For only the second time in history, the Episcopal Church has elected a
woman to serve as a bishop.
The Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon, 54-year-old rector of St. Philip's Church
in Laurel, Maryland, was elected suffragan bishop of the Diocese of
Washington on May 30 at a special convention. Dixon joins Bishop Barbara
Harris, who nearly four years ago was elected suffragan bishop of
Massachusetts and the Anglican Communion's first woman bishop.
Dixon led the list of seven candidates -- including three other women -- on
the first ballot and received the necessary majority of votes from the 330
clergy and lay delegates on the third ballot.
The election was hailed by a five-minute standing ovation. Dixon was
escorted to the podium by members of the diocesan standing committee, which
she chairs. Her remarks to the convention were punctuated several times by
"For women this election is much more than Jane Dixon. It is a
confirmation that we are created in the image of God, male and female, and a
major statement of a basic Christian principle to empower both men and
women," Dixon said following the election. Acknowledging the continuing
debate about women's ordination in the church, she added, "I'm sure there are
people who will be disturbed, but I believe in my heart there are more people
who will rejoice."
Reactions stress wholeness of ministry
Bishop Harris expressed her delight with the election and said, "Far
more significant than her sex are her skills as pastor, teacher, and counselor.
Her election is another step forward for our church in recognizing, accepting,
and affirming the gifts that so many women bring to the people of God."
"The election of Jane Dixon is another milestone in this church," said
Bishop Ronald Haines, who called for the election of a suffragan at a diocesan
convention last January. "She and I already have had the privilege of serving
together. She knows the diocese well, has considerable skills as a parish
priest, and comes from a parish that has experienced substantial growth,"
Haines said that Dixon would find "a warm welcome" in the House of
Bishops. "In the larger communion there is a slow but steady trend toward
election of women as bishops," Haines observed.
Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning sent a special message in which he
stressed the "sense of wholeness" women have brought to ministry. "This is a
wonderful and natural outgrowth of the positive experience we have had for so
many years of women serving as priests."
Pamela Chinnis, warden of Epiphany Church where the election was
held, said, "As the first woman president of the House of Deputies, I welcome
the addition of more women to the House of Bishops," adding that the election
was greatly enriched by the caliber of all the candidates.
Following consent from standing committees and bishops of the
church's other dioceses, Dixon will probably be consecrated in mid-November.
As a suffragan bishop, Dixon will stress congregational development and the
oversight of missions in the diocese, comprised of 97 congregations and
41,000 members in the District of Columbia and four counties in Maryland.
During public forums in which all the candidates participated, Dixon
was asked about the ordination of homosexuals. She said that, in light of the
baptismal covenant, she "could not exclude any person on one issue alone."
She added, "If the Gospel of Jesus Christ weren't inclusive, I wouldn't be
Dixon, one of 44 women priests in the diocese, was a candidate for
suffragan bishop of North Carolina in 1990.
After graduation from Vanderbilt University, Dixon taught school
before resigning to raise a family, and then studied theology at Virginia
Theological Seminary. In 1982 she graduated and was ordained the second
woman priest in the diocese.