Diocese of Kansas names three women as candidates for bishop in historic first for the Episcopal Church

Posted Aug 15, 2018

The Rev. Cathleen Chittenden Bascom, left, the Rev. Martha N. Macgill and the Rev. Helen Svoboda-Barber are candidates for 10th bishop of the Diocese of Kansas. The election is set for Oct. 19 in Topeka. Photo: Diocese of Kansas

[Episcopal Diocese of Kansas] In a first for the Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Kansas will select the 10th bishop of the diocese from a slate of women candidates.

The three people are:

  • The Rev. Cathleen Chittenden Bascom, assistant professor of religion at Waldorf University, Waldorf, Iowa;
  • The Rev. Martha N. Macgill, rector, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Cumberland, Maryland; and
  • The Rev. Helen Svoboda-Barber, rector of Luke’s Episcopal Church, Durham, North Carolina.

The Presiding Bishop’s Office of Pastoral Development confirmed that this will be the first time that a diocesan bishop is elected from an all-women slate of candidates.

Macgill and Svoboda-Barber were presented as candidates on June 21 by the Council of Trustees, acting in its canonical role as the diocese’s Standing Committee. Chittenden Bascom was added by petition and announced by the council on Aug. 15.

More information about all three candidates is online here.

The Very Rev. Foster Mays, president of the Council of Trustees, said, “From the beginning of our bishop search process, grounded and directed by the Spirit, everyone has sought a slate of excellent candidates for election as the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Kansas. We now have three such candidates. The fact that they are all women, while historic, speaks to the ministry and experience of ordained women across the Episcopal Church. Kansas is delighted to be the first diocese to select their next bishop from an outstanding group of women.”

The first woman bishop in the Episcopal Church (and in the worldwide Anglican Communion) was the Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris, who was elected bishop suffragan of Massachusetts in 1988.

The first woman to serve as diocesan bishop was the Rt. Rev. Mary Adelia McLeod of Vermont, who was elected in 1993.

Women first were ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church in 1974, in irregular ordinations that were recognized by the Episcopal Church in 1976. The first woman to be ordained as deacon and priest in the Diocese of Kansas was the Reverend Mary Schrom (now Breese) in 1982.

The election of the next bishop will take place on the first day of Diocesan Convention, Oct. 19, at Grace Cathedral in Topeka. The Service of Ordination and Consecration is scheduled for March 2, 2019, at the cathedral, with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry officiating.

Members of the diocese will have the chance to meet the candidates in walkabouts scheduled across the diocese for Oct. 2-5.

The Episcopal Diocese of Kansas includes more than 10,000 members in 44 congregations. It was founded in 1859, and its offices are located in Topeka. The diocese covers the eastern 40 percent of the state of Kansas, extending as far west as Abilene and Wichita. It also includes the cities of Topeka, Lawrence, Manhattan and the entire Kansas City metropolitan area on the Kansas side of the state line.


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Comments (4)

  1. John Rabb says:

    You are incorrect as to Kansas being first to have a slate of only women. In 2014 the Diocese of Maryland had four candidates for Bishop Suffragan, one is one of the candidates for Kansas, and all four were women. It is encouraging that we are starting to see slates where there is no need to balance genders, but to have the best qualified candidates.

    1. We confirmed that we are the first all-women slate for election as DIOCESAN bishop.

      1. John L Rabb says:

        Correct this is the first time for a bishop diocesan election, but it is not so clear in the introduction and in the trailers. My point is only to note that there was an election for the episcopate before where all of the candidates were women. Since the canons for the election of bishops diocesan, suffragan and coadjutor are the same I simply wanted the record to be fully correct. But also congratulations to Kansas are due.

  2. Rev Vincent Schwahn says:

    If it were the other way around there would be hell to pay! That said, more power to the Diocese of Kansas! Prayers arising.

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