Chicago Episcopal Diocese elects first Black woman as bishop

The Rev. Canon Paula Clark comes to Chicago from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

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The Rev. Canon Paula E. Clark.

The Rev. Canon Paula E. Clark.


A Washington D.C. priest made history in Chicago Saturday, becoming the first Black person and the first woman ever elected bishop of the city’s local arm of the Episcopal Church. 

The Rev. Canon Paula E. Clark was unanimously selected among four candidates on the fourth ballot of a virtual convention to take the helm of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, church leaders said. 

“We Episcopalians are strong people who can model for the rest of this country and the world what it looks like to walk the way of love,” Clark said. “God is calling us to a new day and a new way of being.”

Clark will be consecrated April 24, succeeding Bishop Jeffrey D. Lee, who is retiring Dec. 31. 

She comes to Chicago from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, where she serves as canon to the ordinary and chief of staff to the bishop. 

Clark received her undergraduate degree from Brown University and a master’s degree in public policy from the University of California at Berkeley. Before studying at the Virginia Theological Seminary, she was a public information officer for the Washington mayor. 

Clark, who has focused on clergy development and multicultural and justice issues, describes herself as “the proud matriarch of [a] blended family of five adult children and seven grandchildren.” 

The Chicago Episcopal Diocese includes 122 congregations with a total of more than 31,000 members across northern, central and southwestern Illinois. 

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