In 2003 the Episcopal Church was nearly torn in two by the nomination of the openly homosexual V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. After a recent vote at the church's general convention to lift a moratorium on consecrating gay bishops, two dioceses have selected nominees who will test the vote.
The Diocese of Los Angeles announced on Sunday that it had narrowed its search for two assistant bishops down to six candidates. The slate of potential bishops includes Mary Douglas Glasspool, who is a practicing lesbian, and John L. Kirkley, a homosexual. Other nominees are: Rev. Canon Diane M. Jardine Bruce, Rev. Zelda M. Kennedy, Rev. Silvestre E. Romero and Rev. Irineo Martir Vasquez.
The assistant bishops will serve under the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles.
Bishop Bruno, who held one-on-one meetings with the candidates, said, "I affirm each and every one of these candidates, and I am pleased with the wide diversity they offer this Diocese."
The final decision on who will be selected as an assistant bishop will take place at the Diocesan Convention in Riverside, California on December 4-5.
The Diocese of Minnesota also included a lesbian candidate in their slate of three nominees to serve as the ninth Bishop of Minnesota. The search committee began the process of finding a bishop last year and will conclude their search on September 25. The next bishop will be chosen on October 31.
The nomination of openly homosexual candidates as bishops has divided the Episcopal Church and resulted in dozens of churches and four dioceses breaking away to form the Anglican Church in North America in late June.
Concern from other member churches in the Anglican Communion caused U.S. church leaders to promise to exercise restraint before consecrating additional gay bishops following the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003.
However, at their General Convention in Anaheim last month, laity, clergy and bishops voted to allow homosexuals into "any ordained ministry" thereby effectively reversing their earlier decision. They also agreed to consider rites of blessing for same-sex couples.
The decision to include practicing homosexuals in the list of candidates could put Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' proposition for a “two track” Church to a test if any of the gay candidates are selected as a bishop.