LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles has elected a lesbian as assistant bishop, the second openly gay bishop in the global Anglican fellowship, which is already deeply fractured over the first.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the world’s 77 million Anglicans, said that the choice raised “very serious questions” for the divided church and urged restraint.
The Rev. Mary Glasspool of Baltimore needs approval from a majority of dioceses across the church before she can be consecrated as assistant bishop in the Los Angeles diocese.
Still, her victory underscored a continued Episcopal commitment to accepting same-sex relationships despite enormous pressure from other Anglicans to change their stand.
“Any group of people who have been oppressed because of any one, isolated aspect of their persons yearns for justice and equal rights,” Glasspool said in a statement, thanking the diocese for choosing her.
The head of the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, is scheduled to consecrate Glasspool on May 15 in Los Angeles, if the church accepts the vote.
The Episcopal Church, which is the Anglican body in the United States, caused an uproar in 2003 by consecrating the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
Breakaway Episcopal conservatives have formed a rival church, the Anglican Church in North America. Several overseas Anglicans have been pressuring Williams to officially recognize the new conservative entity.
In 2004, Anglican leaders asked the Episcopal Church for a moratorium on electing another gay bishop while they tried to prevent a permanent break in the fellowship.
Since the request was made, some Episcopal gay priests have been nominated for bishop, but none was elected before Glasspool. Last July, the Episcopal General Convention, the U.S. church’s top policymaking body, affirmed that gay and lesbian priests were eligible to become bishops.
Williams recently reminded Anglicans that church leaders believed “a period of gracious restraint in respect of actions which are contrary to the mind of the Communion is necessary if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold.”
He said Glasspool’s election “raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole.” But he noted the election has yet to be confirmed and could still be rejected by U.S. dioceses.
The Anglican Communion is a family of churches that trace their roots to the missionary work of the Church of England. Most overseas Anglicans are Bible conservatives.
The Rev. Kendall Harmon of the traditional Diocese of South Carolina, which recently voted to distance itself from the national church, said the vote would further damage relations among Episcopalians, their fellow Anglicans and other Christians.
“This decision represents an intransigent embrace of a pattern of life Christians throughout history and the world have rejected as against biblical teaching,” said Harmon, an adviser to the diocesan bishop.