During her nine years leading the Episcopal Church’s nearly 2 million members, the Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori spent a good deal of time representing the church on public issues ranging from caring for the poor to caring for the planet. Next fall, CDSP students can engage with her firsthand when the former presiding bishop returns to campus as the St. Margaret’s Visiting Professor of Women in Ministry to teach a course entitled The Public Square: Engaging Emerging Opportunities.
“We are going to consider a variety of ways in which pastoral leaders might engage the public square, in partnership with others, and including such areas as public policy, human flourishing, scientific discovery and artistic creativity,” Jefferts Schori says. “Climate change would be an excellent example. I expect us to focus on how people of faith can flourish in their baptismal vocation of reconciliation. We will consider how to balance this work with reflection, Sabbath, silence, and re-creation.”
Jefferts Schori, who was a teacher long before she was a preacher, has advanced degrees in both science and religion. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Stanford in 1974 and a Ph.D. in oceanography from Oregon State University. Prior to her ordination to the priesthood in 1994, she was a visiting assistant professor in Oregon State University’s Department of Religious Studies, a visiting scientist at Oregon State University’s College of Oceanography, and an oceanographer with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle.
Jefferts Schori received a Master of Divinity from CDSP in 1994 and an honorary Doctor of Divinity in 2001. She served as bishop of Nevada until 2006 when she became the first woman elected as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. Her term ended last November.
The Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, Ph.D., CDSP’s dean and president, had long hoped to recruit Jefferts Schori to spend a semester at CDSP. “This is an opportunity for Bishop Katharine to return to the classroom where she is so gifted, and to share with us the wisdom of her experience gained over a decade of episcopal leadership,” says Richardson, who co-taught seminar sessions on theology and evolution with Jefferts Schori several years ago at General Theological Seminary. “The Women in Ministry experience is also a time set apart for one’s personal research, reflection and writing, and that is something she richly deserves.”
Asked what she loves about teaching, Jefferts Schori says, “Watching and experiencing fertile minds making leaps, discovering things, making new connections, and being invited into that creative ferment.”
All of her multi-faceted experiences with religion in the public square will come to bear on the Tuesday evening course at CDSP.
“We’ll consider how to encourage constructive and elevated public dialogue that is at once civil and earnest, evangelical and thoughtfully critical, and energetically focused on a vision of the beloved community – God’s peaceable kindom of all creation,” she said.