By Douglas LeBlanc
The Rt. Rev. Mary Adelia Rosamond McLeod was a daughter of the South — a native of Birmingham, Alabama; graduate of the University of Alabama and Sewanee; and archdeacon of West Virginia — before she made history on a snowy All Saints Day in Vermont. McLeod was consecrated in 1993 as the ninth Bishop of Vermont and the first woman to lead a diocese.
McLeod, who returned to West Virginia in her retirement, died in the state’s capital city, Charleston, on October 12. She was 84.
“I really just bring myself, warts and all,” McLeod said at a news conference after her consecration. “I think people are ready to accept me for who I am.”
Her consecration service included a challenge, as was common in those early days of women serving as bishops. Jane Shipman of the Episcopal Synod of America said that ordaining women to the priesthood and episcopate was “contrary to Holy Scripture and the tradition of the Episcopal Church.”
McLeod served for eight years, and the small diocese registered growth at 49.5 percent from 1991 to 2001. She served as secretary of the House of Bishops from 1998 to 2001.
“She was always encouraging to me,” said the Rt. Rev. Shannon MacVean-Brown, Vermont’s 11th bishop. “I’m trying my best to continue her work of empowering and supporting lay ministry, promoting inclusion, strengthening our stewardship, improving transparency around our financial resources, and encouraging the ministry of women.”
In 2000, as Vermont’s legislature was debating same-sex marriage, McLeod released a pastoral letter, “Let the Church Be the First to Issue an Emancipation Proclamation.” She wrote that “homosexual persons choosing to live together in a life-long union are not committing a sin” and that “God’s great gift of love and expressing that love cannot and should not be denied for those among us who happen to be homosexual.”
She contributed to the books A Voice of Our Own: Leading American Women Celebrate the Right to Vote and Women’s Uncommon Prayers: Our Lives Revealed, Nurtured, Celebrated.
The bishop is survived by her husband, the Rev. Henry (Mac) McLeod III, who studied alongside her at Sewanee and served with her as co-rector of two churches; as well as five children; and eight grandchildren.
One of the couple’s sons, the Rev. Dr. Harrison M. McLeod, has served as rector of Christ Church in Greenville, South Carolina, since 2008. He stood at his mother’s side in 1993 when she blessed the congregation as Vermont’s new bishop.