Episcopalians Elect First Woman to Lead Church U.S. Episcopalians elect a woman to head the more than 2-million-member denomination. Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada is the first female bishop to head the national churches in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Episcopalians Elect First Woman to Lead Church

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The Episcopalian's have elected the first woman to lead the more than two million member denomination in the United States. She will also be the first female bishop to head any of the 38 national churches in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Chicago public radio's Jason DeRose reports from the Episcopal General Convention in Columbus, Ohio.

JASON DEROSE reporting:

After five hours of deliberation, fellow bishops named Katharine Jefferts Schori, of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, the new presiding bishop-elect on the fifth ballot.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. DEROSE: (Unintelligible) and clergy delegates to the church's general convention then confirmed that vote with thunderous applause and a standing ovation. Jefferts Schori's election comes at a time when Episcopalians in the U.S. are deeply divided over issues of sexuality and their relationship to more conservative churches in the Anglican Communion.

In presenting the bishop-elect, Bishop Catherine Waynick, of the Diocese of Indianapolis, said Jefferts Schori is the right choice at the right time.

Right Reverend CATHERINE WAYNICK (Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis): But it is always the right time to recognize persons who are capable and faithful and articulate, and who have the ability to carry the vision and the mission and to share it with the church and with the world beyond us.

DEROSE: Jefferts Schori has taken public positions in favor of fully including gays and lesbians in the church. Three years ago, she supported the selection of Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the church's first openly gay bishop.

Nonetheless, Jefferts Schori says she will try to work with those who oppose her views on homosexuality.

Right Reverend KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI (Presiding Bishop-Elect, Episcopal Church): A commitment to remaining in relationship and trying to build relationship with people who disagree or are offended or appalled at a decision usually goes a long way.

DEROSE: Leaders of Integrity, the gay and lesbian rights group within the church, say they're pleased with the selection of Jefferts Schori, which comes 30 years after the Episcopal Church first began ordaining women to the priesthood. Reverend Susan Russell is Integrity's president

Reverend SUSAN RUSSELL (President, Integrity USA): I think her election is an opportunity for us to witness to the larger communion of what a church looks like and what ministry looks like when all of the baptized are fully included in all orders of ministry.

DEROSE: But some within the church warn Jefferts Schori's selection will deepen the serious fissures that already exist in the Anglican Communion.

Canon David Anderson of The American Anglican Council.

Reverend Canon DAVID ANDERSON (President and CEO, The American Anglican Council): By her writings and quotes from speeches she's made, indicates she is a revisionist very much a part of the gay and lesbian agenda. This will take us in a trajectory farther out of the Anglican orbit.

DEROSE: Today, here in Columbus, the Episcopalian convention will decide whether to continue consecrating gay bishops, and whether to create an official ceremony for blessing same-sex unions. The official installation of Jefferts Schori as the 26th presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church is scheduled for November 4 at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C.

For NPR News, I'm Jason DeRose in Columbus.

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