First African-American woman elected diocesan bishop

Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows elected 11th bishop of Indianapolis

Posted Oct 28, 2016
Diocese of Indianapolis Bishop-elect Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows. Photo: Diocese of Indianapolis

Diocese of Indianapolis Bishop-elect Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows. Photo: Diocese of Indianapolis

[Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis] The Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows was elected 11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis on the second ballot Oct. 28 at Christ Church Cathedral Indianapolis.

Baskerville-Burrows, 50, is the first African-American woman elected to be a diocesan bishop in the Episcopal Church.

She was elected with 67 votes in the clergy order and 82 in the lay order.

Her election culminated a nearly two-year discernment and search process by the diocese at the 179th diocesan convention. The Rt. Rev. Catherine M. Waynick plans to retire in the spring of 2017.

The other four nominees were:

  • The Rev. Grace Burton-Edwards, rector, St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Columbus, Georgia;
  • The Rev. Canon Bruce Gray, canon to the ordinary, Diocese of Indianapolis;
  • The Rev. Canon Patrick Lance Ousley, priest in charge and headmaster, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Parish & Preschool, Kirkland, Washington; canon for stewardship & development, Diocese of Olympia; and
  • The Rev. Dina van Klaveren, rector, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Glenwood, Maryland.

Further information about the bishop search and the nominees is available here.

Baskerville-Burrows currently serves as director of networking for the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, nourishing partnerships and connections for church revitalization.

“In 19 years of ordained ministry, and especially in the past five helping to oversee and restructure the Diocese of Chicago, I’ve supported communities of transformation, communicated a vision of hope and gathered and networked God’s people across distance and difference,” Baskerville-Burrows said. “I believe these experiences have prepared me to lead and serve in the particular place that is the Diocese of Indianapolis.”

She is from New York, ordained by the Diocese of Central New York, and a graduate of Smith College, Cornell University and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. She has expertise in historic preservation and a passion for issues including gun violence, social justice, and racial and class reconciliation. She also maintains a strong focus in guiding others through the practice of spiritual direction.

One of the defining experiences of her ministry came when she found herself near the World Trade Center the morning of September 11, 2001. In the midst of a fearful situation, her own faith and the faith of others who sought shelter alongside her gave her a renewed perspective of faith vanquishing fear.

“The Episcopal Church is where I found my relationship with Jesus some 30 years ago, “she said. “It teaches me that the world is filled with incredible beauty and unspeakable pain and that God is deeply in the midst of it all loving us fiercely. So each day, nourished by the sacraments and stories of our faith, the beauty of our liturgical tradition, the wide embrace of this Christian community, I learn over and over again how to live without fear.”

Pending the canonically required consent of a majority of the Episcopal Church’s diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction, Baskerville-Burrows will be ordained and consecrated as bishop of the Diocese of Indianapolis on April 29, 2017, at Clowes Hall at Butler University.

— Episcopal News Service contributed to this story.


Comments (32)

  1. Edward Thompson says:

    The “arc of the universe” just got bent a little further toward justice and reconciliation, with Jennifer’s election. She is clear-headed, well grounded, and unafraid to have and facilitate “fierce conversations.” Blessings and best wishes, Sister!

  2. Umm…Bishop Barbara Harris? Clarify, plz.

    1. Andrew G. Kadel says:

      Barbara Harris was bishop suffragan in Massachusetts–thus an assistant without full authority for a diocese.

    2. Louis Bannister says:

      The article is correct. Bishop Harris (both of them) were elected as suffragan (assisting) bishops.

    3. Nancy F. Neighbors says:

      Thanks for that. I wondered…. I’m from the Diocese of S. OH, which elected our first African Bishop Herbert Thompson. Feel better! Apologies. nfn

  3. Janet Hager says:

    Bishop Harris was an assisting Bishop not the Diocesan

    1. Mary Frances Schjonberg says:

      The same is true of Diocese of Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris (no relation).

  4. Douglas Fenton says:

    What a wonderful gift to the Diocese of Indianapolis and to the rest of the church!

    1. Sally Hardgrove says:

      Indeed it is a blessing. I was a delegate at Convention, and the Spirit was palpable. She will lead us as we seek justice and compassion in our community.

  5. Owene Courtney says:

    What a blessing for the Diocese of Indianapolis!

  6. Brad Peterson says:

    The people of the diocese of Indianapolis have chosen a good bishop elect from a field of good candidates. Jennifer will bring not only experience and intelligence to the role of bishop, but also verve and enthusiasm.


