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Females continue to increase their numbers in the Episcopal House of Bishops

Females continue to increase their numbers in the Episcopal House of Bishops
On June 1 two women were elected; one consecrated, one was a lesbian

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
June 5, 2019

Recent elections in the Episcopal Church saw women taking the upper hand in the Episcopal House of Bishops. Two women were elected as bishops ordinary and another was consecrated bishop suffragan to be seated officially in the House of Bishops. Three other women bishops-elect are slated to be consecrated before the end of the year. At least one more woman bishop is expected to be elected from an all-female slate of bishop candidates proffered in the Diocese of Montana.

Episcopal elections took place June 1 in the dioceses of El Camino Real and Michigan which saw Lucinda Ashby (El Camino Real) and Bonnie Perry (Michigan) elected in their respective dioceses while the Diocese of Texas consecrated a new bishop suffragan in the person of Kathryn Ryan.


The election of Bonnie Perry, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago, as the XI Bishop of Michigan, generated the most media interest. As victor, she emerged from a slate of four women priests. This is Perry's third, and successful, attempt to become bishop. She is also the second partnered lesbian to be elected to the HOB.

She first offered herself for membership in the House of Bishops in 2006, seeking to become the VIII Bishop of California, and the first partnered lesbian bishop, the same year that Katharine Jefferts Schori broke through the stained-glass ceiling as The Episcopal Church's first presiding bishop. Perry lost out to Bishop Marc Andrus.

A former Roman Catholic, Perry left the Church of Rome to seek sacerdotal ordination; she also sought to become the IX Bishop of Minnesota. Her name bubbled up just weeks after the 2009 Episcopal General Convention passed Resolution D-025, which "Reaffirms Participation in the Anglican Communion and Acknowledges Differences."

The Resolution sought to "affirm the value of 'listening to the experience of homosexual persons,' as called for by the Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988 and 1998, and acknowledge that through our own listening the General Convention has come to recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships 'characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.'"

At that the time, Integrity President Susan Russell said: "Integrity applauds the Diocese of Minnesota for the stellar slate of qualified candidates released today (August 1, 2009) to replace retiring Bishop James Jelinek. The Diocese of Minnesota is leading the way for the rest of The Episcopal Church as they move us forward into a future where the resolutions we passed at our recent General Convention become a reality."

Bishop John Howe (III Central Florida) immediately countered saying: "Both the Diocese of Minnesota and The Episcopal Church as a whole have clearly chosen to repudiate the Windsor process, the appeals of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other Instruments of Communion, and those of the Primates of the Anglican Communion."

Then, just hours later, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles released a slate of candidates for bishops suffragan which included two homosexuals including Mary Glasspool, a partnered lesbian; and John Kirkley, a homosexual priest. Six years earlier Vicky Gene Robinson (IX New Hampshire) broke through the rainbow glass ceiling to become the first openly partnered homosexual bishop in the House of Bishops. Mary Glasspool punched through that same multicolored glass ceiling to become the first partnered lesbian bishop. Bonnie Perry lost her bid to become the Minnesota bishop to Brian Prior (IX Minnesota), who has since announced his own retirement as the Bishop of Minnesota. The upper midwestern diocese has not yet released a new slate of candidates, however the diocese is not scheduled to elect its new spiritual leader until January of 2020.

Perry met her "spouse" Susan Harlow when she was studying at ultraliberal Union Theological Seminary in New York. They have been together ever since -- 32 years and counting. While at Union seminary, Perry became intrigued with The Episcopal Church and, after joining the Church, she was ordained deacon and priest by John Shelby Spong (VIII Newark). The current Bishop of Newark is Carlye Hughes (XI Newark) -- a woman.

In 2006, the Chicago Tribune reported: "If Perry wins the California post, Spong already has offered to ship her his miter--regardless of whether the national church approves."

In 1992, jobless, Perry went with Harlow to Chicago, where Harlow, a United Church of Christ minister, accepted the position of associate professor of religious education and associate dean for external affairs at Meadville/Lombard Theological School in Chicago.

"In 1992 I made the best decision of my life and moved without a job to Chicago, to follow my spouse Susan who had just been offered a seminary faculty position," Perry explains in her candidate's biography.

