Diane Rehm and the Right Reverand Jane Holmes Dixon in 1989.

Diane Rehm and the Right Reverand Jane Holmes Dixon in 1989.

Diane met her best friend Jane Holmes Dixon over 35 years ago. They were both homemakers and active in their church. Diane went on to become a nationally syndicated talk radio host and Jane became a bishop in the Episcopal church. Through it all they talked every day. Jane passed away on Christmas day four years ago. In 2002 Diane interviewed Jane. The two women discussed how their friendship sustained them through the ups and downs of career and family demands – and about how their relationship to each other changed over the decades.


  • The Right Reverand Jane Holmes Dixon Retired Episcopal Bishop of Washington, Pro-tempore


  • 10:06:53

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. In this hour, we bring you a rebroadcast of my 2002 interview with The Right Reverend Jane Holmes Dixon. Jane died suddenly this past Christmas Day. Jane was a woman who'd risen to the highest levels of the Episcopal Church in 1992. She became only the second woman consecrated as a bishop. Jane Dixon was also one of my closest and dearest friends for 45 years.

  • 10:07:29

    MS. DIANE REHMWe shared much of our adult lives. Our careers coincided, our outlooks expanded and our friendship was enriched. When Jane was about to retire from her active role in the Episcopal Church, I invited her to talk about her career, her future and our friendship. I hope you enjoy this special rebroadcast. Good morning, my dear Jane. It's so good to have you.

  • 10:07:59

    THE RIGHT REVEREND JANE HOLMES DIXONGood morning, my dear Diane. It's wonderful to be here.

  • 10:08:02

    REHMYou know, combining -- we should say, poor thing, you've got a cold and you're sounding not quite your full voice, but you're going to be fine, right?

  • 10:08:13

    DIXONI'm going to be fine. I may not sound quite as southern as I normally do.

  • 10:08:17

    REHMCombining a discussion about career and friendship seems such a natural thing for you and me to do since we both began our careers at about the same time. As I recall, we had both taken Feminism 101 at GW.

  • 10:08:40

    DIXONWell, I took the course because you recommended it. You preceded me in that. Expanding New Horizons For Women, I believe was the actually name of the course. But you took it and said to me, this is something that's important and so I did.

  • 10:08:55

    REHMAnd both of us had been homemakers for a number of years. The friendship actually began at St. Patrick's Church here in Washington where, as homemakers, as mothers, we really got involved in the activity of the church and you were teaching Sunday School.

  • 10:09:16

    DIXONThat’s correct. And being at St. Patrick's Church here in Washington in the diocese of Washington, was really life-transforming for me, making friends of a lifetime, your being one of my closest and dearest friends, as well as expanding my understanding of the Gospel and what ministry is really all about.

  • 10:09:38

    REHMYou know, I so will remember the day you called me on the telephone and you said, Ms. Rehm, I'm sort of embarrassed to say this, but here's what I really want to do with my life. I want to become a priest. I'll never forget that. What do you think it was that called you to the priesthood?

  • 10:10:08

    DIXONIn the Episcopal Church, we say in our ordination vows that we believe God and the Church are calling. I hope and pray that God has called me to this ministry that has been so incredible, but the Church clearly did that in terms of being confronted by a woman who has long been a mentor of mine about the priesthood, then going through what we call the process where lay folk, clergy and finally the bishop says yes.

  • 10:10:34

    DIXONWe believe you have a call to the bishop -- I mean, to the priesthood. So I think that it was a combination of the Church and, I pray, God. And for me, the Church is made up of human beings.

  • 10:10:47

    REHMOf course, when you were ordained to the priesthood, there were very, very few women accompanying you. How many women were at Virginia then?

  • 10:11:06

    DIXONIn my class, Diane, when I entered in 1977, out of a class of 40, there were 10 of us.

  • 10:11:06

    REHMI see.

  • 10:11:06

    DIXONSo it was about a fourth. So it was more -- we were not all on the ordination track at that. And now, women make up at least half of the classes.

  • 10:11:14

    REHMIsn't that wonderful?

  • 10:11:15

    DIXONIt's remarkable.

  • 10:11:16

    REHMBut there were real hurdles to be overcome.

  • 10:11:23

    DIXONThe hurdle that has been the one that really sort of impacted my life was finding my first call. Bishop Walker was going to ordain me.

  • 10:11:33

    REHMBishop John Walker.

