Susan Macdonald, 61, rector of Christ Church, Morningside, will take over from the Very Rev Dr John Armes as Dean of the Edinburgh diocese when he steps up to become the new Bishop of Edinburgh in May.
It is the most senior appointment a woman has yet held in the Scottish Episcopal Church. The church – where women have been ordained since 1994 – agreed in principle to women bishops in 2003. But despite two occasions when a woman has been shortlisted, no female bishop has yet been elected.
Ms Macdonald had a variety of admin and management jobs in the Borders before training for the priesthood. She was ordained in 1997 and served churches in Jedburgh, Galashiels, Fochabers and Inverness before moving to Morningside in 2007.
She will combine her role as rector at Christ Church with her new duties, which include oversight of church buildings, inspection of congregational records and deputising for the bishop. Dr Armes will officially be consecreated as bishop on Saturday May 12 and Ms Macdonald will be installed at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Palmerston Place the next day.
Ms Macdonald played down the idea that her appointment as the first female dean in the Scottish Episcopal Church was a gender breakthrough.
She said: “It is significant because it does change things, but I don’t see it as a victory for women, it has just happened as part of my own ministry.”
She said she had been an Episcopalian since she was born and had been involved in the church from childhood.
She said: “I had always felt some sense of calling, but growing up in a tradition where women were not ordained, you were not sure how that would work. I have never found being a woman has been a block to being able to fulfil my ministry.”
Dr Armes, who has been rector of St John’s Church, Princes Street, since 1998, and Dean since 2010, was elected as Bishop of Edinburgh last month to succeed the Rt Rev Brian Smith, who retired last summer.
He said: “I am delighted Susan is to become the new Dean of Edinburgh. She brings wide experience of the Edinburgh diocese and an understanding of the urban and rural challenges facing the Church. I look forward to working with Susan in developing new and creative initiatives within the diocese.”