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L.A. Episcopal bishop vote includes gay candidates

December 4, 2009 |  8:35 am

Clergy and lay leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles could make history today when they vote to replace two retiring assistant bishops, choosing from a pool of six candidates that includes two openly gay priests.

If either or both of the gay candidates are elected at the diocese’s annual convention, it would mark the first election of an openly gay Episcopal bishop since the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson was chosen bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

Robinson’s election threw the Episcopal Church and the global Anglican Communion into an uproar, leading to decisions by some conservative parishes and dioceses to leave the national church and resulting in a de facto ban on the election of additional gay bishops.

But the Episcopal Church reversed course at its national convention in Anaheim in July, voting to open the top echelons of the church to gays and lesbians. The Los Angeles diocese is the first to test that policy.

Leaders of the diocese are meeting in Riverside for their two-day annual convention, with balloting expected to begin later this morning. Home to 70,000 Episcopalians across six counties, the diocese is widely viewed as one of the most liberal in the U.S. church of 2.1 million members. Its bishop, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, is an outspoken advocate for the rights of gays in the church.

There are six candidates vying for two suffragan bishop positions in the election. Suffragan bishops assist a diocese’s primary bishop.

The candidates include the Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool of Baltimore and the Rev. John L. Kirkley of San Francisco, the Rev. Canon Diane M. Jardine Bruce of St. Clement’s by-the-Sea in San Clemente; the Rev. Zelda M. Kennedy of All Saints in Pasadena; the Rev. Irineo Martir Vasquez of St. George’s in Hawthorne; and the Rev. Silvestre E. Romero of St. Philip’s in San Jose. Glasspool and Kirkley are openly gay.

If elected, the candidates must be confirmed by a majority of the national church’s bishops and of diocesan "standing committees," which include clergy and lay representatives.

-- Duke Helfand

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