The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan has consecrated its first openly lesbian bishop, in a move that the liberal mainline regional body is confident will not lead to further large-scale departures from the denomination.
The Rev. Bonnie A. Perry was consecrated as the eleventh bishop of the diocese at a ceremony held Saturday at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center in Dearborn.
Perry had been elected bishop in June of last year on the fifth ballot of the Special Electing Convention held at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Detroit. She got the votes of 64 clergy and 118 laity, which surpassed the minimum requirement of 55 clergy and 94 laity, according to Anna Stania, director of Communications for the diocese.
Stania also told The Christian Post that Perry did not experience any opposition to her candidacy because of her sexual orientation or that she is married to someone of the same-sex.
“We have experienced an overwhelming outpouring of joy, grace and excitement since her election and consecration,” explained Stania.
“We have been an open and affirming diocese for many years. Bishop Perry brings many incredible talents and abilities to our diocese, including her talent for growing congregations and serving and engaging deeply within communities. These talents are something that all of our congregations are eager to utilize and to learn from.”
In 2003, The Episcopal Church garnered controversy when it consecrated the Rev. Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop in the denomination’s history.
Robinson’s consecration as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire led to large numbers of Episcopalians leaving the denomination in protest.
Jeff Walton, Anglican program director with the theologically conservative Institute on Religion & Democracy, told CP that for many years after Robinson, few openly gay bishops had been elected.
“Following the much publicized election and consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003, the only openly partnered gay clergy elected was Mary Glasspool as a Bishop Suffragan for the Diocese of Los Angeles in 2009,” said Walton.
“The consecration of Thomas James Brown as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine in 2019 was the first partnered gay clergy consecrated as a bishop in about a decade.”
Walton also explained to CP that over the past 20 years, the Michigan Diocese has seen “a significant exodus” of members.
“In general, Episcopal dioceses in the upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions have shed a larger percentage of their parishioners than the Episcopal Church as a whole,” he explained.
“Perry’s election is one more item among many that push theological conservatives out of the church.”