    Fantastic, well done Indianapolis! Blessings galore to you, and to Jennifer & family. Wishing you a gentle transition, and much aroha/love, from New Zealand.

  8. Kathleen Whiting says:

    How lovely to see the new Bishop-elect was chosen among four other nominees, two of whom were also women. It looks like we are beginning steps along a new path, considering attributes that make a strong Bishop and not which gender the candidate is. I will watch with great curiosity and joy as her interests in reconciliation and relationship building have an effect on her expanded ministry.

  9. Patricia Daniel-Turk says:

    Praise God from whom all blessings flow……..congratulations to the Diocese of Indianapolis and to Bishop-Elect Baskerville-Burrows!

  10. Jean Craig stengel says:

    Finally, at long last, it is about time. Actually, it is way over due. Congratulations, Jennifer!

  11. Barbara Summey Marshall says:

    Congratulations Bishop JenniferBaskervilleBurrows…..Proud.proud.proud of the Episcopalian Lineage of Faith

  12. Bill Kiley says:

    And now, with this election, we have a partial answer to Jennifer’s question of why she was spared on 9/11. She will lead us all on the path of reconciliation.
    Peace and all that is good
    Bill Kiley
    Long Island, New York

  13. Cn. Shirley M. Watts says:

    Congratulations and Best Wishes Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows! May God continue to bless you and guide you for His work. All Praise and Glory to God for your new journey in His Church.

  14. Bob Witten says:

    Congratulations and blessings. While our nation is divided in political strife , your
    Election is spiritually comforting. Go forth and conquer!

  15. Herb Gunn says:

    Well, Yea! What great news for the Episcopal Church!!

  16. Dave Strong says:

    I’m excited for and proud of my diocese, and look forward to her being my bishop in the spring!

  17. My dear Bishop Baskerville-Burrows:
    Sending prayers and sincere congratulations from one New Yorker to another. I took great comfort with your comment that “….I learn over and over again how to live without fear…”
    May the good Lord guide you and help you see what He is trying to show you, through prayer and meditation.
    With sincere regards, Suzanne J. Currie
    Calvary Episcopal Church, Summit NJ

  18. The Rev. Dr. Sylvia Bradfield+Mitchell says:

    God graciously bless you, my Sister in ministry! Being from Indiana, it was there at THE Cathedral years ago…Our LORD began the calling of Urban Ministry for me in the summer program!!!
    Now I’m a Chaplain in Transportation , an ordained priest & an Associate Pastor in a black evangelical church in New York !!!
    Let’s keep one another in prayer!! One of my spiritual daughters is a priest in Chicago…& was the 1st African-American ordained there! I had the privilege of walking her down the aisle!!! She was ordained by the 1st black Suff. Bp. Of Chicago!!! WOW!!! Look what Our LORD is doing!!!

  19. Dolores Osborne says:

    So proud to know and be a part of your life. From Trinity to Indianapolis. God bless and watch over you.

  20. Tony Green says:

    Let us continue to pray that all whom the Spirit calls to guide the Church may do so, especially in those parts of the Body where it continues to be impeded and forbidden.

  21. George Gentry says:

    Congratulations Bishop Baskerville-Burrows and may God continue to bless you as you serve His people. You probably don’t remember me, but I believe we rode the elevator together from the parking garage of the Sheraton Hotel Thursday evening. You and another lady. You commented you were there to elect a bishop. I mentioned I was there attending Environmental training. Small world. God bless.

  22. Louis Stanley Schoen says:

    Thanks be to God, indeed! It’s a direct response to the need for greater diversity acknowledged by the bishops at their recent meeting. And, having co-facilitated an antiracism workshop for the Diocese in Indianapolis several years ago, attended by Bishop Waynick, I’m especially delighted!

  23. The Rev. Ann Van Dervoort says:

    Dear Jennifer,
    I am so proud of you and so happy for you!
    I knew you would go far when we worked together in the women’s Caucus!
    You Go girl!!
    Faithfully, Ann

  24. Rev. Betsy Rosen says:

    Jennifer! I’m so proud of you! Boy, Indianapolis got lucky – I mean, is blessed. Come back to Marin and visit someday!
    Deo gracias,

  25. The Rev. Melanie Donahoe says:

    I have felt blessed each time I have been in your orbit, Jennifer. This is such a gift for our entire Church. May the Spirit continue to lead and guide you. You are in our prayers of thanksgiving!

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