WASHINGTON -- One day after U.S. Roman Catholic bishops steadfastly reaffirmed the ban on women in the priesthood, the Episcopal Church has consecrated the second woman bishop in its history.
Amid medieval pomp and ceremony and the laying on of hands by more than 20 red-and-white robed bishops at the Washington Cathedral, the Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon was elevated to the episcopacy vowing to "testify to Christ's sovereignty as Lord of lords and King of kings."
Bishop Dixon, 54, who has been rector of a parish in Laurel, Md., and was ordained a priest in 1982, will become suffragan (assistant) bishop in the Diocese of Washington. Her new duties include mission development and clergy placement in the District and the Maryland counties of Montgomery, Prince George's, Charles and St. Mary's.
She is married and has two sons and a daughter.
She is the third woman to become a bishop in the 70 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion and the second in the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the communion.
Her consecration was not without controversy, even within the Episcopal Church.
As permitted by the liturgy, several individuals protested the event, in part because Bishop Dixon is a woman and also because she supports the ordination of homosexuals to the priesthood.
But the mood was mainly one of celebration. Among those attending her consecration was a delegation of Roman Catholic women and nuns who are urging their church to ordain women. Many Catholic women viewed Bishop Dixon's elevation and the Church of England's vote last week to admit women to its priesthood as "sign of the times" that they hope their own church will carefully consider.
Earlier yesterday, the bishop acknowledged the symbolism of her consecration.
"There are some Catholic women who are overjoyed at what is happening in the Anglican Communion and hope that it might be a possibility for them. There are other women who are deeply troubled, who feel this is not of God," she said.
"For those who see this as a sign of hope, I will be a symbol for them. For those who see it as a symbol of division, I will be that. But I will live it as a symbol of hope."