A Chicago priest has become the first black woman to be elected as a diocesan bishop in the US-based Episcopal Church (TEC). Bishops Barbara Harris and Gayle Harris were the first black women to serve as suffragan bishops within TEC; but after Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows receives the necessary consents from the wider church, she will become the first black woman diocesan bishop when she is consecrated in April.
Baskerville-Burrows was elected bishop of the Diocese of Indianapolis on the second ballot in a five-candidate election. She received 67 clergy votes and 82 lay votes. The election came at the end of a two-year discernment process to find a successor to Bishop Catherine Waynick, who will retire in Spring 2017.
“In 19 years of ordained ministry, and especially in the past five helping to oversee and restructure the Diocese of Chicago, I’ve supported communities of transformation, communicated a vision of hope and gathered and networked God’s people across distance and difference,” Bishop-elect Baskerville-Burrows said. “I believe these experiences have prepared me to lead and serve in the particular place that is the diocese of Indianapolis.”
She said that “the Episcopal Church is where I found my relationship with Jesus some 30 years ago. It teaches me that the world is filled with incredible beauty and unspeakable pain and that God is deeply in the midst of it all loving us fiercely.
“So each day, nourished by the sacraments and stories of our faith, the beauty of our liturgical tradition, the wide embrace of this Christian community, I learn over and over again how to live without fear.”
In her current role, Baskerville-Burrows serves as director of networking for the diocese of Chicago. Her diocesan bishop, Jeff Lee, welcomed the election, saying: “Among the vows that bishops take when we are ordained to that office, we promise to encourage and support all baptised people in their gifts and ministries, to nourish them from the riches of God’s grace, to show compassion to the poor and strangers, and defend those who have no helper.
“I can hardly think of anyone whose gifts are more suited to this ministry, and I rejoice with the people of Indianapolis and the entire church at her election.”
Bishop-elect Baskerville-Burrows’ consecration has been scheduled for 11 am EDT (3 pm GMT) on April 29, at Butler University’s Clowes Memorial Hall in Indianapolis.