Bonnie Perry

Episcopal Michigan Bishop-elect “very interested” to be “connected with the power structures”

on June 12, 2019

Bishop-elect Bonnie Perry of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan was interviewed last week by Niraj Warikoo of The Detroit Free Press, and some of her statements indicate that she should run for political office or become a lobbyist, rather than a bishop. Perry told the Free Press that she intends to get the church involved with secular foundations and government officials to help make the region more equitable:

“I really do believe that the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan needs to be a partner with all of the development that’s going on in the Detroit metro area so that it’s equitable and really have close connections with our elected officials so that we’re able to enact our values of welcoming, fairness, equity,” she said. “In order to make that happen, you have to be connected with the power structures. That’s something I’m very interested in doing.”

Perry was elected last week on the fifth ballot from a slate of four female candidates. This was her third nomination for the episcopacy since 2006 (Mary Ann Mueller from Virtue Online has an excellent overview here). Perry will have the distinction of being not only the first female bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, but also the first partnered lesbian to lead a diocese (Mary Glasspool, currently serving as Assistant Bishop for the Diocese of New York, was elected in 2009 as a bishop suffragan).

A former Roman Catholic, Perry joined the Episcopal Church while attending Union Theological Seminary in New York, a liberal institution with a focus upon political activism.

Perry’s sexuality has understandably drawn attention; she joins The Rev. Thomas James Brown, elected in February as bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, who is also in a same-sex marriage. Brown was the first person in a same-sex marriage elected to be a bishop since Glasspool, ending a nearly decade-long period in which gay and lesbian candidates were regularly nominated to the episcopacy, but not elected.

Recent elections of partnered gay candidates in both Maine and Toronto have shown that no serious consequences will come from the worldwide Anglican Communion’s “instruments of unity” (including the Anglican Consultative Council, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Council and the Archbishop of Canterbury). Scripture and tradition have long ago been displaced in favor of “the lived experience of the LGBT community”.

Perry will have her work cut out for her. According to data provided by the Executive Office of the General Convention, the Michigan diocese reported 28,960 members, 95 parishes and 9,574 attendees in 2002, not long after her outgoing predecessor, Bishop Wendell Gibbs Jr., assumed office. By 2017 the diocese had declined to 16,889 members (-42%), had shuttered 20 parishes and had only 6,006 attendees (-37%). Declines in weddings and baptisms were even more steep, from 605 baptisms and 205 marriages in 2002 down to 217 baptisms (-64%) and 100 marriages (-51%) in 2017.

  1. Comment by Brad Pope on June 12, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    Precisely what UMC Next will do for us ( after it is through dividing congregations and relationships along the way ), this is a glimpse of our “ghost of Christmas future”

  2. Comment by Rev. Dr. Lee D Cary (ret.) on June 13, 2019 at 8:07 pm

    Our “ghost of Christmas future” Well done, Mr. Pope.

    “Scripture and tradition have long ago been displaced in favor of “the lived experience of the LGBT community”.

    And there you have it.

  3. Comment by Steve on June 13, 2019 at 7:10 am

    Unfortunately, the power structures are not interested in being connected with her. Nobody cares much what the Episcopal Church thinks anymore. Besides which, isn’t the conventional wisdom that making church political has reduced church attendance more than anything else? Maybe you’ve heard this one: what do you call a leader without followers? Going for a walk.

  4. Comment by senecagriggs on June 13, 2019 at 3:32 pm

    How does Bonnie Perry’s episcopacy pay their bills?

  5. Comment by Greg on June 13, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    Sure, Bonnie. Being close to power structures has done wonders for Mariann Budde’s diocese.

  6. Comment by Loren Golden on June 13, 2019 at 7:48 pm

    “You have to be connected with the power structures. That’s something I’m very interested in doing.”
    And in like manner, Saruman sought to be connected to Sauron.
    “Declines in … baptisms were even more steep, from 605 baptisms … in 2002 down to 217 baptisms (-64%) … in 2017.”
    The number of baptisms is a genuine measure of the health and vitality of a church, not its fervor for political activism.  Although the bishop’s task should be to increase the number of baptisms through the faithful preaching throughout his diocese, I suspect that Ms. Perry’s will see an even greater decline in baptisms in her jurisdiction by the conclusion of her tenure—which I also suspect will occur when the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan merges into a neighboring diocese, before another fifteen years elapse.

  7. Comment by Mary Headley on June 14, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    If the church fails to teach the true gospel, there is nothing to offer. Secular society offers everything this apotacy brings to the table. When the true gospel is preached, then people are drawn in to hear the great hope of Jesus Christ. I’m ashamed at the Episcopal Church and how it has dishonored our true Lord and Saviour!

  8. Comment by The Ven. Donald Seeks, Rtd. on June 14, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    One can feel very sad to discern the Episcopal Church as it descends into the moral sewer. A priest deposed without trial, I thank Jesus for creating the ACNA, which has grown exponentially in baptisms, and.marriages.

  9. Comment by Zach on November 8, 2019 at 8:32 pm

    Jesus didn’t create the ACNA, man’s hubris did.

  10. Comment by Gregg on June 16, 2019 at 8:54 am

    6000 regular attendees! For an entire diocese!!! With 75 churches? (That comes to an average of 80 people per parish.) There are dozens and dozens of single evangelical “mega churches” with more worshippers than her entire diocese. There is a Catholic parish in Charlotte, NC (St Matthew’s) that draws more than twice that (12,000 worshippers) every single Sunday.

    No wonder this woman wants to get involved in left-wing political advocacy. There’s nothing else for her to do.

The work of IRD is made possible by your generous contributions.

Receive expert analysis in your inbox.