Updated. The Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows will become the first African American woman to lead an Episcopal Diocese when she becomes the Bishop of Indianapolis.
Her ascension is historic. The denomination, which spans the United States and 17 other countries, has seen a few black female bishops in assisting roles. But never has the Episcopal Church chosen a black woman to lead a diocese.
“Like all positions of leadership in the church and corporate America, being first is a wonderful thing,” she said, seated in a dark wooden pew in the cathedral. “It’s breaking the stained glass ceiling.”
Baskerville-Burrows, 50, was elected last fall at the diocesan convention and replaces the retiring Right Rev. Catherine M. Waynick. To mark the occasion, 44 bishops from throughout the United States and beyond will descend on Indianapolis for an installation ceremony set for Saturday at 11 a.m. at Butler’s Clowes Hall.
As a black woman who grew up in the projects, Baskerville-Burrows might seem an unlikely person to lead an Indiana diocese where the vast majority of the parishioners are white. But her journey to this point is insightful.
Baskerville-Burrows is the 26th woman elected bishop in the Episcopal Church and will be the 12th female diocesan bishop, as well as the 44th African-American bishop and the 1,100thbishop overall in the Episcopal Church’s history.
The bishop-elect is also an enrolled member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, a federally recognized tribe based on Long Island in New York. Her paternal grandfather was a Shinnecock member who grew up on the tribe’s reservation.
Baskerville-Burrows became a Christian as a young adult and chose to join the Episcopal Church at Trinity Church Wall Street in lower Manhattan. She was baptized there in 1989, the year after she graduated from college.