When I announced my resignation as bishop at January's Annual Council, I said I was considering new steps in my ministry. I have now accepted the call of Bishop Andrus of California to serve as interim dean of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, after I have resigned as Bishop of Virginia on October 1, 2009.
While I will depart Virginia with sadness at leaving so many whom I love, I am excited and challenged by the call to serve at one of the nation's primary urban cathedral churches.
I began ordained ministry at an urban cathedral, St. John's in Jacksonville, Florida, and I have spent many years emphasizing the diversity and continuity of our Anglican tradition which are so well expressed in a cathedral's ministry.
After a year or so of cathedral ministry, Kristy and I expect to retire in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where we were living when I was elected Bishop in Virginia.
I look forward to these next seven months together as we all prepare for the next chapters of our service to the Lord and the church.
Peter James Lee
FRIDAY PM UPDATE: The Washington Post now has a rather fascinating interview with Bishop Lee now up on their site.
Va.'s Departing Episcopal Bishop on Church Changes
This fall, the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee will leave Virginia after a quarter-century as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, one of the largest dioceses in the national Episcopal Church, encompassing the northern and central parts of the state and including 80,000 members and 181 congregations.
Lee, 70, is one of the longest-serving bishops in the country. A fan of murder mysteries, blues music and the beach, he will head next, with his wife, to San Francisco, where he will become interim dean for a year at Grace Cathedral, the third-largest Episcopal cathedral in the country. The Washington Post's Michelle Boorstein spoke with him recently about the impact of technology on faith, the roots of current Anglican upheaval and why he wants to leave Virginia.
Q: What are the most important ways in which the Anglican Communion, the worldwide church Episcopalians are a part of, has changed in the past 25 years?
A: "The awareness of each other, largely because of technology . . . the violence in Darfur, for example, would not have had the impact it had in the United States. It's good and bad. It means when a gay bishop is ordained in the United States, it's on CNN in Africa that day, but without any context.
The [Episcopal] Church is hugely impacted by what's going on internationally . . . the churches in the lower hemisphere sometimes resent the Church of England, the Episcopal Church -- the rich Northern churches, when it's actually kind of a displacement of resentment against U.S. initiatives, politically and diplomatically. We suffer, in a way, from that."
You are chairman of Friends of Canterbury Cathedral in the United States, which encourages support for the Anglican Communion's mother church in England. Why is that group important, in an era when Anglican numbers are shifting to Asia and Africa?
"I think it's so easy for Virginians in particular to be proud of our historic churches and comfortable in our niche, and it's important for us to be aware of what's going on globally, getting out of our parochial mindset . . . an unfortunate change in the [national] church in the past 25 years has been the decline in the appreciation for the breadth of the Communion. Historically, we held together with different emphases. But some people found our breadth to be too broad and I think that's very sad."
The current upheaval, which has centered on human sexuality and how to read Scripture, has drawn your diocese into what some experts believe is the priciest litigation in the history of the Episcopal Church, over who controls church properties: the diocese or the congregations that have broken away.
"Looking back, I think those seeds were planted decades ago. At the time, I thought the different emphases were just that, different emphases, and that there was a fundamental loyalty to what we had in common . . . to be fair, their focus was on a certain kind of biblical morality that was, in my judgment, fairly narrow. That they would read the Bible through the lens of late-20th century moralism. The place of women, gays and lesbians. I think that was unfortunate.
"I want to raise the strengths and uniqueness of what it means to be an Anglican Christian -- of holding Orthodox views, but doing so in a way that remains open to all sorts of conditions of people. The separatists seem to have an emphasis on disciplining people who have different lifestyles than they do. That's alien to the Anglican Communion."
You said you wanted to leave Virginia as soon as you stepped down, and you plan after San Francisco to retire to Chapel Hill, N.C. Why so anxious to leave?
"I don't want to be the kind of retired bishop that people sort of call when they're unhappy with the new bishop. I don't want to be dragged into that. Now I'll have more freedom. I won't have to take into account what the most conservative or most liberal lay leaders in Virginia will say about x, y and z."
"Bob Duncan is a friend of long standing, but we haven't talked about any of these issues in recent years. Our wives, when they talk, talk about dogs and grandchildren."