By Mike Hitch
The Michigan diocese of the Episcopal Church has its first official female and openly lesbian Bishop.
The Episcopal Diocese ordained and consecrated Dr Bonnie Perry during a ceremony at the Ford Community Arts Centre in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn on Saturday.
Rev. Bonnie A. Perry is the first female and openly lesbian priest to be elected as Bishop since the diocese was formed in 1836.
“All are welcome. Everybody made in God’s image and likeness; everybody’s a child of God; everybody gets to come and be,” she said shortly after the ceremony.
“For me, it’s about full inclusion for all people – straight, gay, bi, trans, gender fluid – this is about everyone.
“Every time you exclude someone, you exclude the possibility of change and transformation.”
Perry described the ceremony of ordination and consecration was one of “the most intense experiences” of her life. She was surrounded by familiar faces of clergy-members and the community who came to witness the special and historic moment.
First ordained as deacon and priest 30 years ago in the Diocese of Newark, New Jersey, Perry has served as pastor at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Chicago from 1992 until now.
Having grown up in a devout Irish Catholic family, Perry said that she could not imagine a future for herself as part of the Roman Catholic church as a woman and a lesbian.
All of the candidates up for the position of Bishop were women, according to the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. Perry required a minimum of 55 clergy votes and 94 lay votes to be elected; she received 64 clergy votes and 118 lay votes when she was elected on June 1 last year.
Perry told CNN that her first objective is to help bridge the gap between different communities in Detroit.
“As we know, our country right now is deeply polarised, and I think part of that is because people have perspectives from one place and then from another, and we’re not actually spending time listening to each other.”
“Jesus was always out and about and talking to people, people who were always on the margins.”
Perry and her partner, who is also a pastor in the church, have been together for 32 years and have been married “as long as it’s been legal in our country”.
She looks forward to beginning her new role as Bishop.
“I’m in awe of the responsibility and I’m so excited by the possibilities,” she said.