By Dec. 7 a flood of local, national and international support, praise, skepticism and criticism had poured in, as well as speculation about the impact of the elections of the Rev. Canon Diane Jardine Bruce and, more specifically, the Rev. Canon Mary Douglas Glasspool, an openly gay and partnered woman, on local and global church relations.
Bruno addressed such concerns, as well as those about diversity, during a meeting with reporters at the conclusion of the Dec. 4-5 "Faith & Our Future" convention held at the Riverside Convention Center in Riverside, California.
"The people of Los Angeles elected these women," said Bruno. "The people of the Diocese of Los Angeles said ... we want at least one woman. Well, they got double their wish."
A majority of the 680 clergy and lay delegates attending the two-day gathering on Dec. 4 elected Bruce on the third ballot from among a field of six candidates. A well-known Los Angeles area priest, she had served for nine years as rector of St. Clements by-the-Sea Church in San Clemente, the southernmost tip of the six-county diocese. She became the first woman bishop in the diocese's 114-year history and the 16th woman elected bishop in the Episcopal Church.
A day later, Glasspool was elected after seven rounds of balloting, during which an admittedly "disconcerted" Bruno challenged the tense, almost somber gathering, "to look toward the future and have vision," and to "listen to the Holy Spirit." The field of candidates, narrowed to five after Bruce's election, was narrower still when Glasspool and another candidate, the Rev. I. Martir Vasquez emerged as frontrunners. Ballot results are available here.
Supporters and well-wishers, from Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, consecrated the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church in 2003, to Bishop Eugene Sutton of Maryland, where Glasspool has served as canon to the bishops for the past eight years, praised her election.
"The people of the Diocese of Los Angeles have elected two extraordinarily gifted priests to serve them as suffragan bishops. Rightly so, the people of Los Angeles have not let current arguments over homosexuality or threats to 'unity' impair their choosing the best persons for these ministries," Robinson wrote on the diocesan website. "I am delighted over the elections of Diane Bruce and Mary Glasspool and, upon consent by the wider church, look forward to welcoming them both into the House of Bishops."
Sutton called Glasspool's election, "a great day in the life of the Episcopal Church. As canon to the bishops since 2001, Mary has distinguished herself as a faithful and gifted priest who is well prepared to assume the mantle of leadership incumbent upon a bishop."
Diversity: 'we're not as vanilla as we seem'
Diversity was an issue for some delegates who supported Vasquez's candidacy, according to the Rev. Altagracia Perez, rector of Holy Faith Church in Inglewood, California. About 30 of the diocese's 149 congregations worship in Spanish, Bruno said. Futurists predict potential church growth among Latinos, who represent nearly one-half of the Los Angeles area population.
Vasquez is vicar of. St. George's, Hawthorne, a multicultural congregation of about 85 average Sunday attendance that includes Anglo, Latino, Nigerian and Palestinian members.
"We're not as vanilla as we look," Bruno said. "We have a new student of Spanish," he said referring to Glasspool. He is fluent in Spanish, as is Bruce, who also speaks Mandarin and Cantonese. "What we've done is bring great skills of administration and excitement and advancement and lifting people up for who they are. This diocese has been only one thing today, blessed."
Glasspool told reporters following her election that she felt the Holy Spirit empowered convention to go beyond "superficial characteristics and boxes in which we put people, to really look at individual people and assess the needs of the diocese and pair them with the gifts and skills that Diane and I each bring. In that sense, in all ways, we are moving to a point where we can look beneath the skin color and any single characteristic and really rejoice in the wholeness of every individual person."
Perez agreed, saying she was "surprised and pleased" at the election outcome even though "I would have preferred there be more of a balance" racially or ethnically. She was surprised because she "didn't think convention would elect two women. But, I really did feel that the Holy Spirit was at work. People became very focused on what would be good for the diocese in terms of skills and experiences, rather than acting out of any fear.
"God casts out fear, and we did what we thought was best without being afraid of people being upset with us," she said, referring to the Anglican Communion. "God and the Gospel take precedence over the church."
The Chicago Consultation, a group of Episcopal and Anglican bishops, clergy and laity supporting full inclusion for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people, heralded the Los Angeles elections.
In a Dec. 7 statement, they called upon Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to reconsider his initial statement about the election, interpreted by some as a call to standing committees in the other 109 dioceses of the Episcopal Church and its bishops with jurisdiction to withhold their consent to Glasspool's consecration.
Under the canons of the Episcopal Church (III.11.4), a majority of bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan Standing Committees must consent to the Glasspool's ordination as bishop within 120 days of receiving notice of the election.
Williams had said that her election "raises very serious questions, not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the communion as a whole."
He added that the rest of the confirmation process "will have very important implications. The bishops of the communion have collectively acknowledged that a period of gracious restraint in respect of actions which are contrary to the mind of the communion is necessary if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold."
