First Woman and First LGBT To Lead Episcopal Diocese of Michigan

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DFP — When she was 16, Bonnie Perry attended a Catholic youth retreat that changed her life.

“During that retreat I had a profound experience of being loved for who I was, as I was, in the person of Jesus Christ,” recalled Perry, who was raised Catholic. “My life has never been the same. …The reality that Jesus loves me, and you, all of us completely and utterly, that is what fuels my passion for life and for the Gospel and for our church.”

But when she felt called to the priesthood while a student at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, she realized she would have to leave since the Catholic Church doesn’t allow female pastors. As someone who identified as a lesbian, she said she would feel especially marginalized in the Catholic Church. 

And so she became an Episcopalian pastor and later a rector at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Chicago where she has served for the past 26 years.

Now, Rev. Perry is set to become the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan after she was elected June 1, becoming the first woman and first LGBT pastor to lead the historic diocese in eastern Michigan founded in 1836. 

Rev. Bonnie Perry, 57, Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. She was elected on June 1, 2019 and is to become head of the Michigan diocese in Feb. 2020. She is currently the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago
Rev. Bonnie Perry, 57, Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. She was elected on June 1, 2019 and is to become head of the Michigan diocese in Feb. 2020. She is currently the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago (Photo: Charlie Simokaitis, Episcopal Diocese of Michigan)

After her investiture ceremony in early February, she will be the first female LGBT pastor in the U.S to lead a diocese in the Episcopal Church, seen as America’s elite Protestant denomination. She was chosen from four candidates, all of them women. The current bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan since 2000, Rt. Rev. Wendell Gibbs Jr., was the first African American pastor to be bishop of the diocese, which includes 16,000 baptized members in 75 congregations.

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