Openly Gay Episcopal Priest Receives More Nods

A controversial priest who has a lesbian partner has so far received more than half the votes she needs to be consecrated as an assistant bishop.

And the 120-day consent process began just a month ago.

The Rev. Canon Mary Douglas Glasspool has 29 consents to become bishop suffragan, according to a recent report by the Diocese of Los Angeles. She needs 56 to be confirmed as the second openly homosexual bishop in The Episcopal Church.

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"Throughout her 30 years of ordained ministry, the Rev. Mary Glasspool has been faithful and consistent to the ministry, doctrine and teaching of the Episcopal Church," Bishop Nathan Baxter of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania wrote in a pastoral letter indicating his consent.

"On the matter of her sexuality and life-style, the Rev. Glasspool is faithful to the spirit and prayerfully determined direction of our church," he noted. "For 18 years, she and her partner have lived in witness to the marks the church has expected of all persons in committed intimate relationships (including traditional marriage): fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and holy love."

Glasspool has been with her partner, Becki Sander, since 1988. Her election in December to the office of bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles has caused another uproar across The Episcopal Church, six years after it consecrated its first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

The election came just months after The Episcopal Church's top legislative body approved a resolution declaring the denomination's ordination process open to all individuals, which some say includes practicing homosexuals.

Glasspool, who first came out to the national body 30 years ago, says "it's time for our wonderful church to move on and be the inclusive Church we say we are."

But conservative Anglicans say giving consent to her election would confirm that The Episcopal Church has abandoned biblically-based Christianity. Others who advocate for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians, meanwhile, are choosing to withhold their approval.

The Rev. Herman Hollerith IV, bishop of the Diocese of Southern Virginia, announced his decision to deny consent to the election of Glasspool.

Though he acknowledges her as an experienced, faithful priest with strong leadership skills, Hollerith believes her ordination would have "a serious negative impact on our relationship with the wider Anglican Communion."

In fact, her ordination "may very well strain – to the breaking point – those bonds of affection which we have come to value with others, even with those who may agree with us," he stated.

Sometimes, he said, "it is necessary to practice restraint for the sake of preserving and maintaining relationships."

Since the 2003 consecration of Robinson, relationships between The Episcopal Church and much of the Anglican Communion have been strained or impaired, in some cases. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who is considered the spiritual leader of the worldwide communion, on Tuesday appealed for Anglicans to resolve divisions over homosexuality, noting that they were causing "chaos."

Anglican bishops throughout the global body have reaffirmed a moratorium on the consecration of bishops living in a same gender union. Just after Glasspool's election, the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion called for "gracious restraint in respect of actions that endanger the unity" of the global body.

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