Friday, June 18, 2010

Canterbury to Jefferts Schori: Hold Your Tongue!

Yesterday, I stumbled across Diana Butler Bass' excellent summation of Mitregate via her Twitter feed.  (I "follow" her there, and you should too; she's terrific.)  For uninitiated, the Presiding Bishop of The [American] Episcopal Church is Katharine Jefferts Schori -- our equivalent of an any other name, the head of our national church and local province of the Anglican Communion and a co-equal to Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.  She was in England this last Sunday, where she preached and was celebrant at London's Southwark Cathedral. However, in compliance with a "statement" from Lambeth Palace (home to the A. of C.) that she not wear her mitre, she chose to carry it.

As Butler Bass describes, the mitre is "the pointy hat that bishops wear as a symbol of their office and authority".  Think:  Barack Obama, as host Head of State, making a statement that Queen Elizabeth II, a visiting Head of State, was not to wear a crown or tiara at a White House State Dinner.

It was a big, ole diss.

Jefforts Schori, being a class act, obeyed the request of her host, no doubt knowing that, in doing so, she would embarrass him no end on the brouhaha that was sure to follow.  Score one for America.

However, human -- dare I say, worldly -- feelings aside as well as the politics of Jefferts Schori's femaleness (women bishop are not done in England) and her support for openly-gay clergy (ditto), there's a bigger reason the Archbishop should be ashamed of himself.  In addition to representing the bishop's office and authority, the mitre also represents the tongue of fire given to the Apostles by the Holy Spirit so that they could communicate the Gospels to all people in every human tongue.  This was Williams' real slight.

How ironic that two Primates (another fun term for the heads of national churches within the Communion), already "separated by a common language", would be symbolically hamstrung yet one more level by the English host telling his American guest to hold her tongue!

[Image via Canterbury Tales blog.]