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HOB to see an increase in the number of female bishops joining its ranks

HOB to see an increase in the number of female bishops joining its ranks
At least five women are slated to wear the purple; more may be on the way

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
October 30, 2018

The Episcopal Church is making a concerted effort to increase the number of women bishops joining the House of Bishops, particularly as bishops ordinary.

In recent years women have protested the fact that there were so few female bishops in the HOB and even fewer as bishops ordinary. When women bishops were elected as bishops suffragan, foul play was raised. But figures show that of the 27 women elected as bishops in The Episcopal Church, 14 women were elected as suffragan bishops and the other 13 ladies became bishops ordinary.

This year (2018) many bishops have been throwing their miters into the retirement ring sending their dioceses into a search mode for a new bishop.

So far, 27 women have joined the House of Bishops since the first female bishop -- Barbara Harris -- was consecrated in 1989 as bishop suffragan in Massachusetts. The latest women bishop to be seated in the HOB is Carlye Hughes (XI Newark), who was enthroned in September. Since then, three women have been elected bishops: Cathleen Chittenden Bascom was elected the X Bishop of Kansas on October 19 from a slate of three women candidates. Then, on October 20, Jennifer Reddell was elected the VI Bishop of Arizona from a slate of three candidates -- two females and one male. Most recently, Kym Lucas joined the ranks of women bishops-elect on October 27, when she was elected the XI Bishop of Colorado. The Kansas and Colorado elections were a lock that a woman would become the next bishop. There were no men in the running, while in Arizona it was a good bet that one of the two women would out poll the lone male candidate for the bishop's throne.

The Diocese of West Tennessee also has an all-female slate of candidates seeking to grab the miter. They are: Marian Dulaney Fortner of Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Sarah Hollar of Huntersville, North Carolina; and Phoebe Roaf of Richmond, Virginia. The IV Bishop of West Tennessee is to be elected on November 17, 2018 in Germantown, Tennessee and be consecrated on May 4, 2019.
In the Diocese of San Diego, only one candidate has been put up to fill the shoes of Bishop James Mathes (IV San Diego), who retired in 2017. The sole candidate to be presented is Canon Susan Brown Snook, who is on the diocesan staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma as the Canon for Church Growth and Development. The formal election is scheduled to take place in February 2019. Holding the fort down until Canon Snook can be elected and consecrated is former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

"The Bishop Nominating Committee has worked faithfully and diligently to provide a group of nominees to the Standing Committee. I was able to meet briefly with the group from whom those nominees were selected, at their discernment retreat, though I was not involved in the selection process. I met several priests, who were earnestly discerning whether or not they were called to this diocese," the former presiding bishop wrote to the Diocese of San Diego. "A week or so later, the Bishop Nominating Committee forwarded a short list to the Standing Committee, whose duty it has been to judge whether anything in a nominee's history or background might be disqualifying for the office of bishop. The Standing Committee also worked diligently and prayerfully to weigh the realities, and found they could only discern one person to be fully qualified."

The only "fully qualified" person is considered to be Canon Snook from Oklahoma.

"This is a time in the wider church when more than twenty dioceses are seeking bishops, and that has presented challenges. While I believe that people called to the ministry of a bishop are called into a particular diocesan context, it has nevertheless been a challenge across The Episcopal Church when 20+ dioceses are each seeking 20+ candidates for the episcopate," the San Diego's transitional bishop continues. "Let me say that there is precedent in The Episcopal Church for aspects of this process. When I was in the election process in the Diocese of Nevada in 2000, that Standing Committee received several petition candidates, and said openly that they would not consent if a particular one were elected. The individual concerned had not been part of the Search Committee's discernment, but had exhibited behaviors historically that the Standing Committee considered disqualifying."

Initially, Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected the III Bishop of Nevada in October 2000. She won over a slate of three other male candidates, including David Fletcher (Nova Scotia, Canada); Richard Henry (Nevada); and Alan Scarfe (California). Fr. Scarfe eventually was elected the IX Bishop of Iowa. Another three male candidates were nominated from the floor, including: Rand Frew (New York); Eric Funston (Kansas); and Lloyd Rudd (Nevada).

In 2006, as the Bishop of Nevada, she was elected the XXVI Presiding Bishop against three male candidates, including: Bishop Henry Parsley (X Alabama); Bishop Edwin Gulick (VII Kentucky); and Bishop Neil Alexander (IX Atlanta).

"There has also been a recent election in which a single candidate was offered for consideration. Some years ago, the Diocese of South Carolina elected a person (Mark Lawrence) who did not receive consents from the wider church because of concerns about the bishop-elect's intentions to remain in The Episcopal Church. The Diocese continued its process, and again elected that person, who eventually did receive consent from the wider church," Bishop Jefferts Schori wrote, commenting about the canonical process during the time she was Presiding Bishop.

