LA Episcopalians Elect First Woman Bishop

The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles elected its first woman bishop on Friday.

The Rev. Canon Diane Jardine Bruce, rector of St. Clement's by-the-Sea Church in San Clemente, Calif., was elected on the third ballot during the diocese's annual meeting.

Her election as bishop suffragan marks the first time in its 114-year history that the diocese has a female in its top leadership. A former Roman Catholic, Bruce will be assisting Bishop Diocesan J. Jon Bruno in ministry to the region's 70,000 parishioners.

"We are excited by the election of Canon Diane Jardine Bruce," said Bruno in a statement. "We know that God will provide her with the courage to do this ministry that she has been called to do."

The Diocese of Los Angeles continues its two-day meeting on Saturday with another vote to fill a second suffragan bishop opening. Two openly gay ministers are still vying for the position.

The selection of one of the gay candidates – the Rev. John L. Kirkley of San Francisco and the Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool of Baltimore – would mark the first election of a bishop in a same-sex relationship since V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, whose election in 2003 strained relations between The Episcopal Church and the rest of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The vote comes months after The Episcopal Church's top legislative body approved a resolution declaring the denomination's ordination process open to all individuals, including practicing homosexuals.

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori maintains that the resolution changes nothing and merely reaffirms what "church law has said for a long time," she recently told NPR.

When asked if it was "fair to say that at least the door has been opened for gay and lesbian bishops," Jefferts Schori replied, "The door has been open for many years."

Addressing the division within the Anglican Communion – of which The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch – over the issue of homosexuality, the Episcopal head told NPR, "I think the biggest challenge we're having right now is knowing what holy living looks like. We do not reject people who give evidence of gluttony; we do not prima facie reject people who give evidence of excessive consumerism. I think those are far more challenging issues than long-term committed relationships of a person with the same gender."

The global Anglican Communion holds that homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture and bans the ordination of those involved in same gender unions and the blessing of same-sex unions.