The Chicago Consultation questioned Williams' public silence "as the Ugandan legislature considers making homosexuality a crime punishable by death" while working instead behind the scenes to influence the situation. Yet, he issued "an immediate statement of alarm, implying there would be grave consequences unless bishops and standing committees in the Episcopal Church refused to consent to her [Glasspool's] election."
Glasspool, the statement added, "is no threat to the work of God or to Jesus' commandment that we love our neighbor as ourselves. We believe that honoring the relationships and ministries of gay and lesbian Christians is, in the end, the only way in which the Anglican Communion can be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Bruno told the reporters he "will work my fingers to the bones, dialing telephones to talk to people and let them know what wonderful candidates we have here," should an attempt be made to stall Glasspool's consecration.
Withholding consents "would be a violation of the canons of this church," he added. "At our last General Convention, we said we are nondiscriminatory. They just as well might have withheld their consents from me because I was a divorced man and in my case, it would have been more justified than withholding them from someone who has been approved through all levels of ministry and is a good and creative minister of the Gospel."
Bruno was referring to Resolution D025 in which the 76th General Convention said in July that God's call to ordained ministry is "a mystery which the church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with [its] Constitution and Canons ..."
He added: "I would remind the Episcopal Church and the House of Bishops they need to be conscientious about respecting the canons of the church and the baptismal covenant to respect the dignity of every human being. To not consent in this country out of fear of the reaction elsewhere in the Anglican Communion is to capitulate to titular heads."
Anglican covenant and communion partners
The Rev. Ephraim Radner, professor of historical theology at the University of Toronto's Wycliffe College, told ENS he wasn't surprised by Glasspool's election and that he wouldn't be if she receives the required consents for her planned May 15, 2010 consecration.
What will surprise the former Colorado conservative is if the Episcopal Church will sign the latest version of the Anglican covenant.
Glasspool's election and consecration will convey the impression that not just the Los Angeles diocese but "the Episcopal Church as a whole is not interested in participating in the processes that have been so painfully put together over the last six years" to consult and to exercise restraint and be accountable to one another as outlined in the proposed Anglican covenant, he said.
He added that, if the Episcopal Church signs the yet-to-be completed covenant, it will be seen as "utter disingenuousness." The election of an openly gay partnered bishop "establishes in a formal way the Episcopal Church's decision not to be a part of this process," he added.
The Anglican Consultative Council, at its May meeting in Jamaica, postponed asking the Anglican Communion's 38 provinces to consider adopting the latest version of the Anglican covenant, the Ridley Cambridge Draft. The ACC, the communion's main policy-making body, said instead that it wanted the draft's Section Four to get more scrutiny and possibly be revised.
A small working group, appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, met in November to consider Section Four. The group's recommendations will be presented to the communion's Standing Committee for consideration in London Dec. 15-18. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is a member of the Standing Committee and will be attending the December meeting.
It remains for the Standing Committee to ask the communion provinces to decide if they can each agree to abide by its terms. It is expected that the soonest the Episcopal Church could consider such a request would be the next meeting of General Convention in the summer of 2012.
Radner said "the real issue is what's going to happen with the covenant and if the covenant comes out in a way that is not intact and more loosely ordered in its procedures, I think we will have a major split in the communion that will be permanent and the vast majority of the Global South and perhaps of the smaller western churches will go do their [own] covenant. The Episcopal Church doesn't really have a role any more in the covenant as far as I can tell."
Perez, 48, rector of Holy Faith in Inglewood, California for seven years, said a split "would be very sad. But," she added, "After 30 years of having this conversation if I have to choose, I'll choose what the Holy Spirit is doing and trust that the church will catch up. It wouldn't be the first time that's happened. That's where we were with slavery, and the church will catch up when it catches up."
Should Glasspool receive the necessary consents, she would become the second female bishop in Los Angeles and the 17th in the Episcopal Church but not the first openly gay female bishop in Christianity.
On Nov. 8 the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden ordained Eva Brunne, 55, as bishop of the Diocese of Stockholm. Brunne is the first Church of Sweden bishop to live in a registered homosexual partnership, the Uppsala-headquartered church said.
Sweden has allowed same-gender civil unions since 1995 and on May 1 of this year began recognizing same-gender marriages after passing a gender-neutral marriage law. In late October, the Church of Sweden voted to allow its ministers to perform such marriages.
The Episcopal Church is about to enter into a dialogue with the Church of Sweden that could lead to a full communion agreement similar to the one the church has had with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America since January 2001. The July 8-17 meeting of the Episcopal Church's General Convention called for that dialogue, via Resolution A076.
Bruce and Glasspool will succeed Bishop Suffragan Chester Talton and Bishop Assistant Sergio Carranza, who are retiring after 19 and seven years service, respectively, to the diocese.
With 70,000 members in 148 congregations, the Diocese of Los Angeles includes all of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and part of Riverside County.
More information about all nominees is available here.