Second Openly Gay Bishop Elected in Worldwide Anglican Communion

Mary Glasspool reacts during her election with Bishop Jon Bruno behind her.
Mary Glasspool reacts during her election with Bishop Jon Bruno behind her.

I was very pleased to note that the Anglican Church/Episcopal Church USA has elected two women–Mary Douglas Glasspool and Diane Jardine Bruce–to serve as assistant bishops in the Los Angeles diocese. Of note is the fact that Canon Glasspool is openly lesbian and has been in a committed relationship since 1988. With her election she becomes the second openly gay bishop in the worldwide Anglican Church. Bishop Gene Robinson was the first. Also last fall, the Church of Sweden (which is Lutheran, but in communion with the Anglican Church of England) consecrated Eva Brunne, also a partnered lesbian, as Bishop of Stockholm.

As a Roman Catholic, I’m interested in how other denominations are working through the complex issues of sexuality and the call to serve the church in ordained ministry. Over at Ekklesia, Savi Hensman wrote a nice piece (Liberating the Anglican Understanding of Sexuality) that tracks some of the journey of the Episcopal Church on the issue of sexuality:

Indeed the Episcopal Church’s openness to lesbian bishops is the result of a long process of reflection and study in keeping with the advice of numerous Anglican gatherings and the principles of international canon law. The “duty of thinking and learning” is a theme that has come up repeatedly at international gatherings. The church should learn from the work of scientists, calling upon “Christian people both to learn reverently from every new disclosure of truth, and at the same time to bear witness to the biblical message of a God and Saviour apart from whom no gift can be rightly used”, and should welcome “the increasing extent of human knowledge” and the “searching enquiries of the theologians”. In 1978 the Lambeth Conference called for “deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality, which would take seriously both the teaching of Scripture and the results of scientific and medical research”, “pastoral concern for those who are homosexual” and “dialogue with them”. As understanding of human sexuality grew, and more theologians made the case for full inclusion, many in the Episcopal Church came to believe that being a woman or gay should not result in being treated as a “second-class citizen”, let alone an outsider.

Concern for justice and commitment to human rights was another theme, including, from the 1980s, those of “homosexual orientation”. In the USA and other countries covered by the Episcopal Church, LGBT people at times face persecution and violence. While opposition to such mistreatment does not automatically lead to acceptance of same-sex partnerships as a proper lifestyle for Christian leaders, it does make it harder to depersonalise a particular minority and ignore the realities of their lives. This concern for justice has also led to greater self-examination. For instance, the Anglican Consultative Council in 1990 called on “every Diocese in our Communion to consider how through its structures it may encourage its members to see that a true Christian spirituality involves a concern for God’s justice in the world, particularly in its own community.”

Various denominations have excellent new theological papers reflecting their developing understanding of human sexuality within Christian thought. Here are links to a few of them:

Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)

Some Issues in Human Sexuality: A Working Paper of the House of Bishops (Church of England)

Marriage: A United Church of Canada Understanding

‘Shaping Our Future’: Church of England Leads on Climate Change

UK climate changeIn a recent post Outlook Good: The Shifting Sands of Young Evangelicals and Climate Change, I cited as study that shows how important it is for religious leaders to lead well on climate change issues.

In that light, I was heartened to see a release this week on how the Church of England is asserting itself on environmental issues.

The ‘third sector’ [civil society], including the Church of England, has a crucial role to play in using its voice to increase public demand for government action to make low carbon options available and attractive to the public, the Church said in a press release today.

Government and third sectors will work together over the next five years to tackle key environmental issues such as climate change and sustainable development, according to the vision set out in Shaping Our Future, a new report published this month.

Government and UK civil society and religious organizations have agreed on a joint mission statement for a 5 year plan:

“The third sector shapes the future by mobilizing and inspiring others to tackle climate change and maximizing the social, economic and environmental opportunities of action.”

Stephen Hale, writing in the Third Sector foreword to the Shaping Our Future report, says:

The future is what we make it. The third sector provides the voice for society’s ambitions about the kind of world we want to live in, and has been the engine of progressive change. We secured the right to vote for women, and have won many battles in the struggle for equality and human rights, and against poverty and injustice. Climate change is now the most pressing of the challenges facing humanity. … Climate change is not simply an environmental issue. It profoundly threatens many other causes that the sector holds dear. It threatens the struggle to defeat poverty and inequality in the UK and globally. It threatens our health, our local environment, the cohesion of our communities, and the struggle for peace and security. For all these reasons and more, it is above all an issue of social justice. A step change in our response to this threat is in our interests, and a moral imperative. The transition to a low-carbon economy and society also provides some specific opportunities for the sector; to create resilient communities, new jobs, sustainable public services and a better quality of life. It’s time to seize them.

Of course, making social change from inside the power structure always needs a multi-pronged approach. While the Church of England is working with the government to inspire society toward a lower carbon diet, the Church must also be applying effective shareholder pressure to the mining and oil companies where the C of  E holds massive investments.