KANSAS CITY — While the economy has forced Americans to restrict their spending, the U.S. must increase its funding to help social justice overseas, the leader of the U.S. Episcopal Church said.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori visited the Kansas City area this past weekend and said a crucial part of preaching the gospel includes having church members ensure that the U.S. government make good its promises to provide financial help to Third World countries.
"An increasing number of (church members) are finding the courage to lobby their legislators for international aid that might reach the promises we made in 2000," Jefferts Schori said, adding that the private sector can't meet those demands by itself.
Episcopal Church USA has about 2.4 million members but is struggling to maintain its numbers, especially after internal division over the church's acceptance of homosexuality.
A number of American dioceses and congregations broke from the church to affiliate with conservative dioceses in Africa following the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. Robinson is a gay man in a same-sex relationship.
Jefferts Schori acknowledged the problems the issue has caused but said she believed the church was past most of the turmoil.
"I think five years from now that both those who have departed and those who remained will probably find their lives in the church more satisfying because they're not fighting to be heard," she said.
She met Saturday with youth members of the church and had lunch with clergy at the Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in downtown Kansas City. She and Bishop Barry Howe were scheduled to conduct a service Sunday at the Community of Christ Auditorium in Independence.
Jefferts Schori earlier spoke to the annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri, which is celebrating the end of its "Emmaus Era," a five-year program for expanding the congregation.
One of the program's goals is to help deal with a shortage of priests by allowing the ordination of priests without attending seminary and using alternative methods, such as classes on the Internet.