Los Angeles' Episcopal Diocese elected an openly lesbian priest as assistant bishop on Saturday, a move likely to stoke more tensions in the global Anglican community over the divisive issue of gay clergy.
The Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool, 55, of Baltimore is the first openly gay priest chosen as an Episcopal bishop since Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, whose 2003 consecration deeply strained church unity. Her election must be approved by the national church.
The ordination of gay clergy and related issues have prompted some congregations to leave the Episcopal fold and form a rival North American church that claims 100,000 believers. Anglican churches in regions like Africa have broken ties with their more liberal American brethren.
In July, the 2 million-member Episcopal Church lifted a moratorium on the election of gay bishops, which had been seen in some quarters as a "ceasefire" between liberal and conservative factions in the Episcopal Church and the 80 million-member global Anglican Communion.
"I am very excited about the future of the whole Episcopal Church, and I see the Diocese of Los Angeles leading the way into that future," Glasspool was quoted as saying on the diocese's website.
Glasspool has been a priest for 27 years and her father was also an Episcopal priest. If her election is ratified, she would be ordained as a bishop next May to assist Bishop J. Jon Bruno in the 70,000-member diocese. Also elected assistant bishop was the Rev. Canon Diane Bruce.
Glasspool's election comes as the United States grapples with sexual orientation issues, such as gay marriage, child adoption by same-sex parents and the status of homosexuals in the military.
Polls consistently show gays and lesbians enjoying growing acceptance in American society. But fast-growing faiths in the United States, such as many evangelical Protestant churches and the Mormon church, regard homosexual relations as sinful and proscribed by scripture.