Yesterday, the Reverend Dr. Glenda Curry was elected as bishop coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama. Assuming her election receives the consent of other dioceses, she will be consecrated by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (no known relation) on June 28. Upon the retirement of the Right Reverend John McKee Sloan as bishop at the end of the year, she will become the diocesan bishop.
While she will be the first woman to serve as a bishop in Alabama’s Episcopal Church. At least two other denominations have had woman bishops in charge of their north Alabama regions.
The Reverend Teresa E. Jefferson-Snorton was elected in 2010 by the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and assigned to denomintion’s Fifth Episcopal District which is headquartered in Birmingham. She was the first women elected bishop in her denomination.
The Reverend Debra Wallace-Padget was elected in summer 2012 by the Southeast Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church and assigned to the North Alabama Conference. Her second and final term as bishop in north Alabama will end this year. United Methodists first elected a woman as bishop in 1984.
The first woman to be elected to the order of bishops in the Episcopal Church was Barbara Harris who was consecrated to be bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Massachusetts in 1989. The first woman to serve as the head of her own diocese was Mary Adelia McLeod who was installed as bishop of Vermont in 1996. She has a Birmingham connection. Before entering the priesthood, she was a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Mountain Brook.
In Curry’s election, an important part of the story is that the candidate who received the second highest number of votes was also a woman, the Reverend Allison Sandlin Liles. Both women represented alternatives to the typical Episcopal bishop. Curry served as president of Troy University Montgomery before entering the priesthood. Liles is young and in her interview and speeches before the diocese, she appeared to be the most outspoken and progressive of the candidates. The strong support she received shows that many in the diocese are looking for a dynamic change in their aging and shrinking church.