U.S. Episcopal Church consecrates second gay, partnered bishop

By on May 17, 2010

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of The Episcopal Church with Diane Jardine Bruce and Mary Douglas Glasspool during their consecration as bishops suffragan of the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles. (Episcopal News Service)

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of The Episcopal Church with Diane Jardine Bruce and Mary Douglas Glasspool during their consecration as bishops suffragan of the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles.

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Two historic ministries were welcomed in a huge and joyous celebration May 15 as thousands witnessed Diane Jardine Bruce and Mary Douglas Glasspool being consecrated bishops suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

During the three-hour service at the Long Beach Arena, themed ‘Rejoice!’ Bruce and Glasspool were ordained and consecrated the 16th and 17th women bishops in the Episcopal Church. Bruce is the first woman to be elected a bishop in the Los Angeles diocese. Glasspool, elected Dec. 5, a day after Bruce, is the diocese’s first-and the Episcopal Church’s second-gay, partnered bishop.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori served as chief consecrator in the multi-lingual Spanish, Korean, Tagalog and English service. About 30 bishops, including the Rt. Rev. Martin DeJesus Barahona of El Salvador and retired Ugandan bishop Christopher Senyonjo, attended the Los Angeles service.

In Canada, the bishop of the diocese of New Westminster, Michael Ingham, said the election of Bishop-elect Glasspool signifies that “the mainstream American Anglicans are simply tired of fighting over sexuality issues.” In an interview, Ingham said “there’s a general consensus that people have firm and differing convictions on this and it…should not be a matter of conflict but mutual respect.” He added: “The people who want to fight over this, who want to make an issue out of this have already left and are trying to form a parallel church….” The bishop of the diocese of Caledonia, William Anderson, said he was “not surprised” by the consent given to Bishop-elect Glasspool but also called it "regrettable…because so many Anglicans around the world trusted the restraint asked for at the Lambeth Conference, which would have enabled the Covenant process to proceed.”

He added: “I can only hope that the Archbishop of Canterbury will finally accept that bishops and national churches who choose to willfully ignore the teaching of the Anglican Communion and Holy Scripture, ought to suffer the natural consequence of choosing to go their own way – which is to say, that they ought to be considered to have left the Anglican Communion.”

The consecration service was disrupted briefly by a man and a young boy who held up a sign and a bible and shouted anti-gay comments. Applause erupted when someone in the congregation yelled back: "We’re praying for you."

The Anglican Mainstream issued a statement noting that the "consecration of openly gay Mary Glasspool is not a random event but comes from the settled mind of her church. Sadly, this shows that TEC has now explicitly decided to walk apart from most of the rest of the Communion.”

The statement, signed by convenor Dr. Philip Giddings and Canon Dr. Chris Sugden, executive secretary, said that the consecration should result in the Episcopal Church "withdrawing, or being excluded from the Anglican Communion’s representative bodies."

It called for recognition of the Anglican Church in North America as an authentic Anglican Church within the Communion and for a way to enable orthodox Anglicans remaining within the Episcopal Church to continue in fellowship with the churches of the worldwide Communion.

The Rev. Susan Russell, former Integrity USA President and chair of the diocesan program group on LGBT ministries, said, "What we do here today isn’t just for this diocese but … it’s a beacon of hope to everyone looking for a community willing to lead in love, justice and compassion for all people."

Retired Massachusetts suffragan bishop Barbara Harris, who in 1988 became the first woman bishop in the Episcopal Church and worldwide Anglican Communion, served as one of seven co-consecrating bishops.

"It’s a joy to participate in her consecration," Harris later said of Glasspool, who in 1988 nominated Harris for bishop. "We’re great friends. Little did either of us know that both of us would be sitting in the House of Bishops."

"She is going to make a very good bishop," Harris added. "She’s a wonderful, caring, loving, pastoral person." New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, who in 2003 became the first openly gay, partnered bishop in the Episcopal Church, was among the bishops attending the service.

Glasspool, 55, had told a May 14 gathering of media that the service "is a benchmark for the whole church.

"We are being the church that we say we are," she added. "We’re not just saying it, we’re doing it and there’s something very powerful about that. It’s bigger than the both of us. So I’m looking forward with great awe as well as joy and some ‘wow’ to whatever the Holy Spirit has in mind."

The daughter of a priest, she had served congregations in Maryland, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and for the past years had served as canon to the bishops in the Baltimore-based Diocese of Maryland. Her life partner of 19 years is Becki Sander, who holds degrees in theology and social work.

Bruce, 53, told the May 14 media conference that she anticipated the moment her stepmother would place the miter on her head as a "very emotional one … because I lost my father on Maundy Thursday (April 1)." The miter, she explained, is a gift from her father and his wife.

A popular preacher and well-known priest, Bruce, who served a dozen years in the Los Angeles diocese prior to her election, is a former Roman Catholic who joined the Episcopal Church in 1986. The former banking executive, who speaks Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish and English, served for nine years as rector of St. Clement by-the-Sea Church in San Clemente. She is married to Stephen Bruce; the couple has two adult children.

The six-county Diocese of Los Angeles encompasses 147 congregations, some 44 schools and 20 institutions and represents about 70,000 Episcopalians.

— The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a national Episcopal News Service correspondent. She is based in Los Angeles.

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