Initially, Canon Mark Lawrence was elected the XVI Bishop of South Carolina in September 2006. He was one of three candidates. The others being Canon Ellis Brust, the chief operating officer of the American Anglican Council, and Steve Wood who eventually became the first Bishop of the Carolinas for the Anglican Church in North America.

In March 2007, then Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said that due to "canonical deficiencies", she was declaring Mark Lawrence's epsicopal election as "null and void", claiming that several dioceses -- domestic and foreign -- failed in properly registering their votes to consent of election.

When on August 4, 2007, the Diocese of South Carolina held a second election for bishop, only Mark Lawrence was on the ballot. He was duly re-elected and received the requisite number of diocesan consents to election. He was consecrated the XIV Bishop of South Carolina in January 2008. The chief consecrator was Bishop Clifton Daniel (VIII East Carolina), not the presiding bishop, who is normally the chief consecrator. The sitting female presiding bishop did not participate in Bishop Lawrence's consecration service.

Following nine turbulent years as the Episcopal Church's first female presiding bishop, no women bishops were on the slate of candidates in 2015. Only four men were in the running, including bishops: Ian Douglas (XV Connecticut); Thomas Breidenthal (IX Southern Ohio): Dabney Smith (V Southwest Florida); and Michael Curry (XI North Carolina), who won the election on the first ballot making him the first Black to become the Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church.

Until a new Bishop of North Carolina could be elected, Bishop Anne Hodges-Copple (North Carolina Suffragan) stepped in as the bishop pro tempore. In 2017, Samuel Rodman was elected and seated as the XII Bishop of North Carolina.

At this time, the only other Episcopal diocese to have announced a slate of candidates for bishop was the Diocese of Nevada, where one woman was on a three-person slate. She is Tara K. Soughers, the authoress of Beyond a Binary God: A Theology for Trans* Allies, which pushed the transgendered agenda. She claims to have two sons -- "one trans and one cis."

However, by mid-October, Nevada suspended its bishop's search until 2019, possibly seeking a better slate of candidates, citing a "limited applicant pool."

"We have, after much soul searching, unanimously concluded that it is in the best interest of the Diocese to postpone the election of our 11th Bishop until next year following another search under more propitious circumstances," the Diocese of Nevada Standing Committee wrote on October 8, 2018.

In 2015, there were 7,279 Episcopal priests serving the domestic church in 6,510 congregations across the United States. Of that number, 4,679 or 65% of the priests identify as male, with the remaining 2,581 (35%) of priests being female. The average age of all priests is 59 years with 2,480 priests falling between the ages of 55 to 64.

Bishop Dan Edwards (X Nevada) is to retire as planned in 2019. However, without a bishop-elect in the wings to step in as the XI Bishop of Nevada, the Diocese of Nevada is planning on calling a provisional bishop to hold on to the reins until a new bishop can be duly elected and enthroned.

There is a discrepancy in the way the Diocese of Nevada numbers its bishops. Nevada became a freestanding and self-supporting diocese in 1971. The Episcopal Church records the Diocese of Nevada bishops as starting from 1972, when Bishop Wesley Frensdorf became the first Bishop of the Diocese of Nevada. Before that, Nevada was a missionary diocese and the first Missionary Bishop of Nevada was Bishop Ozi Whitaker (1869-1886). However, the Diocese of Nevada counts its line of bishops back to 1869 and Bishop Whitaker, rather than to Bishop Frensdorf in 1972. In the way The Episcopal Church counts Nevada bishops, Katharine Jefferts Schori is the III Bishop of Nevada. The way the Diocese Nevada numbers its bishops, she is the IX Bishop of Nevada. Nonetheless, the former presiding bishop was Bishop Edwards' immediate predecessor in the Silver State whichever way the bishops of Nevada are numbered.

Currently, two women bishops are fulfilling the role of caretaker bishops in other dioceses. In the Diocese of Eastern Michigan, Bishop Catherine Waynick has been called as that diocese's first provisional bishop. She retired in 2017 as the X Bishop of Indianapolis, a post she held for 20 years. Meanwhile, along the Mexican border, the former Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori is acting as transitional bishop in the Diocese of San Diego until the fifth bishop of the diocese (presumably Canon Snook) can be elected and seated.

Currently, no other dioceses have announced a slate of candidates for bishop. There are 10 other dioceses which are actively looking for new bishops ordinary. They include: Northern California, Maine, South Dakota, Vermont, El Camino Real, Michigan, Montana, Minnesota, Eastern Michigan, and Missouri. As of now, none of these dioceses have announced a slate of candidates. They are still too early in their bishop search process for such an announcement.

