You recently received a letter from Katharine Jefferts-Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, in reference to global warming.
As you make up your mind on the issues, I want to alert you to the reality of this individual and the constituency she claims to represent. I think this vitally important, as your colleague Senator Obama has recently suffered embarassment by his association with an extreme religious personality.
Bishop Schori holds office in a denomination which has fallen from millions of active members to about 800,000 nationwide on most Sundays. The church has, according to its own national staff, suffered "precipitious" declines in recent years. The staff calls this downward spiral "systemic."
Here in South Dakota, the historic Episcopal Diocese has suffered years of decline, to the point that only 2,000 people attend its churches, state wide, on Sundays.
Meanwhile, Bishop Schori has made a habit of denigrating faith positions held by the majority of Christians, in the process suggesting that Roman Catholics and others lack intelligence.
Over a number of contentious issues, whole dioceses, congregations and thousands of clergy and lay people have disaffiliated from The Episcopal Church. In response, Bishop Schori is using millions of church dollars to sue dissenters, and most recently took actions which are widely interpreted as inconsistent with the constitution and canons of the church in order to eliminate bishops who are critical of the national church direction.
The fact is, she represents a very small elite within a very small and sadly declining sect. "The people" for whom she claims to speak are often bureaucrats at the denomination's New York offices. As an example, The Episcopal Church now "endorses" a radical pro-abortion group - a position that was taken by one small committee but is now stated as the position for all members of the church.
As a clergyman in the Episcopal Church for the last 20 years, and the rector of a church in Sioux Falls that has more than doubled its active membership since my family moved to South Dakota in 2004, I warn you that statements from purported leaders or official offices of the Episcopal Church should be understood as a form of activist "spam" rather than the position of any significant number of people. And including these endorsers in your decision making or statements could load you with baggage that hinders your public service.
The Rev. Timothy Fountain