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Los Angeles diocese elects openly gay bishop suffragan: Mary Douglas Glasspool

Convention speaks: church's 'future' is women

[Episcopal News Service] The 114th annual convention of the Diocese of Los Angeles made history for the second time in as many days on Dec. 5, electing an openly gay candidate, the Rev. Mary Douglas Glasspool, as bishop suffragan, pending the required consents from the majority of the church's other dioceses.

A day earlier, some 680 delegates attending "Faith and Our Future" at the Riverside Convention Center, elected the Rev. Canon Diane Jardine Bruce, 53, rector of St. Clements by-the-Sea Church in San Clemente, California, in the Los Angeles diocese, as their first woman bishop suffragan.

Glasspool, 55, canon to the bishops in the Baltimore-based Diocese of Maryland for the past eight years, was elected on the seventh ballot. She received 153 clergy votes and 203 votes from the laity. The ballot required 123 votes in the clergy order and 193 in the lay order.

After Bruce's Dec. 4 election, the field of candidates narrowed to five, with Glasspool leading the Rev. Irineo Martir Vasquez, a Los Angeles area priest, on the first two ballots. On the seventh ballot, Vasquez received 87 votes in the clergy order and 177 lay votes. The results of all the ballots are available here.

The Rev. Silvestre Romero, rector of St. Philip's Church in San Jose, California, withdrew after the fourth ballot. Another openly gay candidate, the Rev. John Kirkley, rector of St. John the Evangelist Church in San Francisco, withdrew after the third ballot.

Balloting for the second election, which had originally been scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 5, commenced instead on Dec. 4 shortly after Bruce was elected.

Prior to the second election, the Rev. Canon Julian Bull, headmaster of Campbell Hall and chair of the bishop's search committee, encouraged convention delegates via video presentation to elect a bishop suffragan from the remaining five candidates to complement a team ministry with Los Angeles diocesan Bishop Jon Bruno and Bruce.

"I'm very excited about the future of the whole Episcopal Church, and I see the Diocese of Los Angeles leading the way into that future," Glasspool said after the election. "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," added Glasspool, who received a standing ovation by convention.

Glasspool initially greeted the gathering in Spanish and reached out to Vasquez and "to people of every ethnic group and category" as "we try to be God's kingdom on earth."

"This is my 56th Advent and I think I finally know the meaning of the word wait," Glasspool said, eliciting laughter from the gathering about the lengthy election process.

Glasspool is the second openly gay partnered priest to be elected a bishop in the Episcopal Church. The first was Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who was elected in 2003.

Reaction to Glasspool's election was swift. The Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon, canon theologian from the Diocese of South Carolina, said the election "represents an intransigent embrace of a pattern of life Christians throughout history and the world have rejected as against biblical teaching.

"It will add further to the Episcopal Church's incoherent witness and chaotic common life, and it will continue to do damage to the Anglican Communion and her relationship with our ecumenical partners."

Under the canons of the Episcopal Church (III.11.4(a)) that apply after all episcopal elections, a majority of bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan Standing Committees must consent to Glasspool's ordination within 120 days from the day after notice of her election is sent to them.

Bruno, responding to a question about whether Glasspool would received the required number of consents for her episcopacy to go forward, said: "If by chance people are going to withhold consents because of Mary's sexuality, it would be a violation of the canons of this church.

"At our last General Convention, we said we are nondiscriminatory. They just as well might have withheld their consents from me because I was a divorced man and in my case, it would have been more justified than someone withholding them from someone who has been approved through all levels of ministry and is a good and creative minister of the Gospel."

He added: "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.

"To not consent in this country out of fear of the reaction elsewhere in the Anglican Communion is to capitulate to titular heads."

