The Michigan diocese of the Episcopal Church is about to welcome its first female and first openly lesbian bishop this weekend.

The elevation of the Rev. Bonnie A. Perry to bishop in Michigan comes as some Christian denominations in the U.S. struggle with issues of same-sex marriages and gays or lesbians in church leadership roles.

Perry was elected last June at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Detroit and her ordination will be held Saturday in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn.

The Episcopal Church is a member church of the Anglican Communion and based in the United States. Photo / 123RF
The Episcopal Church is a member church of the Anglican Communion and based in the United States. Photo / 123RF

The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson became the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop in 2004. Episcopal conservatives opposed to the ordination of gay priests later formed the separate Anglican Church in North America in 2009.


In January, United Methodist Church leaders unveiled a plan to resolve its dispute over same-sex weddings and gay and lesbian clergy. Conservative churches opposed to the election of lesbian or gay bishops would form a new denomination.

Perry said Friday during a news conference at the Detroit church that she is aware of what her election as bishop means to others.

"If you look at scripture, Jesus said absolutely nothing about homosexuality," she said. "And over and over and over again, we see Jesus always being with people who were perceived by other folks to be on the margin, to be outsiders or less than or not worthy."

"I just hold that in my ministry," Perry continued. "Anyone that's on the margin needs to be welcomed."

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will lead Saturday's ordination. He said the church as a community seeking to follow Jesus "must be a place" where God's "love is lived out."

"And living out that kind of unselfish, sacrificial, profoundly inclusive and welcoming and embracing love means that that applies to everybody," he said.

The Episcopal Church says the Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris became its first female bishop when she was ordained in 1989 in Massachusetts. The Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool was the church's first lesbian bishop in 2010 in Los Angeles.

Perry most recently lived in Chicago. She was ordained as a priest in 1990 in the Diocese of Newark. She later led the congregation of All Saints' in the Diocese of Chicago.


Perry succeeds the Rt. Rev. Wendell Gibbs in Michigan who retired in December. On Sunday, she will be formally welcomed and seated at the Detroit church.

The Diocese of Michigan was formed in 1836 and has 75 congregations and more than 16,000 baptized members in the state's southeastern region. There are three other dioceses in Michigan.