Three other dioceses: North Dakota, Virginia and Southern Virginia are also losing their sitting bishops ordinary. In late October, Bishop Michael Smith (XI North Dakota) announced his planned retirement in the spring of 2019.

Bishop Shannon Johnston (XIII Virginia) ran into trouble in his diocese for his contentious leadership style and is offering to step down in early November. At this time the diocese is putting out feelers for a provisional bishop to step in for three years and run things until the diocese has confidence enough to elect the XIV Bishop of Virginia.

It has been discerned that Virginia's suffragan Bishop, Susan Goff, will basically step up as bishop pro tempore, just as Bishop Anne Copple did in North Carolina to fill the vacancy created when Bishop Michael Curry was elected the presiding bishop of the church. However, Bishop Goff will not become Virginia's provisional bishop, as it is felt that it would be best for her to remain as bishop suffragan to help give the diocese stability during this time of flux. She also has been appointed and commissioned as an assisting bishop in the Church of England, serving in Liverpool, England.

Only one other woman bishop has served as bishop pro tempore and that is the late Bishop Jane Dixon. She stepped up from being a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Washington, DC (1992-2000) to be that same diocese's bishop pro tempore (2001-2002). She is the second female bishop to be consecrated in 1992 and the first and, so far, only woman bishop to die. She died in 2012.

One other diocese in the Old Dominion Commonwealth, the Diocese of Southern Virginia, is also losing its episcopal leader. Bishop Herman Hollerith IV (X Southern Virginia) is putting in his retirement papers this December. He has been bishop of Southern Virginia since 2009. He is the brother of the V. Rev. Randolph Hollerith, the current dean of the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. The Holleriths are the great-grandsons of Herman Hollerith, Sr., an inventor who helped develop modern data processing.

The diocese is currently in the early stages of seeking a bishop and has no suffragan bishop. But at one time, Bishop Carol Joy Gallagher was Southern Virginia's suffragan for three short years from 2002-2005, serving under Bishop David Bane (IX Southern Virginia), who was bishop ordinary from 1998-2006.

Both she and Bishop Bane were "under pressure" to resign following the dysfunctional episcopal leadership of a fast liberalizing diocese. Bishop Bane is a conservative who was trying to hold the line after Vicky Gene Robinson, a partnered homosexual, became the IX Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

Before it was over, the tension between Bishop Bane and his suffragan was so strained, that in March 2005, Bishop Gallagher accepted a buyout of an undisclosed amount. Bishop Bane was offered a similar deal and refused to accept it.

At the time The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported: "The [inhouse diocesan] report called the relationship between Bane and Gallagher disastrous. 'The degree to which the parties disagree is legendary,' it said. 'Until very recently, communications between them were non-existent; the suffragan was limited in when and where she could speak and what she could speak about.'"

Bishop Bane was eventually forced out in 2006 for asking his clergy to uphold the findings of the 2004 Windsor Report, which called for a moratorium on the consecration of homosexual bishops. Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori deposed him in 2009 when he joined the Anglican Church in North America. However, in 2015, all was forgiven and Bishop Bane returned to the good graces of The Episcopal Church and reinstated as an Episcopal bishop, albeit retired.

Bishop Bane is not the only Episcopal bishop to leave and return to The Episcopal Church. Bishop Clarence Pope (II Forth Worth) left TEC for the Catholic Church in 1994. He returned in 1995. He left again in 2007, only to return the next year. When he died in 2012, both The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in North American honored him. The Roman Catholic Church also made mention of his passing. He is buried at an Episcopal Church cemetery in Louisiana.

Bishop Daniel Herzog (VIII Albany) too, left The Episcopal Church in 2007. He returned in 2010 and was welcomed with open arms by his successor, Bishop Bill Love (IVX Albany). He is now a retired Episcopal bishop in good standing.

Bishop "Have Miter-Will Travel" Gallagher moves around. Her first gig following her time in the Diocese of Southern Virginia was as the Assistant Bishop of Newark (2005-2007); from there she went to become the Assistant Bishop in North Dakota (2008-2014); next she was on to Montana as the Bishop of Native American Ministires (2014-2018). Bishop Gallehger is a Native American and, as such, is a member of the Cherokee Nation. Her tribal name is "Walkingstick."

The Episcopal News Service discribed her 2002 multicultural consecration service: "A procession of nearly 200 participants moved across campus and up the hill and into the gymnasium, welcomed by drums played by representatives of Virginia's tribes and with a 'smudging' of smoke from sweet grass used in Native American ceremonies for blessing and purification. The liturgy of nearly three hours was a blend of traditional Anglican liturgy mixed with soul music and Native American elements -- especially from Gallagher's Cherokee heritage that comes from her mother, Betty Walkingstick Theobald. The new bishop's great-great-great-grandmother walked the Trail-of-Tears from North Carolina to Oklahoma in the 1830s."

