Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows becomes 11th bishop of Indianapolis, first black woman to lead Episcopal diocese

Posted May 1, 2017

Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows greets the congregation at her consecration as Bishop Barbara Harris, center, and Bishop Catherine Waynick, left, look on. Photo: Meghan McConnell

[Diocese of Indianapolis] The Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows was ordained and consecrated the eleventh bishop of Indianapolis April 29, making her the first black woman to lead a diocese in the history of the Episcopal Church and the first woman to succeed another woman as diocesan bishop.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry led the service as chief consecrator and was joined by more than 40 bishops from across the church. Nearly 1,400 participated in the service at Clowes Hall on the campus of Butler University. Diocese of Chicago Jeffrey D. Lee preached. From 2012 until her election as bishop, Baskerville-Burrows served on Lee’s staff as director of networking in the Diocese of Chicago.

“Indianapolis, you have called a strong, loving and wise pastor to be your bishop,” said Lee, in a sermon that was interrupted by applause several times. “She will love you, challenge you, tell you the truth as she sees it and invite you to tell it as you do. She will pray with you at the drop of a hat and care for you in ways that will not diminish your own agency. She will empower you. She will lead. Count on it.”

Bishop Catherine Waynick hands the crozier to Bishop Jennifer-Baskerville Burrows. Saturday’s consecration was the first time in Episcopal Church history that a female bishop has transferred authority to another female bishop. Photo: Meghan McConnell

Among the co-consecrators at the service was the Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris, the first female bishop in the Anglican Communion. Before the consecration, Baskerville-Burrows told the Indianapolis Star, “The first thing that comes to mind is how grateful I am to the women that have come before. Barbara Harris will be at my consecration, and when I think about what she’s done for me and how I’ve even encountered little girls saying, ‘Oh my gosh. One day, may I discern such a call?’ That is just everything.”

Harris retired in 2003 as bishop suffragan of Massachusetts and was succeeded by the Rt. Rev. Gayle Harris (no relation), who was also a co-consecrator of Baskerville-Burrows.  The other co-consecrators were Bishop Catherine Waynick (her predecessor), Northern Indiana Bishop Douglas Sparks, Atlanta Bishop Robert Wright and Evangelical Lutheran Church in American Indiana-Kentucky Synod Bishop William Gafkjen.

The order of service for the ordination and consecration is here.

She was seated the next day in Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis.

Baskerville-Burrows was elected in October by the clergy and lay leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis to lead 48 congregations that comprise nearly 10,000 Episcopalians in central and southern Indiana. She succeeds Waynick, who led the Diocese of Indianapolis for 20 years and was one of the first female bishops in the Episcopal Church.

“Sitting at the crossroads of America, this diocese has a special call to bring healing, hope and love to a world that is too often fearful, hurting and polarized,” Baskerville-Burrows said before her election. “I see the Diocese of Indianapolis as an inclusive community of hope bearing the light of Jesus Christ to central and southern Indiana and the world.”

Before her work in Chicago, Baskerville-Burrows was rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Syracuse, New York, where she also served as Episcopal chaplain at Syracuse University. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Smith College, a master’s degree in historic preservation planning from Cornell University and a master of divinity from Church Divinity School of the Pacific. She and her husband, Harrison, met at her ordination to the priesthood in 1998 and were married in 2003. They have a son, Timothy, age 6, who is a kindergarten student at St. Richard’s Episcopal School in Indianapolis.

Previous ENS coverage of the historic weekend is here.


Comments (9)

  1. den mark wichar (Olympia) says:

    makes me HAPPY & PROUD. blessings, Bishop Jennifer!

  2. Dina Fulgoni says:

    This is wonderful but I cannot believe it has taken this long.

  3. Robert Cromey says:

    I believe Fr. Baskerville was rector of St. Cyprian’s SF many years ago. I wonder if they are related?

    Robert Cromey

  4. Rev. Betsy Rosen says:

    Jennifer – how wonderful! They are so lucky to have you!
    Betsy Rosen, Deacon at Christ Church, Sausalito

  5. Kilty Maoris says:

    Another move that will create an even greater schism in this church. Nothing looks more irrelevant than a woman in male clerical garb. Looks like a setting for let’s pretend. There is much for women to do in TEC and they don’t need to encroach on the few roles left for men.
    Thank God there still is a very viable church that will not allow women priests, bishops or cardinals. Long may the Universal church live and thrive.

    1. Michael Scullary says:

      I’m pretty sure I’m remember reading that Jesus, being the unorthodox fellow that He was, did not stereotype and discriminate based on gender and social/cultural/religious norms of the time, as evident in the Gospels (since it is Easter and Pentecost time, please review who He revealed Himself to first after the Resurrection, who was present to receive the Holy Spirit, and which genders were present during the Great Commissionings, among other evident examples).

      It’s funny that you bring up a “very viable church,” since the Roman Catholic Church, along with the early Church FATHERS, have advanced the humanistic male chauvinistic ideology for centuries.

      The moral of the story is: A true Jesus-centered community that actually READS and DIGESTS the GOSPELS has men AND women on equal terms and at all levels….it’s pretty common sense.

  6. Tony Oberdorfer says:

    I agree with Kilty Maoris and I’m sure many others (including not a few women!) do as well even though in today’s political climate they feel intimidated from speaking out.

    1. Tim Reimer says:

      I do not believe the political climate stops anyone from speaking out. Your views are welcome even they are thought by many to be ignorant. And ignorant they are.

  7. den mark wichar (Olympia) says:

    just finished watching parts of the consecration on youtube. the sustained applause at the passing of the staff from Catherine to Jennifer at about 1:43:00, the power of the liberation hymn at about 2:32:00, & the loving cheers for Bishop Jennifer as she processed out at about 2:40:00, all prove how righteous the Church’s path is. may God continue to bless the journey.

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