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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 June 2006, 19:34 GMT 20:34 UK
Woman cleric hails 'breakthrough'
By Jill McGivering
BBC News

Katharine Jefferts Schori.
Katharine Jefferts Schori has made church history with her election
The first woman chosen as leader of an Anglican church says her election shows women are not excluded from any role in the communion.

On Monday Katharine Jefferts Schori was controversially selected as head of the Episcopalian Church in the US.

In a BBC interview, she also described the current row about gay bishops as a relatively minor issue.

She urged members of the church to focus instead on issues like poverty and injustice.

"We are supposed to be builders of the reign of God, we're supposed to be transformers of the communities around us," Bishop Jefferts Schori said in an exclusive interview with the BBC's Reporting Religion radio programme.

She added that the current disagreement about sexuality saddened her.

Some people understand this appointment as demonstrating the reality that women are not excluded from any role in ministry in this church
Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori

"Yes, sexuality is a piece of that but a small piece compared to people who are die because they are hungry or don't have treatment for malaria or AIDS - or whose children can't go to school because there aren't any schools or teachers."

She said she firmly believed in "the need to refocus our attention".

The Episcopal Church was the first Anglican church to ordain an openly gay bishop.

Now it has also become the first church in the Anglican Communion to choose a woman as its head.

Those opposed to female and gay bishops have accused it of promoting immorality.

Historic

Bishop Jefferts Schori was quick to defend her appointment.

"Some people understand this appointment as demonstrating the reality that women are not excluded from any role in ministry in this church," she said.

"I think it's a witness perhaps to other parts of the communion about the role of women in ordained leadership.

"I think for our own church it's a recognition that there aren't any barriers."

But in fact her selection is both historic and highly controversial.

Most other Anglican churches worldwide still ban women even from being bishops.

Many, opposed to her appointment, now warn that a split within the communion is becoming inevitable.


SEE ALSO
Woman heads Anglican church: Your views
19 Jun 06 |  Have Your Say
Female chief makes Church history
18 Jun 06 |  Americas
Conservatives warn of Church split
09 Oct 03 |  Americas
African divide over gay bishop
08 Sep 03 |  Africa
US church backs gay bishop
01 Aug 03 |  Americas
Q&A: The Anglican Communion
06 Aug 03 |  In Depth

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