  • 10:11:33

    DIXONBishop John T. Walker.

  • 10:11:35

    REHMThe late.

  • 10:11:35

    DIXONThe sixth bishop of Washington was going to ordain me to the (word?) in June of 1981. His policy was that he didn't ordain you unless you had what we called a cure, which was a position within the church that paid a stipend. I had -- I can't remember whether it was 16 or 18 job interviews to find that first call. That hurdle was enormous.

  • 10:12:01

    REHMAnd was there openness to the idea of taking a woman into a church then?

  • 10:12:11

    DIXONThe churches in the diocese of Washington, which I would like to say -- or the District of Columbia and four counties in Maryland, Montgomery, Prince George, Charles and St. Mary's, the churches in Washington in 1981 that were going to consider a woman had pretty well filled those assistant positions and so I went to the diocese of Virginia, which was a little later in taking women. There was no, what we call, upward movement. Women were taken -- were being to take as assistants, but they were not called to being a rector or the head pastor in a congregation.

  • 10:12:46

    REHMThey had to be assistants.

  • 10:12:48

    DIXONThat's right.

  • 10:12:49

    REHMWell, and in a sense, I mean, that provided a good training program for you, provided you had a good person to work with who was willing to take you and teach you and help you.

  • 10:13:06

    DIXONThere's no question about that. I had three years with -- he was not the Suffragan bishop of Virginia, the Right Reverend David Jones at the Church of the Good Shepherd, a very large parish in suburban Virginia. And then, I came to Washington to spend two years with the Reverend Frank Wade, the rector of St. Alban's Church. I had five years as an associate. That was very important for me, just as you said, to help me learn to be a deacon, to be a priest and how to lead a congregation.

  • 10:13:35

    REHMAnd then you did finally get your own congregation, St. Phillip's in Laurel.

  • 10:13:41

    DIXONCorrect, in 1986.

  • 10:13:42

    REHMAnd how long were you there?

  • 10:13:44

    DIXONI was there six years.

  • 10:13:45

    REHMWell, then came this extraordinary day on which you were elected the Suffragan bishop the diocese of Washington. This was 1992 and there were those of us, your friends, your supporters, who were up in the balcony that day absolutely out of our minds, cheering so loudly for our dear friend, Jane Dixon. What was that day like for you?

  • 10:14:17

    DIXONWhat I remember most about that day is the fact that a dioceses, a group of people, a diocese is people, people who knew me, clergy and lay, were willing to call me to this incredible work, people that I'd had the privilege of working with and then, as you say, to see people who were dear to my life, the five women, four of you up in that balcony with whom we started at St. Patrick's, to be surrounded by my family, my husband and my three children, my daughter-in-law. I had one daughter-in-law at the time.

  • 10:14:56

    DIXONIt was sort of like pinching myself to believe that it had really happened, that the church would take that kind of a risk because it seems much more the norm now and -- but in 1992, it was not.

  • 10:15:11

    REHMAnd you became the second woman bishop in this country, the third in the whole Anglican Church, out of how many bishops in this country?

  • 10:15:29

    DIXONIn this country, there are probably about 260 bishops.

  • 10:15:34

    REHMAnd there you were, the second woman. Extraordinary. That -- I mean, you walked into a law firm, perhaps, as a woman in 1992, numbers very, very low as a woman, but somehow that calling, if you will, to the house of bishops and there sat Jane Dixon from Wynona, Mississippi.

  • 10:16:03

    DIXONRight, with my dear, dear friend the Right Reverend Barbara Harris, who is a Suffragan bishop in Massachusetts. Barbara was the first female bishop in the worldwide Anglican communion, but she's been there to walk with me on this journey. It's been remarkable.

  • 10:16:23

    REHMAnd then, with the retirement of Bishop Ronald Haines, you stepped into the leadership role of Bishop Pro Tempore. You've had quite a year. And dealing with a number of extremely important issues. What do you see as your most important accomplishment?

  • 10:16:48

    DIXONPeople have asked me that a lot in the last few months, Diane, and I -- so I think about it a lot. I can't single out one most important accomplishment, if you'll let me talk about a few.

  • 10:17:00


  • 10:17:00

    DIXONObviously, I had the privilege to guard the faith, unity and discipline of the church. When I was consecrated a bishop on November the 19th in '92, I know I really didn't understand what that meant, that that would be part of my vow. And I certainly didn't seek out an opportunity to do it, but it presented myself -- presented itself to me and so I had that privilege of defending and protecting the church.

