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Conservative Episcopalians Cautious of Calif. Election

The Episcopal Diocese of California avoided widening the rift in their denomination over the role of gay bishops this past weekend, rejecting three openly gay candidates.

Conservative Episcopalians Cautious of Calif. Election

The Episcopal Diocese of California avoided widening the rift in their denomination over the role of gay bishops this past weekend, rejecting three openly gay candidates for bishop while electing a white, heterosexual, Southern, male nominee instead.

The Rev. Mark Handley Andrus of Birmingham, Ala., won on the third ballot to replace the retiring Rev. William Swing, during a diocese-wide meeting in San Francisco’s historic Grace Cathedral.

The California diocese caused a stir earlier this year when it announced that three of its seven candidates for bishop are actively and openly homosexual.

No gay or lesbian bishop has been elected since the consecration of Eugene Robinson in 2003 as bishop of New Hampshire. Robinson’s appointment stirred a worldwide revolt by traditional and conservative Anglicans who view homosexuality as incompatible to scripture.

By 2004, the majority of the world’s Anglican denominations threatened to halt relations with the U.S. Episcopal Church, calling on the North American church to place at least a temporary moratorium on electing gay bishops.

Therefore, the mere nomination of two gay and one lesbian bishop in the California diocese discontented conservative Anglicans, who had been watching closely the results of the race.

The Anglican Consultative Council, one of several traditional groupings within the Episcopal Church, released a statement questioning the ballot immediately after Andrus’ name was announced.

“How will activists respond to the fact that a diocese which has for years been a bastion of amorphous Christianity and aggressive revisionism chose a white, heterosexual, Southern male as bishop?” the statement read.

“Did the diocese succumb to reported pressure from the national Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA), including Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, to avoid electing a partnered homosexual?” it asked. “Is such pressure in fact part of a coordinated strategy intended to mislead the Communion?”

However, the Rev. Mark Spaulding of Holy Cross Church in Castor Valley, one of the delegates at the California assembly, said he didn’t know if sexual orientation was a factor in the vote.

"It was really clear after meeting these seven individuals that the gay factor wasn't an issue," Spaulding said, according to AP. "This diocese would've been fine with any one of the seven."

Andrus emerged as the favorite of the first ballot, and ended up with 72 percent of the clergy vote and about 55 percent of the law vote. He must be consecrated by the General Convention, the highest legislative body of the EC(USA), which is held every three years, to be officially recognized as the spiritual head of the Episcopal Church in California.

Conservatives said they will turn to the General Convention next month in Columbus, Ohio in making a judgment about Andrus’ election.

“All eyes now turn to Columbus, where General Convention is expected to continue its obfuscation of the issues and present an unacceptable fudge to Episcopalians and Anglicans worldwide,” the AAC stated. “It is imperative that the Anglican Communion follow Christ’s exhortation in analyzing General Convention 2006: ‘Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment (John 7:24).’”

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