South Carolina Methodists welcome their first female bishop

The Rev. Mary Virginia Taylor has become the first female bishop in the South Carolina's United Methodist Church.

While women have been ordained for years, it is new for South Carolina to have a woman in the leadership of such a large denomination in the state. About 248,000 Methodists worship in 1,331 churches in South Carolina.

"The time is certainly upon us - and past due - for a woman to be chief executive of a denomination in this state," said Carl Evans, head of the religion department at the University of South Carolina. "This will be a great encouragement to women leaders in other denominations and will show the way forward for others to become bishops."

Taylor is one of five women to be elected bishop of United Methodist conferences nationwide this year, two of them in the Southeast.

"The election of women causes us to reconsider our old interpretation of Scripture and the cultural biases that we've allowed to affect our work as Christians," said Garlinda Burton, general secretary for the Illinois-based United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women.

In 1980, the United Methodists elected the Rev. Marjorie Matthews of Wisconsin as their first female bishop. Since then, 20 women have been elected bishops nationwide.