Friday, February 15, 2008

Black History Month: Episcopalians IV

(born June 12, 1930)

She was elected as suffragan (assistant) bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts in 1988 and became the first woman ever to serve as a bishop in an Anglican church anywhere in the world. She was a corporate public relations executive in her native Philadelphia before studying for the ministry.

In the early 1970s, as senior warden of her church, she agitated for the ordination of women. In 1974, she supported the ordination of the "Philadelphia Eleven," and by 1976, the Episcopal Church voted at its General Convention to admit women priests. Ordained a deacon in 1979 and a priest in 1980, she served as a parish pastor and prison chaplain in Pennsylvania from 1980 to 1984, then headed the Episcopal Church Publishing Company. Her election to the Massachusetts post in 1988 and her subsequent consecration were met with wide news coverage and some controversy in the United States and elsewhere. She attended the Lambeth Conference in 1998.

As an African American woman, she was outspoken on issues of race and gender in church and society but insisted from the start that her work and ministry not be limited to those issues. She retired in 2002 but continues her ministry in the Episcopal Church.

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