Jefferts Schori, Katharine

Jefferts Schori, Katharine

Jefferts Schori, Katharine, 1954-, American Episcopal bishop, b. Pensacola, Fla. An oceanographer (Ph.D. Oregon State Univ., 1983) who had worked with the National Marine Fisheries Service, she was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1994 and served in Corvallis, Oreg., until she was elected bishop of the Nevada diocese in 2001. In 2006 she was elected presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, becoming the first woman to head a member church of the Anglican Communion.

Katharine Jefferts Schori (born March 26, 1954 in Pensacola, Florida) is the Presiding Bishop of Episcopal Church in the United States of America. She is the first woman elected primate in the Anglican Communion.


Jefferts Schori was raised in the Roman Catholic Church until 1963, when at the age of eight her parents brought her into the Episcopal Church in conjunction with their own move out of Roman Catholicism. She attended school in New Jersey, then went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in biology from Stanford University in 1974, and a Master of Science in oceanography in 1977 and a Ph.D. in 1983, also in oceanography, from Oregon State University. She earned her Master of Divinity in 1994, and was ordained priest that year. She served as assistant rector at the Church of the Good Samaritan, Corvallis, Oregon, where she had special responsibility for pastoring the Hispanic community (she speaks Spanish fluently). In 2001, she was elected and consecrated Bishop of Nevada. She was awarded a Doctor of Divinity (honoris causa) in 2001 from The Church Divinity School of the Pacific. (It is a common practice at most Episcopal seminaries to award an honorary doctorate to alumni who become bishops.) She is an instrument-rated pilot. She is a third-generation pilot, whose parents both flew.

She married Richard Schori, an Oregon State professor of topology, in 1979. They have an adult daughter, also Katharine, also a pilot: she is a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, and has flown VIP's in VC-21 Learjets and now flies AWACS command-and-control planes.

Election as Presiding Bishop and Primate

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 is 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 opposes women in holy orders, has asked the Archbishop of Canterbury for "alternative primatial oversight" (a previously unheard-of expression), 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, have made similar requests.

Jefferts Schori voted to consent to the election of Gene Robinson, an openly gay and partnered man, as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, to which some conservative Episcopalians have objected strenuously. As not all churches in the Anglican Communion uphold the ordination of women, the election of a female bishop as primate has also proved controversial in other provinces.

At a news conference on 18 June 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."

Jefferts Schori remained as Bishop of Nevada until taking up the position of Presiding Bishop officially on November 1, 2006; her investiture and seating in the office was held on November 4 at the Washington National Cathedral. The investiture and seating were designed and orchestrated by the Revd Canon Carol Wade, Precentor at 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.

She has started traveling to different Episcopal dioceses, including an October 2007 visit to the Diocese of Puerto Rico, which separated from the Episcopal Church of the United States in 1978 but was reinstated in 2002. Her visit to commemorate the centennial of the U.S. territory's Episcopal health system and of its Diocesan Convention, and visit the Puerto Rican Senate, led by an Episcopalian, garnered significant press coverage and reenergized the Episcopal Church on the island.

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.


  • The Episcopal Church Annual. Morehouse Publishing: New York, NY (2005).
  • Q & A With Bishop Jefferts Schori from The Living Church magazine
  • Katharine Jefferts Schori, A Wing and a Prayer: A Message of Faith and Hope. New York: Morehouse Publishing (January 2007) ISBN 978-0-8192-2271-8 and London: SPCK (April 2007) ISBN 978-0-2810-5932-4

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