  • 10:17:29


  • 10:17:31

    DIXONA congregation in this diocese decided to call a priest who was not willing to give me the guarantees that he would indeed live into his ordination vows and to live by the cannons of the church. The only analogy I can really say about what it means to be a priest in the Episcopal Church is if one has ever been in the military, where in the military, one voluntarily, if one is not drafted, gives up a great deal of one's autonomy to the constitution and one's superiors.

  • 10:18:01

    DIXONWhen one is ordained to the diaconate and the priesthood in the Episcopal Church, you promise to obey your bishop. The man that was called would not give me that guarantee, nor would he and the congregation give me the guarantee that they would not try to take the property outside the diocese. The bishop is the chief steward, the one who has the fiduciary responsibility of the diocese and that includes the property.

  • 10:18:28

    DIXONAll property in the diocese is held in trust by the diocese. And so I needed those assurances. The other part of that that was very important to understand is there are 250 priests in the diocese in Washington who are canonically resident. Those 250 men and women live by their ordination vows. Don't always agree with the bishop, none of us ever have. I had disagreements with both Bishop Walker, Bishop Haines.

  • 10:18:56

    DIXONThe fact was, I'd taken a vow and priests do that in this diocese so I couldn't have one set of rules for a man who would not guarantee that he would live by the promises.

  • 10:19:08

    REHMOf course, there were a number of situations you encountered in this diocese where priests closed their doors on you.

  • 10:19:20

    DIXONThere were. I have, in the interim time since 1996, I have made three visitations to each of those churches. I have good working relationships with them. They are priests who obey their vows. We disagree on the ordination of women. That's their privilege as it is mine to believe in it. But they did, in fact, finally open the door. I have held service there. And in two cases, I would say, I have quite a good relationship with the clergy there.

  • 10:19:55

    REHMThat's wonderful. But that must've been pretty darn difficult for you as a human being to have doors slammed in your face, in effect.

  • 10:20:09

    DIXONIt's never pleasant to believe that you're not wanted. And the most important thing is to know that because you're created woman, that you are not fully acceptable.

  • 10:20:19

    REHMThe Right Reverend Jane Holmes Dixon. She's Bishop pro tempore of the diocese of Washington. I said we'd also talk about our friendship and how much it's meant to both of us. We will indeed do that when we come back. Stay with us.

  • 10:20:47

    REHMAnd welcome back. Here in the studio with me is Jane Holmes Dixon. She is now the Suffragan bishop of the dioceses of Washington and she is one of my closest friends. I said that this conversation was going to be two-pronged. It's as much about friendship as it is about her career and what's ahead. So I just want to say to you, Jane, it seems to me you and I have been so fortunate to have each other throughout these years, these 35 years, moving from the home into, for you, school, for me, volunteer work, plays and finally to the positions we now hold. How important has that friendship been to you?

  • 10:21:49

    DIXONBeyond the telling. You have been the one that I could always come to with the struggles and the joys about what it's meant to move, as you say, from the home to school to an incredible ministry within the church, a ministry that has a very public face, as yours does. I never had to translate with you. When I called you, you knew what I was talking about.

  • 10:22:17

    REHMAnd we talked to each other each morning at 7 o'clock. People are always shocked when they hear that statement, but we've been doing that pretty regularly for the past 30 years.

  • 10:22:32

    DIXONAbsolutely. And as we've said publically before, when we don't, both our husbands wonder what's going on when we haven't heard from the other. But it's a touchstone for me to know that you're there, that your support is there. You tell me the truth, which I appreciate. I think one of the things we find often as we are in these positions of authority that people somehow are afraid to tell us the truth, that there'll be repercussions.

  • 10:23:03

    DIXONAnd so I value that enormously.

  • 10:23:05

    REHMAnd for my part, I think our listeners, by now, are pretty familiar with the fact that several years ago, I began having serious problems with my voice and was finally -- I finally decided to go off the air for several months in frustration because I really couldn't talk. And you were one of the people I allowed to come and visit me because I just couldn't talk on the phone. I was scared for people to hear my voice.

  • 10:23:47

    REHMAnd one day, you said, would you like us to do a healing service for you? And you and Bishop Ronald Haines took me into that gorgeous little chapel there at church house at the cathedral and performed a service of healing. You know, I can still see that chapel and that stained glass window and just sitting there with you. I think people who don't have the kind of friendship or the kind of support that they can count on in any circumstance are less fortunate that we.

