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Episcopal Diocese of Michigan prepares to consecrate first woman, lesbian bishop

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan will get a new leader this weekend, and it will be a historic event on two fronts.

The Reverend Bonnie Perry will be consecrated as bishop at a ceremony in Dearborn on Saturday. She will become the first woman and first openly-LGBTQ person to lead the diocese, which covers 77 Episcopal congregations in southeast Michigan.

Perry has been an ordained Episcopal priest and deacon since 1990. She comes to Michigan from Chicago, where she has led the All Saints’ congregation for 27 years. She was elected bishop of the Michigan diocese in June 2019.

“This was the diocese that I wanted to come to,” Perry said on Friday at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Detroit, where she will be based. “There is a justice, social justice legacy here that I wanted to build on. I loved the interplay between suburbs and urban, and wealth and despair. All of that seemed completely compelling to me.”

Perry said she also “came here for the waters.” An avid kayaker, Perry said protecting the Great Lakes and Michigan’s other waterways is one way to “live out the care of our creation.”

“That is something that I hope all of us will continue to guard, and very much look at any efforts to roll back the care and the safeguarding of our watershed,” she said. “I think that is how we live out our Gospel values, as stewards of creation.”

Perry said that as bishop, she also wants to lead discussions about racial reconciliation and the legacy of white supremacy.

“With God, all things are possible. And so I believe that we in the faith community need to be about exploring and having audacious goals that we get to bit by bit,” Perry said.

“I think we can have those conversations and bridge those chasms, and then I think the church can be a model for how we do that. It’s not easy, and it’s not small. It’s the work probably of our lifetime, but it’s something I very much want to do in our episcopate, here in this diocese.”

The Most Reverend Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, will preside over Perry’s consecration.

“I think that this is a wonderful day, not just for the Episcopal church, but for the faith of Christianity, as a face that smiles, and that really is loving, and really is welcoming,” Curry said. “Bishop-elect Bonnie Perry represents that faith.”

As of July 2019, women made up nearly 19% of the active bishops in the Episcopal Church. The church elected its first openly gay bishop, Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, in 2004; and its first openly lesbian bishop, Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool, in 2010.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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