The Rev. Canon Dr. Charles K. Robertson, canon to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said: "This weekend witnesses the election of a new bishop diocesan in post-Katrina Louisiana and two bishops suffragan in Los Angeles. In each case, the voting representatives of the local diocese are making their decision trusting that God has called this person to be bishop. But this is only half the process, as bishops and Standing Committees throughout the Episcopal Church over the coming months will be asked through our consent process whether they confirm that God has indeed called this person to the office of bishop."

Glasspool's ordination and consecration is scheduled for May 15, 2010.

During her 28-year ordained ministry, Glasspool has served congregations in Maryland, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
While she was rector of St. Luke's and St. Margaret's Church in Boston (1992 to 2001), the small urban church's budget more than doubled from $44,000, and parish membership tripled from 50 to about 150. She also has served as program developer for the Massachusetts Bible Society.

A 2006 Harvard Divinity School Merrill Fellow, Glasspool said that in her current role she provides pastoral care to clergy and their families and makes officials visits on behalf of Maryland's bishops.

She is a 1976 magna cum laude graduate of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and earned a master of divinity degree in 1981 from the Episcopal Divinity School, where she has returned to lecture in pastoral theology. She is also a certified field education supervisor, a Cursillo Spiritual Director and has designed and facilitated spiritual retreats for more than 20 years.

Ordained to the diaconate in 1981 and the priesthood in 1982, Glasspool has been active at local, provincial and national church levels. She has served as a three-time General Convention deputy, a Province III representative and as president of the diocesan standing committee.

The daughter of a priest, Glasspool was one of two openly gay candidates on the Los Angeles slate but maintained that her sexual orientation was "not an issue" in the election.

She was born on Staten Island and grew up in Goshen, New York, where her father served as rector of St. James' Church for 35 years. Her life partner of 19 years is Becki Sander, who holds degrees in theology and social work.

Bruno said that Glasspool has for years in effect fulfilled the responsibilities of a suffragan bishop in her role as canon to the bishops in the Baltimore-based Diocese of Maryland.

He said he is looking forward to working with Glasspool because of "her congeniality and willingness to work together to bring us to a place of abundance."

"She's not afraid of conflict and is a reconciler." He added that Glasspool and her partner are an example of loving service and ministry.

The Diocese of Maryland represents about 45,000 Episcopalians in 117 congregations and encompasses parts of Appalachia as well as Howard County, the fourth wealthiest county in the nation.

In written statements, Glasspool had said gifts she hoped to bring to the new ministry included: "a profound love of people; a willingness to learn new things; an appreciation of others' gifts and skills; the broad and deep experience of 28 years of ordained ministry; the "fresh" eyes of an 'Easterner'; and the energy and enthusiasm that seem to come from the new things that God is always doing."

Bruno had called for the elections at the diocese's 2008 convention, when announcing the 2010 retirements of Bishop Suffragan Chester Talton and Bishop Assistant Sergio Carranza, after 19 and seven years service, respectively, to the diocese.

Talton was elected bishop suffragan by the Diocese in 1990 and began ministry in 1991. Carranza, the retired Bishop of the Diocese of Mexico, was appointed bishop assistant by Bruno and began ministry in Los Angeles in 2003.

With 70,000 members in 148 congregations, the Diocese of Los Angeles includes all of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and part of Riverside County.

The Diocese of Los Angeles is one of 110 dioceses that form the Episcopal Church, located in 16 nations and territories and part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The other candidates were:

• the Rev. Zelda Kennedy, 62, senior associate for pastoral care and spiritual growth, All Saints Church, Pasadena, California (Diocese of Los Angeles);
• the Rev. John Kirkley, 42, rector of St. John the Evangelist, in San Francisco in the Diocese of California;
• the Rev. Silvestre Romero, 41, rector of St. Philip's Church in San Jose, in the Diocese of El Camino Real; and
• the Rev. Martir Vasquez, 45, vicar, St. George's Church in Hawthorne, California in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

More information about all nominees is available here.

-- The Rev. Pat McCaughan is Episcopal News Service correspondent for provinces VII and VIII and the House of Bishops. She is based in Los Angeles.

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