Episcopal Church approves ordination of openly gay bishop in Los Angeles

The Episcopal Church gave final approval Wednesday to the ordination of an openly gay bishop in Los Angeles, putting a face behind a policy that has divided the church and caused some of its more conservative members to break away.

Mary Glasspool is the first openly gay bishop approved since 2003, when the election of a gay man as bishop of New Hampshire caused such an uproar that the U.S. church, under pressure from other members of the global Anglican Communion, imposed a moratorium on such elevations. The ban was lifted last year.

Glasspool is also one of the first two women to be elected as bishops in the 114-year history of the Los Angeles diocese. The other, Diane M. Jardine Bruce, won final approval March 8.

“I’m overjoyed,” Glasspool said in a phone interview from Baltimore, where she is canon, or senior assistant, to the bishop of Maryland. “It’s time to celebrate. . . . I know there are people who might not be overjoyed by this, and I am committed to reaching out with my own hand and my own heart to people who might not feel the same as I do.”

Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno said he, too, was overjoyed, and called the election of the two women “historic.” He said the consenting votes by U.S. bishops and diocesan standing committees demonstrated “that the Episcopal Church, by canon, creates no barrier for ministry on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, among other factors.”

That decision by the church has led dozens of congregations to split off, some affiliating with more conservative Anglican churches overseas. The Episcopal Church remains part of the worldwide Communion but that body’s spiritual leader, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, issued a warning to the U.S. church in December, saying that Glasspool’s election “raised very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole.”

David C. Anderson, president of the breakaway American Anglican Council, said the bishop’s election was a sign that the Episcopal Church “will not abide by traditional Christian and Anglican Communion teaching on marriage and sexuality.”

Glasspool and Bruce were both elected to the position of bishop suffragan, which means that they will be assistants to Bruno. Both will be ordained and consecrated at a ceremony May 15.