The Rev. Canon Megan M. Traquair was elected the eighth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California at an election convention held Saturday in Cameron Park.
She is the first woman to hold that office in the diocese and only the second woman bishop in the Episcopal Church in California, according to the Rev. Amy Denney Zuniga, rector of St. Helena’s Grace Episcopal Church.
“We have six dioceses in California and there are certainly a number of women bishops throughout the nation, but they are a minority in the house of bishops,” Zuniga said.
Five candidates from throughout the United States were on the ballot and some 130 clergy and 250 church members gathered to vote in the sanctuary at Faith Episcopal Church. Traquair was elected on the third ballot with a vote of 151 lay delegates and 85 clergy. To be elected required a majority of both orders on the same ballot.
Joining Traquair on the ballot were the Rev. Matthew Cowden, from South Bend, Indiana; the Rev. Christopher Brooke Craun, Portland, Oregon; the Rev. Canon Andrea McMillin, Sacramento; and the Rev. Randall Warren, Kalamazoo, Michigan.
After the first ballot there were three front-runners, Traquair, Cowden and Craun, and after the second ballot McMillin and Warren withdrew their bids. Zuniga said, “We took the third ballot and I thought, there are three candidates and the votes are spread fairly evenly among them. I thought this was going to go on forever.”
But after the third ballots were counted – it took about 15 minutes for the Scantron ballots to be counted -- and the group had lunch, they gathered again in the sanctuary and were informed of Traquair’s election.
“I was very pleased with the result of the election and I was particularly pleased with how quickly it happened,” Zuniga said. “I think it’s really healthy for the diocese to feel like we are fairly of one mind of the person we’ve called. When somebody wins an election by a wide margin, they feel like they have more of a mandate.”
After learning of her election, Traquair said she accepts the call to be the eighth bishop “with joy and gratitude.” She added, “Dozens of your leaders put in sacrificial amounts of time and energy to help the diocese arrive at a common mind in Christ. You are all very much in my prayers.”
She said she and her husband, Philip, are “excited to make our home with you in Northern California. This summer, by the grace of God, we will begin to practice the Jesus Movement together – in faith, reconciliation and service.”
Besides Zuniga, attending the convention from Grace Church were the Rev. Anne Clarke, the Rev. Wendy Watson, Deacon Susan Napoiello and lay members, Grant Showley, Erika Mueller, Karla Jensen, Susan Calkin, Jack and Judy Cummings, Katherine Frederick and Michael Roche.
Walkabouts in January
The five candidates for bishop spent a week at the end of January traveling throughout the diocese and stopped at Grace Episcopal Church, toured the facility and met the church leaders. Zuniga said Traquair was impressed with our work,” especially about the church’s education efforts for youngsters, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. “She talked to me about a catechesis program for adults that she’s developed, which is a very intentional way to bring adults into the congregation,” Zuniga said.
During the walkabouts, the group also stopped at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Calistoga. Each of the candidates were asked about the challenges of the Episcopal Church and Traquair responded, “I think one of the challenges we have here is empowering all of the smaller congregations in smaller communities that are so much of the parish life around here.” She said St. Luke’s is a great example, with its Hearts and Hands Preschool. “To me, this is exactly what could be happening in all of our parishes,” she added.
Traquair added, “Finding a way to build capacity in our lay leaders and all those who serve would be a fun challenge in the next go around.”
Ordained in 1992, she has led congregations in Tucson, towns near South Bend and Indianapolis and Los Angeles. As part of the bishop’s staff, she runs all aspects of clergy deployment, coaches clergy and congregations on conflict resolution and leads strategic planning.
Traquair was raised in Santa Barbara when it was a sleepy town, graduated from Pomona College in Claremont and received her MDiv at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Illinois.
Her husband, Philip, is a pediatrician at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. They have two children: Hannah who teaches high school in Tucson, and Benjamin, who is an engineer in Colorado.
Traquair’s consecration is scheduled for June 29 at the Mondavi Center in Davis. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will preside.
The diocese’s search for a new bishop began in September 2017, when the Rt. Rev. Barry Beisner announced his intention to retire. He had served as the seventh bishop of the diocese since 2007, having served as canon to the ordinary under the previous bishop, Jerry Lamb, from 2002 to 2006.
Information from the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California contributed to this article.