The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles elected the first woman bishop in its 114-year history Friday but had yet to decide whether to select an openly gay priest for a second bishop opening.
The diocese’s clergy and lay leaders, meeting in Riverside for their annual convention, chose the Rev. Canon Diane M. Jardine Bruce, 53, an Orange County priest and former bank executive, for the first of two open suffragan bishop positions. Suffragan bishops assist a diocese’s primary bishop.
Bruce, rector of St. Clement’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in San Clemente, edged out five other candidates, including two openly gay priests, to win election on the convention’s third ballot.
Delegates praised Bruce for her strong resume and personal qualities.
In addition, said the Rev. Warren Nyback, a retired diocesan priest and convention delegate: “It’s an indication that the diocese is getting tired of male bishops. There’s been a yearning for a long time, especially among women clergy.”
In an interview after her election, Bruce said she hoped to use the position to “keep people connected, to listen to where the spirit is moving.” Choking up, she added: “You never expect something like this.”
Bruce and the second bishop-elect must be confirmed by a majority of the national church’s bishops and of diocesan “standing committees,” which include clergy and lay representatives.
Balloting for the second bishop position did not result in a winner Friday and the voting will continue today.
The election has drawn national attention because two of the six candidates are openly gay. One of those candidates, the Rev. John L. Kirkley of San Francisco, withdrew Friday afternoon. He was given a standing ovation as he entered the convention hall and was embraced by other candidates and delegates.
The other, the Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool of Baltimore, was leading the vote for the second position among both clergy and lay delegates and is considered a favorite. The other top vote-getter was the Rev. Irineo Martir Vasquez, vicar of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Hawthorne. The remaining candidates are the Rev. Zelda M. Kennedy of All Saints Church in Pasadena and the Rev. Silvestre E. Romero of St. Philip’s in San Jose.
If Glasspool is elected, it would mark the first election of an openly gay Episcopal bishop since the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson was chosen bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.
Robinson’s election threw the Episcopal Church and the global Anglican Communion into an uproar, leading to decisions by some conservative parishes and dioceses to leave the national church and resulting in a de facto ban on the election of additional gay bishops. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of Anglicanism.
But the U.S. church reversed course at its national convention in Anaheim in July, voting to open the top echelons of the church to gays and lesbians. The Los Angeles diocese, with 70,000 members across six counties, would be the first to test that policy if Glasspool is elected.
Bruce was raised Roman Catholic but joined the Episcopal Church in 1986, becoming a priest in 1998. She was the associate rector of Church of the Messiah in Santa Ana for three years before assuming her current post at St. Clement’s in 2000. She is married and has two adult children.
An Irvine resident, she has specialized in interfaith work, social-service outreach and multicultural ministries, according to the diocese. She speaks Spanish and Mandarin and holds a master of divinity degree from the Claremont School of Theology and a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from UC Berkeley.
The bishop of the Los Angeles Diocese, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, praised Bruce on Friday for her financial savvy and strong relationship-building skills. “Diane Jardine Bruce is the finest clergy I’ve ever met in my life,” Bruno said. “She is a woman who has an abundant sense of love.”
Bruce and the second bishop-elect will succeed the Rt. Rev. Chester L. Talton and the Rt. Rev. Sergio Carranza, both of whom plan to retire next year.