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First Woman Ordained as Bishop of Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina

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Credit: Leslie Ryann McKellar

Press Release

The Right Reverend Ruth Morse Woodliff-Stanley (right) was ordained and consecrated as the 15th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina on Saturday, October 2, 2021, at Grace Church Cathedral in Charleston, South Carolina. Woodliff-Stanley is the first female to lead the diocese as bishop, and the first full-time diocesan bishop serving the diocese since 2012.

“My deep heart’s desire is that we begin a new season today of resurrection, hope, justice, and love in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina that will be a beacon for all,” said Woodliff-Stanley during the service. “I give you my heart, and I will give you my best each day, and I seek to walk with you, humbly, and with deep joy.”

The Most Reverend Michael B. Curry, the 27th Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church, served as the chief consecrator. Joining Bishop Curry as co-consecrators were: the Rt. Rev. Kimberly Lucas, bishop of the Diocese of Colorado; the Rt. Rev. Robert J. O’Neill, retired bishop of the Diocese of Colorado; the Rt. Rev. Bonnie Perry, bishop of the Diocese of Michigan; the Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, bishop of the Dioceses of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York; and the Rt. Rev. G. Thomas Shelton, bishop of The Moravian Church in America, Southern Province.

More than a dozen other bishops were in attendance, including the Rt. Rev. Charles G. VonRosenberg, who served as provisional bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina from 2013-2016, and the Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley, Jr., who served the diocese as visiting bishop throughout the bishop search process.

The Reverend Deacon Sally Brown (the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado) preached at the service, sharing the knowledge she has gained from a lasting friendship with the newly-ordained bishop. “In the challenging days ahead, you will discover that your new diocesan bishop has a knack, a knack for helping others make possible, what may initially seem quite impossible,” said Brown. “You will experience Bishop Ruth’s creative and pragmatic balance as leader, teacher, and pastor, as she guides and encourages others to think outside the box, do outside the box, but not wade too far into the weeds, as she carefully listens to all voices in seeking to build God’s glorious dream for all people—the hard and holy Gospel work of healing, reconciliation, justice making, and full inclusion.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person seating was limited, but the service was livestreamed on the Diocesan YouTube page and a recording can be viewed at this link. The service bulletin is available at this link.

Raised and ordained in Mississippi, Woodliff-Stanley has served as rector of a parish, as canon on the staffs of two bishops of The Episcopal Church, and also in church-wide ministry focused on stewardship of finances and property. Prior to her election in May, she was serving as Canon for Strategic Change for the Dioceses of Northwestern Pennsylvania & Western New York, and Senior Vice President for Strategic Change for the Episcopal Church Building Fund.  She is married to The Reverend Nathan Woodliff-Stanley and they have two adult sons.

As diocesan bishop, Woodliff-Stanley will lead 31 churches (including parishes, missions, and worshiping communities) affiliated with The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion in the eastern half of the state of South Carolina. The diocese represents more than 7,500 members, and more than 100 priests and 15 deacons who are either canonically resident or licensed to serve in our diocese. In the past five years, the Diocese of South Carolina has consistently ranked as one of the fastest-growing dioceses in The Episcopal Church, with a 21.5 percent increase in baptized members from 2014-2019.

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