Episcopal Diocese Elects First African American and First Woman Bishop

Rev. Paula E. Clark Source: Christian Century

The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago elected Paula E. Clark as its next bishop. Clark’s historic election will make her both the first African Ameri­can and the first woman to serve as diocesan bishop in Chicago.

“I am overwhelmed. I’m humbled and filled with so much joy, people of the Diocese of Chicago. I can hardly believe it,” remarked Clark. 

A native of Washington, DC, Clark is a the  chief of staff in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. As a child, Clark was baptized by Bishop John Walker, the first Black dean of Washington National Cathedral and first Black bishop of the Diocese of Washing­ton. An admirer of Walker’s ministry, Clark patterned her ministry after Bishop Walker’s.

She wrote, “His gentle spirit and dedication to love and justice inspire me today.”

A graduate of the National Cathe­dral School, Clark began feeling a call to the priesthood while attending weekly chapel services in seventh grade. However, because her mother was not supportive of women’s ordination, Clark did not pursue her calling until after her mother’s death.

After working for nine years as public information officer with DC mayor’s office and the parole board, Clark enrolled at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, graduating with her Master of Divinity degree in 2004.

A veteran pastor, Clark has served parishes throughout the Washington, DC, Area, before joining the staff of Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde in the Diocese of Washington as canon for clergy development, multicultural ministry, and justice.

Clark told the Diocese of Chicago, “You have really captured my heart.”

Clark is scheduled to be consecrated as bishop on April 24.

Source: Christian Century