On Wednesday, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles reported the approval of the election of Mary Douglas Glasspool as their first openly partnered lesbian assistant bishop. The decision drew sharply contrasting reactions from those within the Episcopal community, including dissatisfaction from the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
Glasspool, 56, was elected bishop in December of last year but had to wait for consent from the Office of the Episcopal Church, which was confirmed yesterday. Upon hearing of her election confirmation, Glasspool was reported by the LA diocese as being “overjoyed” and “profoundly grateful.”
“I am also aware that not everyone rejoices in this election and consent, and will work, pray, and continue to extend my own hands and heart to bridge those gaps, and strengthen the bonds of affection among all people, in the Name of Jesus Christ,” Glasspool said on Wednesday.
Bishop John Bruno of Los Angeles issued a statement praising the confirmation of both Glasspool and colleague Diane Jardine Bruce as assistant bishops, saying that the standing committees and bishops involved “have joined the Diocese of Los Angeles in recognizing and affirming the many gifts and skills of these highly qualified and experienced clerics.”
On Thursday, however, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams emailed a statement to the Episcopal News Service from Lambeth Palace, saying, “it is regrettable that the appeals from Anglican Communion bodies for continuing gracious restraint have not been heeded.”
Archbishop Williams had previously reacted in December to Glasspool's initial election and said at the time that “the outcome of the consent process would have important implications for the communion” and that “(f)urther consultation will now take place about the implications and consequences of this decision.”
Bishop David C. Anderson, President and CEO of the American Anglican Council, issued a statement echoing the concern of the Archbishop of Canterbury and going one step further. “What this means is the majority of The Episcopal Church's leaders - down to the diocesan level throughout America - are exercising no restraint as requested by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the primates of the Anglican Communion.”
“Despite pleas to the contrary, they have given their consent for a partnered lesbian to become a bishop, not just for Los Angeles, but for the whole church,” the bishop added.
“Unfortunately,” he continued, “this comes as no surprise because The Episcopal Church, at its General Convention this summer, voted in favor of allowing dioceses to determine whether they will conduct same sex blessings using whatever rites they deem appropriate. Even if The Episcopal Church should eventually decide to sign an Anglican Covenant, it has shown time and time again that it will not abide by traditional Christian and Anglican Communion teaching on marriage and sexuality.”
Jeff Walton, director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy's Anglican Action Program, also weighed in on the issue Thursday. “Glasspool's election is unfortunate because she has unapologetically taken sexual expression outside of the God-ordained boundary of Holy Matrimony. In the view of the wider Anglican Communion, this practice makes her unqualified to serve in the role of a bishop.”
Walton added that “Glasspool's election is the next step in the Episcopal Church's liberalizing trajectory. After revoking a moratorium on the consecration of non-celibate homosexual bishops during its July General Convention, the denomination made clear that it was going to proceed on this route, despite protests from other Anglicans.
“Consent to Glasspool's election by the Episcopal Church shows how little the U.S. - based denomination cares about what other parts of the global Anglican Communion believe,” asserted the IRD director, adding, “The majority of the Episcopal Church is increasingly practicing a separate faith than what most worldwide Anglicans practice.”
Walton also noted that “Glasspool's election and consecration comes at the same time as the Episcopal Church reports steep declines in attendance. Interestingly, the traditionalist Anglican Church in North America (AC-NA) has added 100 new congregations since July.”