An openly partnered lesbian priest, the Rev.Mary Glasspool, has been elected as a suffragan bishop in the Episcopal Church’s diocese of Los Angeles.
Immediate reactions on both sides were predictable. Rod Thomas from Reform in the UK said: ‘I feel deeply ashamed that this is happening in the Anglican Church.’ Canon Kendall Harmon ih the USA said: “The election represents an intransigent embrace of a pattern of life Christians throughout history and the world have rejected as against biblical teaching.”
On the positive side, Fr Ron Smith writes: “The election [of] an openly gay- partnered cleric is symptomatic of the maturity of TEC, in its determination to outlaw a culture of homophobia and misogyny within its Church family. Thank God for the fact that TEC's gay clergy are willing to be honest about their sexuality. Would that other Anglican Churches were able to be so free from an institutionalised culture of hypocrisy.”
What will be the impact of her election on the Anglican Communion? Too early to say because consent has to be given by the bishops and standing committees of the Episcopal Church's other 108 dioceses. Her ordination to the episcopate is set to take place on May 15, 2010 with the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev Katharine Jefferts Schori, due to officiate.
Her election might not be given approval. That would be the end of the story, for the moment, but another election will inevitably occur and the consecration of a second partnered lesbian or gay bishop will happen one day.
If Mary Glasspool’s election is confirmed and she is consecrated bishop there will be renewed pressure from conservative Provinces, coalitions and lobby groups to marginalize the Episcopal Church or seek to evict her from the Communion.
This would temporarily satisfy conservatives who would then claim a victory for what they maintain is traditional, orthodox Christianity. This is not an unchanging tradition nor an orthodoxy which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Anglicans and our supporters wish to respect or maintain.
Exclusion of the Epsicopal Church (TEC) would be hailed as a further step on the road to eradicating the presence of LGBT people from the Communion. The exclusion of TEC with all her energy, gifts and prophetic vision would be a huge loss to the Communion. Exclusion would be a devastating blow to those of us working for the full inclusion of LGBT people, the majority of whom in the Communion live isolated, lonely lives and for whom Gene Robinson’s election was an incredibly powerful sign that God loves us and there is a place for us in the Communion and the Kingdom. Diane Bruce’s election reinforces that message.
The failure to confirm her election or the possible eviction of TEC from the Communion if her election is confirmed, would do nothing to change present reality. There are LGBT people baptized, confirmed, ordained, single, partnered, worshipping and ministering in every Province and every diocese of our Communion.