Perry landed a position at All Saints, a liberal Episcopal congregation in Chicago. She has been there ever since. However, while Perry remained stationary as All Saints' rector, Harlow moved around. She became the adjunct professor at McCormick Seminary in the Ecumenical Doctor of Ministry program, a collaborative program of McCormick Theological Seminary, the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, and the Catholic Theological Union. And then in 2009, Harlow became the director of congregational development and professor of practical theology at Seabury-Western Episcopal Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. Now she is the pastor of the People's Church, a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Chicago.

Perry is expected to be consecrated bishop in February of 2020.


While the election of Bonnie Perry was unfolding in Detroit, Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves (III El Camino Real) was overseeing the election of her successor in Saratoga, California. When the third ballot was counted, Lucinda Ashby received enough votes in both the clerical and lay orders to be elected the IV Bishop of El Camino Real, emerging from a field of five -- three women and two males.

This is Ashby's second time seeking a miter. She was the only women in a three-person slate to become the X Bishop of the Rio Grande. She was beaten out by Michael Hunn, the Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Ministry.

Ashby will relocate to coastal California from Boise, Idaho, where she is Canon to the Ordinary for the Diocese of Idaho. She will be consecrated in January of 2020. In July, the Diocese of Montana will also elect a women bishop.


While the two episcopal elections were being held in Michigan and California, over in Austin, Texas, Kathryn Ryan was being consecrated a bishop suffragan for the Episcopal Diocese of Texas at the Westover Hills Church of Christ. Her consecrators were Presiding Bishop Michael Curry as chief consecrator. Curry was joined by Bishop Andrew Doyle (IX Texas), Jeff Fisher (Texas-suffragan), and Bishop Assistant Hector Monterroso (Texas-bishop assistant).

The new bishop will fill the high heels of Dena Harrison who, after being a bishop suffragan for the Diocese of Texas for 12 years, retired in 2018.


Perry and Ryan are slated to become the 36th and 37th female bishops in the Episcopal House of Bishops. An all-female slate of candidates has also been offered for the July election of the X Bishop of Montana. This, as of yet, unelected woman bishop, will be the 38th female member of the HOB.

The next woman bishop to be seated in the House of Bishops is Susan Brown Snook, who is the be consecrated on June 15 as the V Bishop of San Diego. Former Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori is holding the reins of the diocese as transitional bishop until Snook's consecration next week. On June 29, Megan Traquair will be consecrated the IX Bishop of Northern California, followed by the consecration on September 28 of Shannon MacVean-Brown as the XI of Vermont.


The Episcopal Church was not the only Anglican jurisdiction to be actively electing bishops on June 1. In Ft. Worth, Ryan Reed was elected IV Bishop of Ft. Worth, stepping in for the ailing Jack Iker (III Fort Worth). Bishop Iker, who is battling a rare form of cancer, was initially elected bishop bishop-coadjutor in 1993, becoming bishop ordinary in 1995 following the retirement of Clarence Pope (II Fort Worth). The Diocese of Fort Worth, led by Bishop Iker, is now a part of the Anglican Church of North America. A recent statement said he is now cancer free.

Reed is the dean of St. Vincent's Cathedral and was one of four all male candidates. He was elected on the third ballot and will be consecrated bishop on September 21 -- the Feast of St. Matthew.

Following his election, the bishop-elect said: "I know it is nearly going to be impossible to follow in the footsteps of Bishop Iker -- the Lion of Fort Worth."

That comment resulted in a standing ovation and cheers for Bishop Iker, who took his shoe off and waved it.

Reed then told the electing congregation that he would make several promises to them.

"I will daily attempt to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and in obedience to my Lord and Saviour Jesus. I will do my best to be a shepherd, especially to the shepherds of this diocese. I will defend the catholic faith and practice of this church in whatever arena I find myself in, and finally I will live, and hopefully speak, the transforming Love of Jesus Christ," he said. "And I want all of us in this diocese to make that commitment going forward. That that becomes the most important think we do."

Following the Anglican Church of North America's College of Bishops ratification of his election, Reed is to be consecrated bishop-coadjutor on September 21, with Archbishop Foley Beach (II ACNA) being the primary consecrator assisted by Bishop Iker.

On December 31, 2019, Bishop Iker will formally retire and Bishop Reed will step up as the IV Bishop of Ft. Worth on New Year's Day. He is to be formally enthroned on Jan. 4, 2020.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to Virtueonline www.virtueonline.org

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