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Archbishop of Canterbury rebukes Episcopal leaders after L.A. diocese elects gay bishop

December 6, 2009 |  4:59 pm

Williams The spiritual leader of the global Anglican Communion issued an unusually sharp and swift rebuke to Episcopal Church leaders over the election of an openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

In a terse statement, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams delivered a warning to bishops, clergy and lay representatives of the U.S. church about the confirmation of the Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool, a lesbian who has been in a partnered relationship for two decades.

Glasspool must still gain a majority of votes from bishops and standing committees of clergy and lay leaders in the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the worldwide communion. That voting process will unfold over the next four months as U.S. leaders consider Glasspool and another priest, the Rev. Canon Diane M. Jardine Bruce, who was picked for a second "suffragan," or assistant bishop post in Los Angeles.

"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," Williams said in the statement.

Williams pointed out that Glasspool’s selection is only partly complete and that she could be rejected by the U.S. bishops or standing committees. "That decision will have very important implications," he said.

Williams’ message -- coming as Episcopalians in Los Angeles reflected on Glasspool’s election at church services Sunday -- was his strongest to date on an issue that has reverberated across the global communion since the 2003 consecration of the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, as bishop of New Hampshire.

Amid pressure from overseas Anglicans, U.S. Episcopal leaders agreed in 2006 to refrain from electing additional gay bishops. They reversed the de facto moratorium at their national convention in Anaheim in July, despite a plea from Williams during a brief visit to the convention.

The Los Angeles diocese was the first to test the more lenient policy. Glasspool was elected after seven ballots on Saturday, the second day of the diocese's annual convention in Riverside.

-- Duke Helfand

Photo: Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head of the Anglican Communion, is seen during a ecumenical prayer last month at the Church St Ignatius in Rome. Credit: Filippo Monteforte / AFP / Getty Images