COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 18 — The Episcopal Church elected Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of Nevada as its presiding bishop on Sunday, making her the first woman to lead a church in the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Many Episcopalians gathered here for the church's triennial general convention cheered the largely unexpected choice of Bishop Jefferts Schori, 52, the lone woman and one of the youngest of the seven candidates for the job. Her election was a milestone for the Episcopal Church, which began ordaining women only in 1976.
She takes on her new responsibilities at a particularly fraught moment in the history of the Episcopal Church, the American branch of the Anglican Communion, the world's third-largest church body, with 77 million members. She was elected to succeed Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, who will retire in November when his nine-year term ends.
At the last general convention, in 2003, the church consented to the election of an openly gay man, the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire. The decision deeply offended some Episcopalians in the United States and many Anglican primates abroad, who saw it as blatant disregard of Scripture.
Since then, some United States congregations have left the Episcopal Church, and primates overseas have threatened schism. Bishop Jefferts Schori supported Bishop Robinson's election in 2003, and the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada permits the blessing of same-sex unions. Moreover, that Bishop Jefferts Schori is a woman could further strain relations with three dioceses in the United States and many Anglican provinces that refuse to ordain women as priests and bishops, critics of the vote said Sunday....