It took five ballots during the general convention for Katharine Jefferts Schori to garner enough support to get the confirmation, and be named the new head of the U.S.Episcopal Church. East Texas Bishop Rayford High was there. He says when it was announced, there was applause, cheering, and a very emotional response from the female bishops in the room.
"They were so overwhelmed by this. They wept because they had been struggling for a place in the leadership in the church for a long time," says High.
The new bishop will serve as the U.S. representative in the international Anglican Communion. Although women are allowed in the Anglican Communion, some members from other countries are upset about her election. Bishop High says there may also be a fallout here at home because a woman is taking the lead role in the church.
"There are three episcopal diocese in the U.S. who do not recognize women priests, and will not ordain women priests," says High.
Bishop High hasn't spoken with any of the other rectors in his territory, but he suspects at least one of them will be happy with the confirmation of Bishop Jefferts Schori. Reverend Suzanne Tubbs is the rector at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Tyler. She says she has met resistance in the past because she is a woman, and she's very supportive of the new Presiding Bishop.
"She takes her vision for the church from the Prophet Isaiah. From scripture, of course, which was to feed the hungry and the poor and to take care of the oppressed and release prisoners and make them free," says Tubbs.
Jefferts-Schori has been praised for her role in the church's goal to end poverty across the world, but she's been criticized for her support of the churches first openly gay bishop.
Bishop High says there will be people in the Texas Diocese on both sides of that debate.
"We have some wonderful diversity in our diocese that is painful at times, but I go back to what I said earlier. Our church is about inclusion of all people at the Lord's table," says High.
The Episcopal Church has been sharply divided for a number of years, and membership has not been growing much. Bishop High hopes the new Presiding Bishop will seize the opportunity to unify the church once again, and bring new members into the faith.