By GILLIAN FLACCUS, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES -- The Episcopal Church has approved the election of a lesbian assistant bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles, making her the second openly gay bishop in the Anglican global fellowship, diocese officials said Wednesday.
Episcopal conservatives were quick to criticize the approval of the Rev. Mary Glasspool of Baltimore, who was elected last December, and said the move was "grieving the heart of God."
Still, Glasspool's victory underscored a continued Episcopal commitment to accepting same-sex relationships despite enormous pressure from other Anglicans to change their stand.
"I am ... aware that not everyone rejoices in this election and consent, and will work, pray and continue to extend my own hands and heart to bridge those gaps, and strengthen the bonds of affection among all people, in the name of Jesus Christ," Glasspool said in a printed statement.
Glasspool and the Rev. Diane M. Jardine Bruce were elected in December to serve as assistant bishops, making them the first women bishops to serve in that diocese. Both, however, needed the full church's approval to be consecrated.
Both are scheduled to be consecrated on May 15.
The Episcopal Church, which is the Anglican body in the United States, caused an uproar in 2003 by consecrating the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
Breakaway Episcopal conservatives have formed a rival church, the Anglican Church in North America.
Several overseas Anglicans have been pressuring Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, to officially recognize the new conservative entity.
In 2004, Anglican leaders asked the Episcopal Church for a moratorium on electing another gay bishop while they tried to prevent a permanent break in the fellowship.
Since the request was made, some Episcopal gay priests have been nominated for bishop, but none was elected before Glasspool. In July 2009, the Episcopal General Convention, the U.S. church's top policy making body, affirmed that gay and lesbian priests were eligible to become bishops.
Glasspool's approval shows that the Episcopal Church "creates no barrier for ministry on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, among other factors," Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno said in a statement.
But some conservative Episcopalians were outspoken in their criticism Wednesday.
In approving Glasspool, the Episcopal Church has "sought to embrace a way of life which the church through the Bible has always understood to be forbidden," said the Rev. Kendall Harmon of the traditional Diocese of South Carolina, which has voted to distance itself from the national church.
"The tragic damage the Episcopal Church has recently caused the third largest Christian family in the world will continue into the future, hurting our collective witness and grieving the heart of God."
Glasspool, 56, an adviser, or canon, for eight years to the Diocese of Maryland's bishop, said in an essay on the Los Angeles diocese Web site that she had an "intense struggle" while in college with her sexuality and the call to become a priest.
"Did God hate me (since I was a homosexual), or did God love me?" she wrote. "Did I hate (or love) myself?"
She said she met her partner, Becki Sander, while working in Massachusetts, and the two have been together since 1988.
Bruce was most recently the rector of St. Clement's-By-The-Sea Episcopal Church in San Clemente, Calif.