Bishop Gallehger is not the first Native American to become an Episcopal bishop. Bishop William Wantland (IV Eau Claire) is a member of the Seminole Nation and the late Bishop Stephen Plummer (II Navaholand) was a member of the Navaho Nation. Bishop Mark MacDonald (VII Alaska) is also an indigenous bishop, without identifing any particular tribal connections. He is now the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop for the Anglican Church of Canada. He is considered a "non-status Indian" since he is not a member of any particular tribal band, while ministering in the First Nations region of Canada.

Starting in November, Bishop Gallagher will move again, this time to become the Canon for the Central Region in the Diocese of Massaschusetts. There she will meet Bishop Gayle Harris (Massachusetts-suffragan). The younger Bishop Harris is not related to the first Episcopal woman Bishop Barbara Harris, who was also a suffragan for the Diocese of Massachusetts (1989-2002). Gayle Harris followed Barbara Harris as Massachusetts suffragan bishop in 2003.

However, recently Gayle Harris made headlines concerning some anti-Semitic coments she made this summer at General Convention in Austin, Texas

"As the House of Bishops debated a resolution about human rights in Israel, Bishop Harris said she was in Israel when a Palestinian teenager was shot in the back multiple times as he fled Israeli soldiers who had questioned him," The Living Church reported. She also said Israeli soldiers handcuffed a three-year-old boy playing with a ball that bounced into the vicinity of the Wailing Wall."

She was forced to apologize when both CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) and the Simon Wiesenthal Center protested, claiming that Bishop Harris' comments were "outrageous fabrications" and that "The Episcopal Church's campaign against Israel comes close to a blood libel."

This is not the first time she has run into trouble. In 2010 ,Virtue Online reported: "A source tells VOL that Suffragan Bishop Gayle Harris of the Diocese of Massachusetts is on an extended leave of absence. That's the official line from the diocese. Unofficially a priest advised VOL recent clergy conference attendees were told that Harris's duties have been reduced to zero. The reasons: there was strife among the three bishops; and her job performance was unsatisfactory."

The next diocese scheduled to announce a slate of candidates for bishop is Texas. That announcement is expected to come in November. Texas is seeking a bishop suffragan to replace retiring Bishop Dena Harrison, who was consecrated in 2006. Bishop Chilton Knudsen also has plans to step down as assisting bishop in Maryland, filling in for disgraced Bishop Heather Cook. As of yet, Maryland has not called for a suffragan bishop search. Bishop Knudsen is the retired VIII Bishop of Maine. Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves (III El Camino Real) has also announced her planned retirement in 2020. She has been at the helm since 2007.

She is one of the 13 women bishops to be the diocesan ordinary. The list of female bishops who are or have been the bishop ordinary of a diocese include: Mary McLeod (IX Vermont -- 1993-2001); Geralyn Wolf (XII Rhode Island -- 1996-2012); Carolyn Tanner Irish (X Utah -- 1996-2010); Catheryn Waynick (X Indianapolis -- 1997-2017); Chilton Knudsen (VIII Maine -- 1998-2008); Katherine Jefferts Schori (III Nevada 2001-2006 & XXVI Presiding Bishop 2006-2015); Mary Gray-Reeves (III El Camino Real -- since 2007, retires 2020); Mariann Edgar Budde (IX Washington, DC since 2001); Audrey Scanlan (XI Central Pennsylvania -- since 2015); DeDe Duncan-Probe (XI Central New York -- Since 2016); Gretchen Rehberg (XI Spokane -- since 2017); Jennifer Bakersville-Burrows (XI Indianapolis -- Since 2017); and Carlye Hughes (XI Newark -- since 2018).

The 14 women bishops who are, or have been elected, a suffragan bishop of a diocese include: Barbara Harris (Massachusetts -- 1989-2002); Jane Dixon (Washington, DC -- 1992-2000; died 2012); Catherine Roskam (New York -- 1996-2011); Carol Gallagher (Southern Virginia -- 2002-2005); Gayle Harris (Massachusetts -- Since 2003); Nedi Rivera (Olympia -- 2005-2010); Dena Harrison (Texas -- since 2006, retires 2018); Laura Ahrens (Connecticut -- since 2007); Diane Bruce (Los Angeles -- since 2010); Mary Glasspool (Los Angeles -- 2010-2016); Susan Goff (Virginia -- since 2012); Anne Hodges-Copple (North Carolina -- since 2013); Heather Cook (Maryland 2014 -- deposed 2015); and Jennifer Brooke-Davidson (West Texas -- since 2017).

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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