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Open Lesbian Bishop elected in Los Angeles
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Open Lesbian Bishop elected in Los Angeles

by James Whitely - SGN Contributing Writer

The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles elected a Lesbian to an assistant bishop position on December 5. The Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool, canon to the bishops of the Baltimore Diocese of Maryland, was elected to the office of bishop suffragan, where she will be assisting Bishop Diocesan J. Jon Bruno in ministry to the region's 70,000 parishioners.

Glasspool still needs approval from the majority of the Episcopal Church's other 108 dioceses before she can be consecrated as the assistant bishop. Consents from each respective diocese must be received prior to the bishop-elect's scheduled ordination to the episcopate, on May 15, 2010.

Glasspool, 55, is not only the first open Lesbian to be elected a bishop in the Episcopal Church, but also the second woman to be elected a bishop in her diocese. She is also the 17th woman to be elected to a bishop position in the Episcopal Church altogether.

The election began on December 4 at the 114th Annual Meeting of Diocesan Convention in Riverside, California, with six candidates running for two vacancies. Glasspool was elected on a seventh ballot that included two other candidates. She won 153 clergy votes and 203 lay votes, leaving her with a narrow margin, but with still enough votes to win.

DIOCESES URGED NOT TO VOTE BASED ON FEAR After the results were announced, the question was raised whether Glasspool might not receive consent from other dioceses. Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno, who leads the diocese, replied, "That would be a violation of the canons of this church. At our last General Convention, we said we are nondiscriminatory." Bruno urged all Episcopal dioceses to approve Glasspool's election and not base their decision on fear of how other Anglicans will react.

He did acknowledge rumors of a "concerted effort not to give consent" to Glasspool because she is openly Lesbian, however, "I would remind the Episcopal church and the House of Bishops they need to be conscientious about respecting the canons of the church and the baptismal covenant to respect the dignity of every human being," he said. "To not consent in this country out of fear of the reaction elsewhere in the Anglican Communion is to capitulate to titular heads."

Since the election of V. Gene Robinson, the first openly Gay bishop, in 2003, there have been breakaways within the Episcopal Church. The conservative Anglican Church of North America has since been vying for official recognition by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. This has left the church fractured, especially over the issue of same-sex relationships.

Rev. Kendall Harmon of the traditional Diocese of South Carolina 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.

Her victory has underscored the continued Episcopal commitment to accepting same-sex relationships in the face of pressure from other Anglicans to change their stand.

Jim Naughton of the Chicago Consultation, a group of Episcopal and Anglican clergy and laypeople who advocate on behalf of Gays and Lesbians, called Glasspool's election "a liberation."

Robinson, the first openly Gay elected bishop, told Glasspool before the election that he was grateful she was willing to put herself in the stressful position of running for bishop.

Glasspool wrote in an essay on the Los Angeles diocese website that she had an "intense struggle" while in college with her sexuality and the call to become a priest.

"Did God hate me (since I was a homosexual), or did God love me?" she wrote. "Did I hate (or love) myself?"

"One of the reasons she is so the right person for this is that she knows who she is and she knows she belongs to God and she knows everything else falls in place when you keep that central," said Robinson. "She's no stranger to people who think she shouldn't be a priest because she's a woman, or think she shouldn't be a priest because she's a Lesbian."

Glasspool decided to run for the position because she believed it was time "for our wonderful church to move on and be the inclusive church we say we are."

Glasspool met her partner, Becki Sander, in Massachusetts in 1988. She was ordained as a priest in 1982 in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, she holds a master of divinity degree from Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts and a bachelor's degree from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. She has led parishes in Annapolis, Boston and Philadelphia.

The Episcopal Church includes approximately 2.4 million members in 109 dioceses in 16 nations.

"I am very excited about the future of the whole Episcopal Church, and I see the Diocese of Los Angeles leading the way into that future," said Glasspool. "But just for this moment, let me say again, thank you, and thanks be to our loving, surprising God. I look forward, in the coming months, to getting to know you all better, as together we build up the body of Christ for the world."

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