LA TIMES writers,

By Duke Helfand and Carla Rivera

December 7, 2009

The spiritual leader of the global Anglican Communion issued an unusually sharp and swift rebuke Sunday to church leaders in the U.S. over the election of a lesbian bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

In a terse statement, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams delivered a warning to Episcopal bishops, clergy and lay representatives about the confirmation of the Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool, a lesbian who has been in a partnered relationship for two decades.

“The election of Mary Glasspool by the Diocese of Los Angeles as suffragan bishop-elect raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole,” Williams wrote.

The archbishop pointed out that Glasspool’s selection must be confirmed by leaders of the U.S. church before she can be consecrated as a suffragan, or assistant, bishop. “That decision will have very important implications,” he said.

Glasspool must gain a majority of votes from bishops and from standing committees of clergy and lay leaders across the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the worldwide communion. That process will unfold over the next several months as church leaders consider Glasspool and another priest, the Rev. Canon Diane M. Jardine Bruce, who was picked for another suffragan opening in the Los Angeles diocese.

They would be the first women bishops in the diocese’s 114-year history.

Williams’ message, which came as Episcopalians in L.A. reflected on Glasspool’s election at church services Sunday, was his strongest to date on an issue that has reverberated across the communion since 2003, when the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, was consecrated as bishop of New Hampshire.

Amid pressure from overseas Anglicans, Episcopal leaders agreed in 2006 to refrain from electing more homosexual bishops. They reversed that moratorium at their national convention in Anaheim in July despite concerns expressed there by Williams about decisions “that could push us further apart.”

The Los Angeles diocese is the first to test the more lenient policy.

Glasspool, 55, who now serves as a canon, or senior assistant, to the Diocese of Maryland bishops, was elected to the suffragan position Saturday during the Los Angeles diocese’s annual convention in Riverside. Her selection followed that of Bruce, 53, rector of St. Clement’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in San Clemente, on Friday.

Williams’ message appeared to target U.S. bishops, the group over which he may have the greatest sway as the confirmation process begins. He maintained that bishops within the wider communion had “collectively acknowledged that a period of gracious restraint” was necessary “if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold.”

Conservative Episcopalians said they were surprised by the unusually blunt language from a religious leader known for carefully parsing his words and layering his arguments, particularly around the explosive issue of homosexual bishops and same-sex marriage blessings, another subject that has set off theological fireworks in the church.

“For a man who prides himself on nuance and understatement, it’s a remarkably swift and vigorous response,” said the Rev. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. “I didn’t expect him to respond this strongly or this quickly. I think Los Angeles underestimated the significance of what they were doing in the international context.”

The bishop of the Los Angeles diocese, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, argued that the U.S. church has the autonomy and authority to confirm Glasspool regardless of Williams’ displeasure.

“I don’t foresee how an autonomous Episcopal Church should be influenced by other people’s fear of sexuality or homosexuality,” Bruno said. “I’m moving forward completely dedicated to Diane Jardine Bruce and to Mary Glasspool, a woman who happens to be a lesbian. I have an obligation as the bishop of Los Angeles to do what my people call me to do . . . to support Mary Glasspool and help her become confirmed.”

Glasspool was traveling Sunday and could not be reached for comment. The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, declined comment on the election, a spokeswoman said.

As Anglican tensions simmered on two continents, Episcopalians in Los Angeles mulled Glasspool’s and Bruce’s elections.

Several worshipers at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral near USC concluded that Glasspool’s sexual orientation was less important to her role as bishop than her experience as a church rector and longtime diocesan official in Maryland. Those interviewed said they believed that both women were chosen on the basis of merit.

“We have to be thankful that we have two extremely qualified people, whether they are men, women, gay or straight,” said Clyde Beswick, 59, who was attending morning services in the ornate cathedral.

At St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glendale, some members said they had yet to make up their minds about Glasspool, while others said her sexual orientation should not be an issue. Still, the decision to elevate the two women priests will be painful for some, acknowledged Bruce Merritt, a member of St. Mark’s for about 20 years.

“A lot of people have deep-seated and traditional values and are going to be upset,” said Merritt, the parish historian. “I was brought up in the church when homosexuality was bad and women were not accepted. But I think the trajectory is changing.”

At St. James’ in the City, an Episcopal church in Los Angeles’ mid-Wilshire district that welcomes gay and lesbian parishioners, the Rev. Paul J. Kowalewski said the turmoil caused by Glasspool’s selection — and Robinson’s in 2003 — is worth the trouble.

“Any time the church is on the process of change or growth we’re going to have to take risks,” he said. “If anybody is on the fringes, excluded, we’re not doing our job.”

and here another story:

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams says the choice of the Rev. Mary Glasspool by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles “raises very serious questions” for the 77 million-strong Anglican communion.

But he said Sunday that the election has yet to be confirmed and could still be rejected by the U.S. church. Williams called for “a period of gracious restraint … if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold.”

