The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will make history in November when it installs its first Black female bishop.
The Rev. Ketlen Solak was tapped in June to be the next bishop, succeeding Bishop Dorsey McConnell at the helm of the 9,000-member diocese, which includes churches in Washington and Allegheny counties. The rector of Brandywine Collaborative Ministries in Wilmington, Del., Solak was tapped from a field of five candidates, elected in a third round of balloting with 56% of the clergy votes and 54% of the lay votes.
The Episcopal Church first ordained women as priests in 1974 and elected the first female bishop in 1988. Solak was unavailable for comment, but said in a statement after her election, “I am deeply moved. God has done this. With God’s help you have discerned and elected a new bishop, and I am humbled by the honor of the one being chosen.”
She added, “The future of your diocese, which is soon to become our diocese, is bright. The potential for expanded mission and growth is enormous.”
Born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Solak earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from Catholic University of America and divinity and ministry degrees from Virginia Theological Seminary. She became the founding rector of Brandywine Collaborative Ministries in 2014. It’s a group of three parishes in Wilmington, Del., that share administrative and pastoral leadership.
“She has a wonderful personality,” said the Rev. Cathy Brall of St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church of Canonsburg, who is a member of the transition committee of the diocese. “She has a wonderful smile and is really warm. That set her apart.”
The Rev. Noah Evans, of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon, was deeply immersed in the selection process in his role as president of the diocesan standing committee, the governing body that supervised the selection of the new bishop. He was impressed by Solak’s leadership style, which he described as “incredibly joyful” and “collaborative.”
“She has gifts that everyone in our diocese needs at this time,” Evans added.
McConnell became bishop in Pittsburgh’s Episcopal diocese in 2012. The process of picking his successor was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. During his tenure, he settled property disputes with congregations that had left the diocese. His last day as bishop will be Sept. 11.