Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori is putting a dent in the so-called "stained-glass ceiling" of centuries of male domination within the church.
Over the weekend, she was chosen to be the Episcopal Church's first female presiding bishop by the U.S. arm of the global Anglican Communion.
"I think my election to this position shows that the bishops of this church are able to make decisions without regard to the gender of the person being considered -- which is what we're all hoping for across the board," Schori said.
That's not what everyone's hoping for, though. Her election to the nine-year term threatens to split the Episcopal Church in the United States and across the world.
"It breaks my heart. I was born into this church," said Pittsburgh-based Bishop Robert Duncan. "What this church has done is embrace a revolutionary agenda rather than a part of mainstream Christianity."
According to The Associated Press, three Episcopal dioceses are rejecting the vote to nominate Schori, and they have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to appoint another Anglican leader.
In the early 1970s as the women's movement gained steam, more females entered the ministry.
Presbyterians, Episcopalians, United Methodists and American Baptists now regularly ordain women. That's a relatively small percentage of American Christians.
Most evangelical denominations and the Catholic Church steadfastly refuse to ordain women.
However, that is changing. In late July, Joan Clark Hauk, a grandmother from Pennsylvania, will be ordained as a Catholic priest, along with seven other women.
It will be the first ceremony of its kind in this country, but one the Vatican will not condone.
Hauk said she wanted the church to "turn away from committing the sin of discriminating against women and blaming it on God."
Schori, a former scientist and amateur pilot, is quietly confident she can win converts.
"In my 30 years of adult life -- most of which has been spent in the company of men, in male-dominated occupations -- I've discovered that once you build relationships, almost anyone will talk," she said.
To those pushing up against the stained-glass ceiling, one critic recommends the famous prayer: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change."
For some Christian women, that's just not good enough.