With great joy I received the news that the Rev. Canon Mary Douglas Glasspool, a partnered lesbian—excuse my using this as my only characterization of Glasspool—was elected a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles today. The election followed that of another female Episcopal priest, the Rev. Canon Diane Jardine Bruce, to be a suffragan bishop in the diocese, thereby becoming the first female bishop in Los Angeles. (Episcopal News Service covered the election of both Bruce and Glasspool. Stories about the Glasspool election have been posted by the diocese and by the Los Angeles Times.)
Partnered gay candidates have participated in several episcopal elections recently, but Glasspool is the first to be elected since Gene Robinson in 2003. Despite the Presiding Bishop’s reassurances in a recent WABE-FM interview that “the door has been open [for gay and lesbian bishops] for many years,” I had lingering concerns about any diocese’s having the courage to elect an openly gay bishop in the current climate.
Now, of course, the challenge is laid before bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees to give consent for Glasspool to be consecrated. I presume that those bishops who signed the Anaheim Statement (about 30 bishops) will withhold consent. The remaining bishops will have to vote to consent by about a 2–1 margin, not normally a high hurdle, but not a slam dunk given the anticipated upset that is sure to follow in the Anglican Communion.
What I have learned from being in a repressive and cynically-led diocese for many years anticipating an inevitable split is that there is much to be said for getting the unpleasantness over with. The departure of Robert Duncan and his dissident followers was indeed painful, but it was also liberating and energizing to Episcopalians left in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Likewise, everyone knows that The Episcopal Church cannot really turn back from its path to full inclusion of LGBT persons in the church. Demonstrating that Gene Robinson’s election was not a fluke will send the message to the Anglican Communion that our commitment to the Gospel, as we understand it, is more important than indulging the prejudices of the Nigerias and Ugandas of the Communion. Consenting to the consecration of Mary Glasspool, as we must do, will create facts on the ground that will make acceptance of a covenant like the one presented to the Anglican Consultative Council last spring impossible to accept.
If, God forbid, Episcopal bishops sabotage Glasspool’s consecration, the campaigns to accumulate the required consents for episcopal consecrations will become battlegrounds, and the worst fears of the conservatives may be realized, namely that the church might decide that the consecration of any conservative bishop is not worth the attendant risks to the integrity of the church.
The Episcopal Church has wasted too much time and energy placating foreign “Anglicans” whose theology is somewhere between ignorant and repulsive. It is high time to move on. Let’s vote to consecrate Mary Glasspool and let the rest of the Communion figure out what to do about it.