No doubt by now you've heard the news: the new Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church is Katharyn Jefferts Schori, currently Bishop of Nevada. This is, to say the least, a surprise; for some, probably a great shock.
Let me say two things. First, as far as I know this was not expected by anyone. That's not a question of her qualifications, but of the current concerns in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. After all, those in the Communion who were disturbed with the American church about GLBT persons and relationships were already disturbed with the American church about the ordination of women. No doubt that this will be seen by some as an affront, if not a specific confrontation. So, many of us have thought that, whatever her qualifications, the bishops would not make that choice lest it create even more tension (although some would say that's not possible). For many the very unlikeliness of this will be an indication of the Holy Spirit at work. The American church as a whole is not, as near as I can tell, looking to make an "in your face" statement for its own sake. So, this seems new enough to suggest the work of the Spirit.
Second, from everything I have heard and read she is very qualified. Indeed, I have heard hearsay of bishops who, thinking her unlikely, have said that in any case she was certainly qualified.
So, what will this do to the Episcopal Church and to the Anglican Communion? Some will certainly be upset. This will not do much to quiet those most angry voices. This will do much to please those who feel the Gospel imperative for justice has been given more lip service than true notice. As for the rest: we'll just have to see what kind of Presiding Bishop she is. If most of the world will give her a chance (acknowledging that there will be those who don't), I think they may see that we indeed want to be in the Anglican Communion, and that we want our context for ministry to receive as much respect as that of our brothers and sisters in the Third World. If we will respond with prayer, and give ourselves all a chance, this may well be the best evidence we can provide of our experience of God's grace in the ministry of all God's children.