L.A. region’s first two female Episcopal bishops are ordained

There was a moment on Saturday when even the usually unflappable J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, held his breath.

It was the point when the 3,000 people at the Long Beach Arena were asked if anyone had any objections to the ordination of the region’s first two female bishops, one of whom is the first lesbian bishop ordained by the Episcopal Church.

“I don’t think there’s anybody in this place who was more nervous than I was,” Bruno said a short time later in his sermon.

FOR THE RECORD: An article about two new Episcopal bishops in Sunday’s California section included an incorrect reference to “Bruce and Jardine” taking the stage at Long Beach Arena shortly before the start of the service. Mary Douglas Glasspool took the stage alongside Diane Jardine Bruce.

But the moment passed in silence, and the two women — Diane Jardine Bruce and Mary Douglas Glasspool — were ordained to applause and cheers. Bruno said the church was “fuller and richer and more vital” as a result.

“Today, as we pray over these two magnificent women, bring into your hearts those things that you bear against any other human being and cast them away,” Bruno told the assembly. “For we cannot be separated from each other if God is for us and with us. . . . There are no outcasts.”

Bruce and Glasspool will be assistants to Bruno, a position known as suffragan. They are the 1,044th and 1,045th bishops ordained in the history of the Episcopal Church, but few previous clerical elections have attracted as much attention.

Although both ordinations broke new ground, it was the selection of Glasspool, who is gay, that attracted worldwide attention and no small amount of consternation among more conservative members of the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is a part. The head of the church, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, said after Glasspool’s election in March that it was “regrettable” and could threaten the unity of the communion.

She becomes the second gay bishop of the Episcopal Church, following Gene Robinson, who was chosen as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. His selection rocked the church and led to the departure of dozens of its more conservative parishes and four dioceses. In reaction, the church enacted a moratorium on the election of additional gay bishops but overturned that policy at its national convention in Anaheim last summer.

In choosing Glasspool, the Los Angeles Diocese became the first to test the new policy. With some 70,000 members and 147 congregations in six Southern California counties, it is among the largest Episcopal dioceses in the country and is considered among the most liberal.

“The Diocese of Los Angeles has been a leader for many years in many ways,” said the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, at a news conference Friday. She called the ordination a “historic occasion.”

Saturday’s four-hour-plus service combined the pomp of the Episcopal Church’s long tradition with a multicultural flair reflecting its modern California flock. There was hip-hop dancing, a mariachi band, Japanese taiko drumming and African vocals. It included a nearly hour-long procession led by a robed figure, known as a thurifer, swinging a ceremonial incense holder. Banners reminiscent of medieval England ringed the arena, each representing a church within the diocese.

Although no one raised any objections about the ordinations when asked during the service, it was not without disruption. A handful of protesters stood outside the arena, carrying signs and yelling slogans decrying homosexuality. And early in the service, shortly after Bruce and Jardine had taken the stage, a man seated near the front of the arena stood, waved a placard and begin shouting: “Repent of the sins of the homosexual! Repent of the sin of abortion!”

As the audience stirred, a woman yelled sharply: “Sit down!”

As security guards led him off, the man continued yelling. “It’s an abomination! Repent! The Bible says homosexuals will not enter …" and his voice trailed off.

As the ceremony resumed, a young boy in a white shirt stood up, holding aloft what appeared to be a Bible. “Repent!” he began yelling to the startled arena. “Repent!” As he was led out, a voice called out, “We’re praying for you!” The audience applauded.

Bob Williams, a spokesman for the diocese, said security officers escorted the two, apparently father and son, from the arena. They were not arrested, he said.

Those in attendance, who included Episcopal clergy and lay people from churches throughout the diocese, appeared overwhelmingly supportive of the new bishops.

“It took us a long time to get here,” said Warren Patterson, 71, of Palm Springs, a retired nurse who attended the service with his partner of 38 years, William Newton.

Patterson said they had known Glasspool for 20 years, from the time she was a priest at their parish in Boston, where the two men lived until they retired. For him, he said, the meaning of the day “is very simply said: The Holy Communion table is open to all baptized Christians. And it’s a beautiful thing.”