WILLIAMSON
WOMEN should be represented at all levels of the church, the most powerful Anglican in the US has said during a visit to Wales.
Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, has been a personal guest of Archbishop of Wales Barry Morgan, whose conviction that church leadership should not be a male-only preserve she shares.
The US church's support for bishops in homosexual relationships has sparked conflict with traditionalists and the communion, which has adherents in more than 160 countries, is threatened with schism.
Critics see Bishop Schori's church as responsible for the potential detonation of the international network, but she said she believed the changes ahead would reshape Anglicanism for the better.
She said: "I think the Anglican Communion is in the process of growing up and evolving into a set of relationships that will serve the wider church in the third millennium."
A 2008 bid to introduce women bishops in the Church in Wales narrowly failed to secure the support of two-thirds of clergy in the governing body. It is likely the legislation would have passed if there had been special provisions for churches which would not accept a woman bishop's authority. Insisting that holding such beliefs does not reverse two millennia of church history, she said: "There has been remarkable women's leadership throughout the church's history. The apostle to the apostles, Mary Magdalene, who reports the resurrection for the first time, is a remarkable witness to women's leadership in the early church.
"It's clear that many of the early church communities were sheltered and led and supported by women. The church has elected to forget that in many instances.
"We've ignored a very significant part of our history." Despite the controversies surrounding women in the church she insists it was not a defining issue.
"I think in most provinces issues of life and death are much, much more central - starving people or disease that's killing not just the Anglicans but everybody else in the nation," she said.
She added she remained convinced that her denomination and her faith was of relevance to the world and relished the intellectual challenge thrown down by "new atheists" such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.
Sitting in the archbishop's living room, shortly before leaving for London for a meeting with other Anglican leaders, she said: "It's a remarkable opportunity that really the church hasn't had since Darwin. The questions that Darwin raised for the church have continued to be fought in the American context because of our interesting varieties of Christianity. …