  • 10:24:40

    REHMI'll put it another way. I would wish for everyone that they would have that kind of relationship. And like any relationship, it's had its ups and downs.

  • 10:24:54

    DIXONWell, it's very theological for me, coming from the world in which I come. I believe that God created us to be in relationship with God and with one another. And one of the great joys of my life indeed are relationships and friendships because those are the relationships, in many ways, we get to choose. And you and I chose each other. We met each other as young women. I know I certainly never dreamed that I would be doing what I'm doing now and I don't think you did...

  • 10:25:25

    REHMNor I.

  • 10:25:25

    DIXON...either. But we formed a bond that has lasted and it's a relationship that, indeed, you know, changes my life. I use that word a lot, life transforming, but that's a large part of what I believe the Gospel is about. And like you, I would wish for every human being to have one or more relationships that really have that kind of stick-to-it-ness, that kind of loyalty, kind of honesty and the ability to laugh together.

  • 10:25:57

    REHMI think that's such an important point, that ability to laugh together. We've laughed at ourselves. We've laughed at each other. We've shared our family stories, our kids laugh at us when you and I have perhaps had periods of time when, for one reason or other, we haven't talked on the phone each day. My husband would say, how come you haven't talked to Ms. Dixon lately? And Dixie, your husband would say exactly the same thing.

  • 10:26:34

    REHMYou've married my two children. You've been with us as a family for all these years. It's really remarkable. And now, dear Jane, you're looking forward. You're about to leave the active ministry. What's that going to mean for you? What's it going to mean for us?

  • 10:26:59

    DIXONI've thought a lot about what it's going to mean for the two of us because I'm not sure I'm going to get up that early every morning anymore. So we may have to change our time of talking, which we did almost 30 years ago when I went to seminary. So we're going to have to sort that out about how we are going to be together...

  • 10:27:15

    REHMThat’s true.

  • 10:27:15

    DIXON…with your continuing to have your show and your hours that you do. But one of the things that I count on between the two of us is that we're going to continue getting old together. As you said, we know each other's stories and we tell stories in our family. You know, my children well remember the night that my mother died. I had pneumonia and I had to go to the hospital to get some medication to be able to go to Mississippi.

  • 10:27:42

    DIXONAnd you called my children and I called to tell you that. You called my children, tell them that you were there, you would be there for them, but they better behave and be wonderful to me. When tell family stories, they still laugh about that. So I don't have any doubt that our friendship is going have to change. My life is going to change in the future. But Diane, I need to tell you something.

  • 10:28:03

    DIXONI'm really excited about the future. God has blessed me with energy, with excitement and with a love of opportunity and newness. I don't know exactly what it's going to mean, but I'm trying to talk to people. I’m open. I want to take out into the world my concern and belief in justice. That's very, very important to me. And there are three areas that I'm particularly concerned about. Justice for -- continuing justice for women in the world.

  • 10:28:39

    DIXONYou and I have said we had the privilege of being stay-at-home moms for a while until our children were older. And by the time we really began our careers, they were in places where they didn't need us so much in those formative years. That's not true for my daughter, for my two daughters-in-law, for your Jenny, for Nancy, David's wife. How are women going to sort those things out?

  • 10:29:04

    DIXONHow are systems going to change to support women in their life, both as -- if they choose to be wives, mothers, professionals? The other two areas that I'm really concerned about is the life of our business communities, how justice is done at the corporate level, what it means to be a stock holder in a company now, how that affects the economy as well as continuing issues of acceptance of all people. I do believe with all my heart and soul that God created each and every human being in God's image.

  • 10:29:41

    DIXONAnd so to find ways for the world say that in this wonderful, global world in which we live.

  • 10:29:47

    REHMJane, you've carved out the world for yourself. I think that sounds so exciting. And to not now be pinned down to any one thing, but to find yourself considering numerous ideas, possibilities, you're right. That's very exciting. As, you know, it used to be that women of our age, I'm 65, you're about to be...

  • 10:30:22

    DIXONNext Wednesday, I will indeed be 65.

  • 10:30:24

    REHM65. 30 years ago, I mean, women of our age would be out of it. I mean, that's all there is to it. And you and I have had the good fortune to be in an age that accepts older people, women and men, as people who can continue to offer and contribute to society. And with your wonderful background and experience, I think the areas you're looking at are just perfect. There are an awful lot of people waiting on the phone.