The head of the global Anglican Communion is urging both sides of the fractured church to exercise restraint after the election of an openly lesbian bishop in the United States.

Glasspool is the second openly gay bishop in the global Anglican fellowship, which has been brought to the brink of a split by the issue of gay and female clergy.

AP’s earlier story follows:

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles has elected a lesbian as assistant bishop, underscoring Episcopal commitment to accepting same-sex relationships despite enormous pressure from other Anglicans to change that stand.

Saturday’s election of the Rev. Mary Glasspool of Baltimore as the second openly gay bishop in the global Anglican fellowship still needs approval from a majority of dioceses across the church before she can be consecrated.

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 the Anglican spiritual leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, to officially recognize the new conservative entity.

“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 after the vote, thanking the diocese for choosing her.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the head of the Episcopal Church, is scheduled to consecrate Glasspool on May 15 in Los Angeles, if the church accepts the vote.

Glasspool was elected on a seventh ballot that included two other candidates. She won 153 clergy votes and 203 lay votes, giving her just enough to emerge as the winner.

The election began Friday with six candidates vying for two vacancies for assistant bishops.

The winner for the first vacancy was the Rev. Diane M. Jardine Bruce, rector of St. Clement’s-By-The-Sea Episcopal Church in San Clemente. As the balloting progressed for the second vacancy, two other candidates eventually withdrew.

The Rev. Kendall Harmon of the traditional Diocese of South Carolina, which recently voted to distance itself from the national church, said Saturday’s 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.

The 77-million-member 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.

In 2004, Anglican leaders had 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 were nominated for bishop, but none was elected before Glasspool. Last July, the Episcopal General Convention, the U.S. church’s top policy making body, affirmed that gay and lesbian priests were eligible to become bishops.

Jim Naughton of The Chicago Consultation, a group of Episcopal and Anglican clergy and lay people who advocate on behalf of gays and lesbians, called Glasspool’s election “a liberation.”

“We’ve been around this issue for 30 years,” said Naughton, an adviser to the bishop of Washington. “It’s unreasonable to expect us to refrain from acting on the very prayerful conclusions that we’ve reached, especially when we think there are issues of justice involved.”

Robinson said he told Glasspool before the election that he was grateful she was willing to put herself in the stressful position of running for bishop.

“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,” Robinson said in a phone interview. “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, 55, an adviser, or canon, for eight years to the Diocese of Maryland’s bishop, said in an essay on the Los Angeles diocese Web site 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?”

She said she met her partner, Becki Sander, while working in Massachusetts, and the two have been together since 1988. When a colleague recently asked for permission to submit Glasspool’s name as a candidate in Los Angeles, she agreed because she believed it was time “for our wonderful church to move on and be the inclusive church we say we are.”

A graduate of Dickinson College and Episcopal Divinity School, Glasspool was ordained in 1981, and has led parishes in Annapolis, Md., Boston and Philadelphia.

Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno, who leads the diocese, urged Episcopal dioceses to approve Glasspool’s election and not base their decision on fear of how other Anglicans will react.

The Los Angeles diocese has 70,000 members and covers six Southern California counties. Jardine and Glasspool, whose titles will be suffragan bishops, are the first women bishops in the Los Angeles diocese.

Here’s another article


Asks Archbishop to Reconsider Statement and Silence 

CHICAGO, IL, December 7, 2009—The Chicago Consultation issued this statement today from its co-convener, the Rev. Lowell Grisham:

“For weeks the Archbishop of Canterbury has been silent as the Ugandan legislature considers making homosexuality a crime punishable by death. Lambeth Palace has let it be known that it was working behind the scenes to influence the situation because public confrontation would be counterproductive and disrespectful. Yet the election of the Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool, a remarkably qualified gay woman as a suffragan bishop of Los Angeles, incited the Archbishop’s immediate statement of alarm, implying there would be grave consequences unless bishops and standing committees in the Episcopal Church refused to consent to her election.   

“Canon Glasspool is a qualified, respected and beloved servant of God whom the Diocese of Los Angeles has discerned has the gifts of the Spirit to help lead their ministry.  She is no threat to the work of God or to Jesus’ commandment that we love our neighbor as ourselves.  On the other hand, executing gay people and creating a state system of oppression is a gross violation of the spirit of the one who welcomed the outcast to his table. We are as perplexed by the Archbishop’s speedy condemnation of the former as we are by his prolonged silence of the latter.

“We believe that honoring the relationships and ministries of gay and lesbian Christians, is, in the end, the only way in which the Anglican Communion can be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We hope that when the Archbishop realizes the damage he has done to the Communion’s ministry among gay and lesbian Christians and those who seek justice for them, he will reconsider both the words he has spoken and the words he has not.”

The Chicago Consultation, a group of Episcopal and Anglican bishops, clergy and lay people, supports the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians in the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion. To learn more about the Chicago Consultation, visit http://www.chicagoconsultation.org.

Editor’s note: some say the ABC has been seen wearing a new outfit recently: