DETROIT -- Since its formation in 1836, no woman or openly gay priest has ever been elected to lead the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan.
That changed Saturday, when the Rev. Bonnie Perry was ordained and consecrated as the body's 11th bishop, overseeing more than 16,000 baptized members across the state.
She succeeds the Right Rev. Wendell N. Gibbs Jr., who had served as the diocese's first African-American diocesan bishop since 2000 and retired in December, officials said.
While the Chicago transplant recognizes the significance of the milestone and how it offers hope to many faithful, Perry believes she is simply answering a calling.
"What we say in the faith community is: Each and every one of us is made in God's likeness," Perry said. "If that's the case, then God's image and likeness has many different faces."
As conversations about greater inclusion for women and minorities reverberate nationally and influence Protestant denominations, Perry's advancement encourages Metro Detroit Episcopalians as a reflection of progressive steps.
"I do believe 2020 is the year of the woman," said the Rev. Barry Randolph, who leads the Church of the Messiah on Detroit's east side. "There are women in so many different leadership positions. Women are taking hold and rising to the ranks."
Perry is the 39th woman bishop in the Episcopal Church, representatives reported. The church has allowed women to become priests and bishops since the late 1970s.
Before lay members and clergy elected her in June to replace Gibbs, the class "marked the first time in the history of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan that the slate of candidates was comprised entirely of women," officials said in a statement..
Perry noticed other women were elected diocesan or suffragan bishops in the U.S. last year.