  • 10:31:07

    REHMShall we take some calls? 1-800-433-8850. And let's go first to Dan in Tyler, Texas. Hi there, Dan.

  • 10:31:20

    DANGood morning, Diane.

  • 10:31:21

    REHMHow are you?

  • 10:31:22


  • 10:31:22


  • 10:31:23

    DANDiane, I'm excited about women's moving into ministry and I was just wondering what your friend thinks are some of the unique gifts or perspectives that women bring to the clergy.

  • 10:31:38

    REHMWhat do you think, Jane?

  • 10:31:39

    DIXONGood morning, Dan. One of the things that I have found in these years as an ordained person that women bring is the understanding that we do not have to have all of the gifts in our self, all of the skills, all of the talents, and that we can band together to form a team, if you will, to make things happen. I'm very good at public speaking. I'm very good in strategy. There are other things that I don't do quite so well, but there are other people who can do those things.

  • 10:32:13

    DIXONMen or women. And that we can work together to make things happen and you don't have to have it all in that one person.

  • 10:32:22

    DANDid you feel like a pioneer?

  • 10:32:26

    DIXONPeople tell me that so I guess I do. I haven't thought about it, truly. I'm not trying to be coy -- in day to day work because the work was there and I did it. But when I stand back and getting to this perspective, I suppose you could say I was.

  • 10:32:39

    REHMBut you just have to do it. I mean, as you say, you're presented with a position. You don't sort of think, gosh, am I the first, am I the second, am I a pioneer? I just have to do my job.

  • 10:32:55


  • 10:32:56

    REHMAnd that's exactly what you did. Dan, it's good to hear from you again. Take care.

  • 10:33:02

    DANThank you.

  • 10:33:03

    REHMAnd thanks for calling. The Right Reverend Jane Holmes Dixon is with me. She is the Suffragan bishop of the diocese of Washington. At 25 before the hour, you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And let's go to Plymouth, New Hampshire. Good morning, Teresa, thanks for joining us.

  • 10:33:27

    TERESAThank you so much for taking my call and for doing this particular show. I'm an Episcopal priest in New Hampshire. It's a great privilege to speak with Bishop Dixon. And you may or may now know that we're in the process here of just beginning our search for our next bishop. So I'm wondering, as you leave the Episcopate, what question you would ask somebody who's considering entering the Episcopate?

  • 10:33:52

    DIXONWell, good morning, Teresa. It's nice to talk to another sister. I would really want to know a question that may sound sort of strange, but it's been very important for me. How much energy does that person have? I think that to be -- I'm sure you know as a priest in the church, that having stamina and energy is really, really important. I mean, of course, the first question is what does that person believe about the God who created us in God's image.

  • 10:34:25

    DIXONAnd as Christians, in his son, Jesus Christ, who we know through the power of the Spirit, we want to know what one's faith perspectives are and how that person not only talks about what he or she believes, but how that person has lived it.

  • 10:34:38


  • 10:34:39

    DIXONI mean, that's, obviously, the first question to know.

  • 10:34:43


  • 10:34:43

    DIXONThe second one is, is how much energy does a person have to give to it and what kind of support will they have from their community? All clergy are not married, as you know, which is certainly not a requisite for that. But is there support from those closest to that person to do that job. It makes an enormous difference.

  • 10:35:00


  • 10:35:01

    REHMThank you.

  • 10:35:02

    TERESAThank you very much.

  • 10:35:03

    REHMLet's go to Mays Landing, New Jersey. Good morning, Pat.

  • 10:35:07

    PATGood morning, Diane. I'm so glad that you're doing this program.

  • 10:35:12


  • 10:35:12

    PATI have done...

  • 10:35:15

    REHMOh, dear. What happened? Her telephone -- that wasn't our fault, folks. I just want you to know. Pat, I do hope you'll call back and we'll try to get you back on the air quickly. Let's go to Joan in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Good morning.

  • 10:35:33

    JOANHi, Diane and Reverend Dixon, thanks for taking my call.

  • 10:35:36


  • 10:35:37

    JOANI know your friendship is a blessing to each of you.

  • 10:35:39


  • 10:35:39

    JOANAnd I wonder about your husbands' reactions to it, especially at the beginning and in light of your frequent phone calls. I especially wonder were they jealous of the intimacy between you? Men don't often have the same type of relationship that women have and I wonder how they responded both at the beginning and through the years.

