THE GOSPEL IN THE GLOBAL VILLAGE
Seeking God's Dream of Shalom
By Katharine Jefferts Schori
Morehouse Publishing, 184 pp., $20
In her latest book, Katharine Jefferts Schori serves as both Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt for us. Like FDR, she was elected our president: that is, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. As such, she has a mission, a focus. Like Eleanor, she is our eyes and ears, going abroad and about when we can't, taking words and bringing back gifts. She has compiled her words and gifts into a highly commendable book, Gospel in the Global Village.
What a great and true title for a book that anthologizes talks, sermons, webcasts and meditations Jefferts Schori has given around the world over the two years since her election. She opened her address in Salisbury, England, last summer with a positively
Pauline salutation: "I bring you greetings from Episcopalians," followed by names of our homes, including Haiti, Micronesia and six countries of Europe.
The subtitle, On the Road with Bishop Katharine, refers whimsically to her job, which, in her words, is to "wander around the church" to model, encourage and equip the baptized in their ministries.
Jefferts Schori's sermons provide an overview of what's going on in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, and, as such, this book would serve well for inquirers' classes. She lights the big picture but also offers a peek behind the scenes, such as when she spoke in Cuddesdon, England, last summer to female priests, waiting still for the chance to be a bishop like her. Because of her vantage, Jefferts Schori can observe the works of Davids in a world of Goliaths: "As I travel around this church, I am continually amazed and delighted to discover the ways in which we are all connected."
The words in this anthology are profound, inspiring, generous, spot-on and learned. Jefferts Schori often defines them: for example, "'promise' means literally 'a sending forth.'" She often reiterates "shalom" and "health" and "reconciliation" because they inform her agenda. Also on the agenda are the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, spelled out particularly in a talk in South Africa titled "The Church as Prophetic Witness." She cheerleads both laity and clergy, and she supports science and religion as a practitioner in both fields.
She comforts ("Hope gives people the courage to change") and she afflicts ("… if we look back at our history, we'll see that resistance is more often a sign of death's finality than of resurrection"). She writes firmly – for example, this from a webcast in 2007 reviewing recent anxiety-producing actions by primates in the Anglican Communion: "...it is our very intensity about [these issues] that is preventing a life-giving resolution."
Often, she recommends humor as a reflection of the "playful reality of God." And she practices what she preaches: She describes Archbishop Desmond Tutu as "chief Anglican prophet and imp." Her 2007 address on reconciliation at the Desmond Tutu Center in New York is courageous and profound.
Gospel in the Global Village is a blessed education from Katharine Jefferts Schori, our presiding bishop and our eyes and ears.