Huron confers doctor of divinity on US presiding bishop

Published May 12, 2011

US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori received an honorary doctor of divinity degree from Huron University College in London, Ont.

The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, received an honorary doctor of divinity degree from Huron University College, London, Ont., as part of its May 5 theology convocation. Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, delivered the citation, and the Right Rev. Robert Bennett, Bishop of Huron, hooded Bishop Jefferts Schori.

In a stirring go-get-’em address to convocation, the bishop likened the newly laureated students to Abraham and Sarah “going off to meet surprising people, in unknown communities, and encountering unforeseen challenges, simply because that’s where you’ve been called to go.”

The faithful are all on that kind of journey into the unknown, she said. “We’re like the explorers who went looking for the places on old maps beyond the known world labelled ‘There be dragons.'”

She called journeying an ancient image for honing leaders. “Leadership asks us to be agents of change and to take others with us,” she said. “The voyage is rarely calm these days. These are times for courageous and intrepid leaders, for those who will try seemingly impossible things, and, like Jesus, wrestle with internal demons and more worldly dragons.”

The question is: How are we to be both followers of Jesus and leaders of others? Allowing ourselves to be stretched and challenged to do things that seem impossible is the key to becoming leaders in today’s world. “I’m going to insist that more typically lay activities and vocations, like rock climbing, proving math theorems, and wandering in the desert all have significant things to teach ecclesiastics about leadership in the 21st century,” the bishop said.

Pushing themselves to go beyond what seems possible can be a “transformative experience that challenges people to invest themselves deeply in work they may think is beyond them. It shares a kinship with Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, and with the Israelites’ 40 years of wandering. Those experiences shape and form people who know how to take risks, who trust in something beyond what they know, and who learn how to invite others into similar endeavours,” she said, going on to cite quotations on braving uncharted realms from such diverse sources as Star Trek and Captain Cook’s journals and referring to legendary leaders of vision such as Odysseus and King Arthur and real ones such as Desmond Tutu.

“Retreat is not an option,” she said. “Global climate change is an excellent example, for denial is not going to solve the problem-the only way through is engagement and change.

She urged the graduating class to get up and go out there and “practise courage in many spheres of human life, for new life lies in confronting the fears of change and the unknown and your own incapacity. Learn hard new things and you will find courage you didn’t know you had.”


  • Diana Swift

    Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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