  • 10:35:56

    REHMWell, I can tell you that my husband, who does not have a great many friends, seemed almost envious of our friendship. Not envious in any active way, but you know, sort of wistful and enjoying it. I mean, when Ms. Dixon would call, John would say, well, what did Ms. Dixon say this morning or so what did you all talk about today or something like that. Always, though, supportive and loving. Jane?

  • 10:36:36

    DIXONI think my husband, like John Rehm, was interested. I'm not so sure he was wistful, but I think he was interested. He had not ever experienced a friendship of this kind, the consistency of these calls. He may have been a little jealous in the beginning, but what he came to realize soon after was that I was different because of it. I was better for him. I was better for the children because of that. And so, as Diane has said, if we're not talking on a regular basis, he knows that I'm not in a very good place and that affects him.

  • 10:37:12

    DIXONSo he has come to treasure it. And like John Rehm, he wants to know what we've talked about. And I've noticed that quite often when we're on the phone, he sort of stops and I hear him listening.

  • 10:37:29

    REHMSo I think, Joan, in answer to your question more directly, it really has been wonderful for all of us, including, as I said earlier, even the children because, I mean, they all talked about Ms. Dixon or Jane's kids talk about Ms. Rehm and they all tell stories. The other day -- well, not the other day, but several months ago, when Jane's son Edward came to visit, he took me by that cheek, you know, and he said, hello, Ms. Rehm, as though I were the child and he were the adult, sort of reversing our roles.

  • 10:38:12

    REHMI mean, just darling. You know, that's all I can say, Joan.

  • 10:38:17

    JOANThank you very much. I really appreciate it.

  • 10:38:19

    REHMAnd thanks for calling. You know, I guess there might be some men out there who would feel threatened by the constant conversation or say, you know, what in the world do you all talk about? But there's always something to talk about. And we'll be talking more about friendship, the priesthood, what happens next and taking your calls. Do stay with us.

  • 10:39:02

    REHMAnd let's go right back to the phones, your questions, comments for Jane Holmes Dixon. She is the Suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Washington. She was only the third -- sorry, the second woman in the United States elected to the post of bishop, the third woman in the entire Anglican community. That took place in 1992. Jane is on the verge of retirement, and we're talking about her career and our friendship.

  • 10:39:45

    REHMLet's go to Silver Spring, Maryland. Good morning, Peggy.

  • 10:39:48

    PEGGYGood morning. I -- Jane, this is unbelievable. Our paths crossed back in 1987 in Florida, where I met you and Dixie, and I have been so moved to watch you and your ministry on TV through national celebrations and memorials, et cetera. And I have wanted to touch base with you while I'm in the area, and I was in the car, and I heard this -- you know, I heard you, and I just thought God has given me a way to touch base.

  • 10:40:19

    REHMOh how wonderful.

  • 10:40:19

    DIXONGood morning, Peggy.

  • 10:40:20

    PEGGYGood morning.

  • 10:40:20

    DIXONHow are you?

  • 10:40:21

    PEGGYI'm good, and I'm just so glad that we met at a time I think for both of us where we really made some changes in our lives, and I'm well, I'm in the ministry through counseling, pastoral counseling, and using my music. And I just wish you the best.

  • 10:40:38

    PEGGYWell thank you. It's lovely to hear from you, and I wish you the best, as well.

  • 10:40:43

    REHMI know she's on a pay phone. I can hear it in the background.

  • 10:40:47

    PEGGYIt's just, it's a miracle, and I'm just grateful for it, and I wish you well and care for you very much.

  • 10:40:53

    DIXONWell thank you. I hope you'll get in touch with me. If you'll write to me at the Episcopal Church House in Washington, D.C.

  • 10:41:01

    PEGGYI will do that.

  • 10:41:02

    DIXONIt's -- the zip code is 20016. I'd love to hear from you.

  • 10:41:06

    REHMPeggy, that's great, thanks for calling. You know, Peggy mentioned some of those very, very public services you've conducted from the cathedral, one shortly after September 11 with the president, the Cabinet, everyone there. Talk about that experience.

  • 10:41:28

    DIXONWell as you can imagine, Diane, it was -- it was a momentous time. I sent a fax to the president's office the afternoon of September 11, letting him know that if he wished to have a prayer service at the cathedral, we would be honored to do so, and indeed he did. And the dean and the staff of the cathedral put that service together in such a short time. It was really quite amazing what they were able to do.

