Hispanic woman elected bishop suffragan in Olympia
by Peter Strimer
Monday, May 10, 2004
The Rev. Bavi Edna 'Nedi' Rivera was elected Bishop Suffragan in the Diocese of Olympia May 8, making her the first Hispanic woman bishop and only the 12th woman bishop in the history of the Episcopal Church in the United States.
The election, held at St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle, took three ballots with Rivera holding a substantial lead among both clergy and lay people in the first two ballots. The Diocese of Olympia comprises 33,000 Episcopalians in the western half of the state of Washington.
At the closing worship of the convention, diocesan Bishop Vincent Warner offered, "I just want to put in perspective that this is the first suffragan elected in this diocese in 150 years, it is the first woman elected in this diocese, it is the first woman of color elected in this diocese and the first woman of color suffragan bishop who has a father who is a bishop. It is part of God’s history of God’s church."
Rivera is the daughter of the Rt. Rev. Victor Manuel Rivera, who served as Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, California, from 1968 to 1988. She is presently serving as rector of St. Aidan's Episcopal Church in San Francisco. She was ordained a priest in 1979.
The diocese sought a bishop who would lead the church in its efforts to expand ethnic ministries, evangelism and the work of faith formation. Rivera is a leader in youth work and a member of the clergy of color in the Diocese of California. She has done advanced study at the Vancouver School of Theology in parish revitalization.
The Episcopal Church was the first province in the Anglican Communion to ordain a woman as bishop when Barbara Harris was consecrated bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Massachusetts in February,1989. Rivera becomes the 16th woman bishop in the history of the worldwide Anglican Communion of seventy million members.
- Peter Strimer is Communications Director for the Diocese of Olympia.My family and I lived in Visalia, California, in the San Joaquin Valley, for some years. We attended St. Paul's Episcopal Church. All of us children were baptized there by the rector, Father Vic. I left my family, and the Episcopal Church, at age 11. Father Vic was the only image of an Episcopal priest I had until I returned to the Church 15 years later. By then he was bishop of San Joaquin. Father Vic was a great priest, and, most likely, in many ways, an excellent bishop. His image was a good one for me to hold on to.
When I began the ordination process, I imagined one day serving under Bishop Rivera. Being rather naive, it wasn't until I arrived at seminary that I learned, much to my surprise, that he was one of the few bishops in the Church who opposed women's ordination. That meant that I would never be able to serve in his diocese. Not because I have the "wrong plumbing," but because I served in one diocese which banned women priests, and once was enough to learn the lesson. Never again. The theology that leads to such exclusions includes many more strange teachings that are contrary to much of what I believe and my understanding of the priesthood.
And now Father Vic's daughter is Bishop Suffragan of Olympia. My understanding is that Bishop Rivera supported his daughter as she sought God's will regarding her vocational call. I would imagine that when he heard the news of the election, he felt like a proud father, and maybe even rejoiced (privately, of course). I wonder if he will participate in her consecration?