Anglican Canada elected Saturday its newest bishop of Montreal, Mary Irwin-Gibson, the first woman to serve in the role, CBC News reported. Irwin-Gibson, 59, is dean and rector at St. George’s Cathedral in Kingston, Ontario. She was ordained as a deacon in 1981 and as a priest in 1982. She served in Montreal between 1981 and 2009 before moving to Kingston, the Anglican Journal said.
In being elected Montreal’s bishop, Irwin-Gibson was chosen over two men, Bishop Dennis Drainville and Archdeacon Bill Gray, and one woman, the Rev. Karen Egan. About 160 clerical and lay delegates in the diocese were eligible to vote in the election, the Anglican Journal said. Irwin-Gibson will replace Bishop Barry Clarke, who announced his retirement in April, saying he would be departing as of Aug. 31. Clarke was elected bishop in 2004. He followed a line of 10 men who served in the position.
Irwin-Gibson joins several women selected to lead the Anglican Church of Canada in recent years. For example, the then-Rev. Melissa Skelton was elected bishop of Vancouver in 2013 to replace the retiring Bishop Michael Ingham.
In the Anglican community, the appearance of women in top positions became increasingly common after the ordinations of women as priests began in 1976. Anglicans elected their first woman bishop in the U.S. in 1989, and they elected their first woman bishop in Africa in 2012, BBC News reported.
Both the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church allow women to become bishops. The first woman elected as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church of the U.S. was Katharine Jefferts Schori in 2006.
Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church has backed increasing women’s roles in Catholicism by encouraging participation in “important decisions ... where the authority of the church is exercised,” according to Time magazine excerpt of the book “The Francis Miracle” by John L. Allen Jr. However, Francis opposes appointing women as priests.