  • 10:41:57

    DIXONBut to stand there knowing that all those people had gathered and that it was being looked at around the world and to have -- I keep using the word privilege, but that's what I feel about my life, the privilege of saying that I believe that love is stronger than hate and that ultimately love lived out as justice will prevail was important to me to say to myself in that time when our country was in terror.

  • 10:42:24

    DIXONThings had been uprooted. Lives had been lost. And so it was important to gather, to pray together, people of many faiths, which again our cathedral can welcome. It is a house of prayer for all people. And so to be the one who was in essence leading that service as the bishop during that time was a privilege and an honor, and I hope and pray for many people, an opportunity for people to know that love is stronger than hate.

  • 10:42:55

    REHMDo you know, even as you repeat those words here now, I and still see you saying those words on that day at the cathedral. And I find myself thinking there you were standing in the pulpit at National Cathedral, speaking to this extraordinary gathering of top U.S. and world leaders. Were you thinking at all I'm going to pinch myself, here I am, a young woman who started out in Winona, Mississippi, and here I stand?

  • 10:43:49

    DIXONThere are two things that really answered that question -- your question for me. I spent a fair amount of time in prayer before I went over to do that. It was important for me to know what I was going to say. It was important for me to do it without notes, to speak. And so I prayed that God would give me that which I needed to be able to do that. The pinching myself came when I met Billy Graham back in the room, which we call the slight, before the service.

  • 10:44:20

    DIXONAs a young woman, about 15 years old, living in Mississippi, I had gone to Memphis on -- Dr. Graham was having one of his crusades. He was at the beginning, almost the height of his ministry as an evangelist. And I had made a public witness. I was a -- grew up in the Presbyterian Church. I had come forward for what they call an altar call to pledge myself once again to God.

  • 10:44:42

    DIXONWell of course Billy Graham didn't know me at all, but sitting back there talking with him, I had the opportunity to tell him.

  • 10:44:49

    REHMOh how wonderful.

  • 10:44:50

    DIXONThat he did know me, and it was quite wonderful. He looked at me, and he said, well, you know, I've had a lot of people tell me about the impact I've had on their life, but I've never had anybody tell me that they've become a bishop.

  • 10:45:01

    REHMOh how wonderful.

  • 10:45:02

    DIXONAnd at the end of the service, as you know, Dr. Graham is now quite fragile.

  • 10:45:04


  • 10:45:04

    DIXONHe was incredible that day as he stood in the pulpit. But after the service we were standing there, and I had been sitting by him to watch him, to be sure that he was all right. And so I said to him, Dr. Graham, may I give you a hug. And he put his arms around me, and he said you can be my bishop anytime. So as you say, to pinch myself, it was really sort of a full circle of a beginning of a young woman making an affirmation of faith in a very public way to have this opportunity to be with that man.

  • 10:45:42

    REHMWhat a story to share with our listeners. That's just beautiful. Let's go to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Good morning, Joe, thanks for joining us.

  • 10:45:52

    JOEGood morning.

  • 10:45:53


  • 10:45:54

    JOEI want to congratulate the bishop on her career. I am a United Methodist clergy, and I was influenced to go into the ministry by a clergyperson, female clergyperson in our denomination. And when I was in seminary, my seminary training included reading Barbara Brown Taylor's sermon.

  • 10:46:19


  • 10:46:20

    JOEAnd it's been a fascinating journey for me to be in the ministry and to appreciate the role of women in the clergy. And my wife is struggling with that. I am a second-career pastor, and my wife is retired from the public school system in Oklahoma and is struggling as to whether or not she should go into the ordained deacon route in our denomination. And it's probably going to be a long journey for her, and she may never go in there, but she is absolutely a side-by-side minister with me in my position in a small church here.

  • 10:47:01

    JOEI share with you the joys that you've had, and you have been speaking of the trials that you've had in the clergy with such grace and dignity. I know that being in the clergy, I've seen that it's not necessarily a grace and dignity that you endure at the moment, but at -- the way you're conveying it and telling your story of your faith journey is fascinating, and I wish you continued God's blessing in your life and as you continue on your journey.

  • 10:47:36

    DIXONThank you, Joe, and God bless you and your wife as she finds her place. I do hope she realizes, and I'm sure she does, that her work as an educator is one of the most important ministries that any human being can ever do.

