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Episcopal Diocese of Michigan Elects a Lesbian Bishop

Episcopal Diocese of Michigan Elects a Lesbian Bishop
The diocese has lost more than 40% of its membership, communicants and ASA since 2000

By David W. Virtue, DD
June 3, 2019

The Episcopal diocese of Michigan has elected the Rev. Bonnie Perry, an activist lesbian, to be its next bishop. She will be the 11th bishop and will succeed Bishop Wendell C. Gibbs, the longest-sitting Episcopal diocesan bishop in The Episcopal Church.

Under Gibbs' leadership, the diocese plunged in membership in 2000 from 29,796 to 16,889 in 2017, a loss of 43.3%. Communicants in 2000 numbered 24,107; by 2017, they had dropped to 10,060, a drop of 41.6%. Average Sunday Attendance in 2000 was 10,400; by 2017, it was 6,006, a drop of 4,394 or 42.3%. Baptisms dropped from 621 to 180 in the same period. The number of congregations in 2000 was 99; by 2017, it had dropped to 75. In short, the new bishop is taking over a dying diocese.

This was Perry's third attempt to become a bishop. She will be the second partnered lesbian in the Episcopal House of Bishops. The diocese had an all-female slate of candidates. The first lesbian bishop is Mary Glasspool, now assistant bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.

Perry says she has been in a "committed relationship" with Susan Harlow for 32 years. Her partner, the Rev. Dr. Susan Harlow, is senior pastor at The Peoples Church of Chicago, a United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.

Perry was up for Bishop of California in 2006 and then for Bishop of Minnesota in 2009.

She was ordained to the diaconate and priested by the ultraliberal John Shelby Spong. At that time, he offered to give her his miter if she became the Bishop of California.

When installed as the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church, Chicago in 2000, altar servers carried a kayak up the center aisle to underscore the importance of having fun.

For weddings, baptisms and festivals, Perry pops open champagne, mixes sparkling and consecrated wines in the communion cup and welcomes everyone to take a sip.

"Bonnie is somebody who will do the unexpected," said Rev. Ruth Meyers, of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. "That inspires people to not only live faithfully as a Christian, but really to bear witness to the transforming power of the Gospel."

The Rev. Lucinda Ashby was elected in the Diocese of El Camino Real, replacing Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, this week. A slate of five of candidates included three females and two males.

The Episcopal Church now has only to elect a Black partnered lesbian bishop, with the final frontier being a transgendered bishop, and the Church's pansexual fantasies will be fulfilled. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry can ring out the bells that The Episcopal Church has fulfilled its mandate for a truly inclusive, diverse, race free Church. There was no push back from the Communion Partner bishops.


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