Rev Irene Monroe

Lesbian Priest Reignites Church Storm

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | December 08, 2009 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Episcopal Church, Gene Robinson, lesbian bishop, lesbian priest, Rev Mary Douglas Glasspool

Since the 2003 consecration of the Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the church's first openly gay bishop, that set off a worldwide firestorm of reactions both positive and negative, the recent election of an openly lesbian candidate, the Rev. Mary Douglas Glasspool of Baltimore, as bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Los Angeles will re-ignite the storm once again.

And her election hangs in the balance.

Under the canons of the Episcopal Church a majority of bishops must consent to Glasspool's ordination for the selection process to be complete.

A graduate of Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA, and the former rector of St. Luke's and St. Margaret's in Boston, Glasspool, 55, if approved will be the eighth suffragan bishop in the history of the Diocese of Los Angeles.

Glasspool's election has already brought immediate concerns to the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Issuing a cautionary statement in response to the Diocese of Los Angeles' election of Glasspool Williams stated the following:

"The election of Mary Glasspool by the Diocese of Los Angeles as suffragan bishop-elect raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole. The process of selection however is only part complete. The election has to be confirmed, or could be rejected, by diocesan bishops and diocesan standing committees. That decision will have very important implications."

Although Williams denounces anti-gay prejudice in the church, Glasspool's election is the prism through which we see the Episcopal Church's long-time struggle and history with homosexuality.

Williams candidly told the Episcopal News Service "changing the Anglican theological position on homosexuality would have to be based on the most painstaking biblical exegesis and on a wide acceptance of the results within the Communion."

And that acceptance won't come easy.

Since Robinson's consecration, the Anglican Communion Network (ACN), also known as the "Breakaway Conservatives, is a theologically conservative network of dioceses and parishes that has been working toward a realignment in U.S. Episcopal Church. These Breakaway Conservatives feel liberal bishops have hijacked the church by both "accommodate[ing] and incorporate[ing] un-Biblical, un-Anglican practices and teaching."

But "authority of Scripture" doesn't hold weight in the argument against homosexuality because the Episcopal Church has always challenged controversial issues of the day.

In the 1970s, the argument for authority of Scripture came up with the ordination of women - and so, too, did the threat of a schism. But in 1989, the Church consecrated its first female bishop - Barbara C. Harris. And conservatives were not only theologically outraged, but also racially challenged because Harris is African American.

And in 2006, gasps of both exhilaration and exasperation reverberated throughout the Anglican Communion when it was announced that Katharine Jefferts Schori would be the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church USA. Schori not only supports gay unions, but she also backed the holy consecration of Robinson.

All this is no surprise, however, since the Episcopal Church has a history of taking the moral high ground on social justice issues.

On the theological rift concerning American slavery, the Episcopal Church rebuked the Bible's literal interpretation, arguing that slavery violated the spirit of the Bible.

Boston's Old North Church, built in 1723 that played an active role in the American Revolution, served as a beacon for Paul Revere's "midnight ride."

The Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Cumberland, Maryland was a major stop on the Underground Railroad, and both Trinity Parish on Wall Street, and St. Paul's Chapel, that George Washington attended, has become the spiritual center of Ground Zero since 9/11.

The Episcopal Church prides itself as being an inclusive worshiping body. And it is drumming up a new national ads campaigns stating "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" with specific examples of the Church's beliefs.

"We want to herald and share our welcoming message," explained Anne Rudig, Episcopal Church Director of Communication told the Episcopal News Service. "We are bringing our identity, our core beliefs, and our heritage to life in a manner that invites all to share."

With the changing demographics, both nationally and globally, of this ecclesiastic body, the Church's once-upon-a-time ruling "Frozen Chosen," whose anti-gay initiatives had a stranglehold on the Church's governing future is beginning to wane.

While many LGBTQ Episcopalians and their allies are jumping for joy over Glasspool's election the battle isn't over.

For me, however, the joy in this moment in the history of the Episcopal Church is that the Church continues to crawls toward inclusiveness, albeit haltingly and in spite of opposition.

And for those of us on the margins in our churches and faith communities, Harris, Robinson, Jefferts Schori and now Glasspool show us the church's steadfast principle of justice in action.


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Difficulty is that Archbishop Williams has issued a statement all buut overtly calling for the Boishops not to accept her election. They may well anyways, but still.....

Meanwhile, the Anglicans are silent on Uganda...where the mercy of life imprisonment in such a fashion as to make for a very short life may 'mercifully' replace the death penalty for homosexuality

Actually while I'm proud of The Episcopal Church for advocating in recent years for civil rights of women, Blacks and gays (of whom I'm one), I think we give ourselves too much credit. Before, during and after the Civil War, the Church was notably silent on the issues of slavery and race. I remember reading about a town in New York State during the days of the Underground Railroad where all the churches in town would ring their bells when slavecatchers were known to be around. Except for the Episcopal Church which was too identified with the Establishment and law and order to take this stand. The Episcopal Church was the only mainline Protestant Church to fail to deal with the issue of slavery. Seemed they were more concerned with unity and avoiding offense to speak out on human liberty. Parallels today??? Yes, you're speaking on them.

BTW, a small factual omission: The election of a bishop must also be approved by a majority of the Standing Committees of all TEC dioceses as well as of the bishops.

I believe the Episcopalians are the ONLY Christian denomination to actually apologize for its role in Slavery.

Now, we need them and other Christians to apologize for 2,000 years of branding homosexuals as wrong, sinful and deviant.

Religion is changing. Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians and some Methodists are currently dividing over the issue of homosexuality. This is great news. Soon, we will be able to identify which Christians believe we are equal. We can embrace them and ignore the others - those clinging to ancient bigoted beliefs.

Reignited? If you ask Bishop Robinson, I think he'd say that it seems that flame was always burning...

I'm surprised it took this long to get a second queer bishop in the US. The Episcopalians haven't exactly been shrinking violets in the face of the Anglican communion.