  • 10:47:50


  • 10:47:50

    DIXONSo God speed to both of you.

  • 10:47:51

    REHMThank you for calling, Joe. And let's go to Allen Park, Michigan, and to Stella.

  • 10:47:59

    STELLAGood morning, Diane.

  • 10:48:01


  • 10:48:03

    STELLAThanks for another wonderful program.

  • 10:48:03

    REHMThank you.

  • 10:48:04

    STELLAIt's been my great joy to have wonderful friendship for many, many years, but I wanted to say especially as I heard you two, I'm very active in my church, and it's my great joy to know several women pastors in my Presbyterian church. And one of our women associate pastors organized our first ever women's retreat about five years ago.

  • 10:48:34

    REHMThat's interesting.

  • 10:48:37

    STELLAAnd we look forward to it. It's a wonderful mix of generations. So I've had this idea for a theme in the near future, and here is the title, "Sacredness of Women's Friendship."

  • 10:48:51

    DIXONOh Stella, that's wonderful.

  • 10:48:53

    REHMI think that would be just terrific.

  • 10:48:56

    STELLAThat's what I thought listening to you.

  • 10:48:58


  • 10:49:00

    STELLAThanks again.

  • 10:49:02

    REHMOkay, and good luck to you.

  • 10:49:02

    STELLAThank you.

  • 10:49:03

    REHMYou know, I do believe that women simply approach friendship perhaps in a different way from the way men approach friendship? And studies have shown, you know, sort of little boys approach it through sports, and little girls approach it through sharing ideas and whispering, not that little girls are always sweet and wonderful and perfect or that little boys are always rough and tumble. But there are definitely differences, and I do think Stella's idea is a good one. You're listening to the Diane Rehm Show.

  • 10:49:55

    REHMJane, before this program ends, I need to tell you how much I've learned from you. For example, I think I have learned to think in more sensitive ways about other people and their needs. I have watched you in so many situations use absolutely unfailing diplomacy and care, even when I knew you were angry or hurt. I was there one day when a priest would not allow you into his church, and I watched as one caller spoke about it, your grace and the continuing strong posture but never angry or defiant.

  • 10:51:05

    REHMAnd I really have learned from you in that way. And I've seen you reach out to care for other people in ways that taught me to glean what other people need. And I want to thank you for that.

  • 10:51:28

    DIXONWell you are welcome. And I likewise have learned from you. So much of what I do as a priest and as a bishop is to listen to people and to ask them questions that elicit their ability to talk about what's in their heart and their mind. And you've taught me, to a degree, to do that. You're the best interviewer in the entire world, there's no question about that.

  • 10:51:56

    DIXONI was at a dinner party last night, and we were discussing that you are indeed. But you don't go at people in a hostile way. I've never heard you be hostile on this show. People are not afraid to come on this show, and that's true in our relationship. But you -- you care enough about people that you want to know about them, and so you help them to have the opportunity to express what it is they want to say.

  • 10:52:26

    DIXONAnd in the work that I do, without that I couldn't do the work, and I've learned that. I've really learned that from you. It's been a great gift to me, as well as the fact of the gift of knowing that when we disagree, which we have and will again, and sometimes they've been very painful disagreements, but I know now that you're not going to leave me. And loyalty, fidelity and trust, Diane, are the bedrock for me. And I know that you're there for me.

  • 10:52:56

    REHMI do love you so much.

  • 10:53:01

    DIXONAnd I love you so much.

  • 10:53:04

    REHMNow tell me quickly whether you have any apprehension whatsoever about retirement.

  • 10:53:13

    DIXONOf course I have apprehension about retirement. I have had a busy, demanding, exciting life. And these days I don't have the appointments that I did because I'm phasing my life out. I leave next week. I formally retire the end of August. And so of course I have apprehensions about what's coming next, but I believe that hope is the dynamic of the Christian faith, and so I'm hopeful.

  • 10:53:45

    REHMThe Right Reverend Jane Holmes Dixon, she is Suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Washington and one of my very dearest friends. Jane, we all wish you great success.

  • 10:53:59

    DIXONThank you, my dear, and...

  • 10:54:01

    REHMSafe journey.

  • 10:54:01

    DIXONThank you.

  • 10:54:03

    REHMAnd to all of our listeners, thank you, I'm Diane Rehm.


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