Jane Holmes Dixon, second female Episcopal bishop, dies at 75

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WASHINGTON — Jane Holmes Dixon, a stay-at-home Bethesda, Md., mom who became a priest in her 40s and later became the second female bishop in the Episcopal Church, died in her sleep early Christmas morning at her home in Washington. She was 75 and died of heart disease, her family said.

Dixon was seen as a warm, empathetic mentor, particularly to female lay leaders and clergy in the Episcopal Church, which has wrestled in recent decades with rifts over gender roles, sexuality and Biblical literacy.

Her 17-month term as bishop pro tempore of the Washington Diocese in 2001 and 2002 was dominated by a standoff with a rural Maryland parish in Prince George’s County whose rector, the Rev. Samuel Edwards, refused to recognize female authority.

The issue wound up in the headlines, including a scene of Dixon preaching on the church basketball court after church members refused to admit her to the sanctuary. Dixon filed a federal lawsuit, charging that Edwards had been improperly hired by the church, without her approval and in violation of canonical law.

The court ruled in Dixon’s favor, but the dispute scarred her standing with conservative Episcopalians, and she retired after the diocese elected a new leader in June 2002.

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