Mary Glasspool

The election of a lesbian bishop by an Episcopal Church in a diocese in Los Angeles has added to tension within the global Anglican community.

Rev Mary Glasspool, who has been elected assistant bishop and will still need confirmation of her position by national Episcopal Church leaders, has been in a relationship with her female partner Becki Sander, for 21 years.

The Episcopal Church in the US forms part of the international association of national Anglican churches known as the Anglican Communion.

“Any group of people who have been oppressed because of any one, isolated aspect of their persons yearns for justice and equal rights,” Glasspool said in a statement after her election.

The election has renewed divisions between Anglicans across the world, some of whom have threatened to separate from the Anglican Communion over the issue of gay and lesbian clergy. In the US a breakaway Episcopal movement has already been formed by conservative members of the Church.

The symbolic head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who has been attempting to maintain Anglican unity, said that the decision will raise “very serious questions.”

Although Bishops of the Anglican Communion had agreed to put the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy on hold to stave off further divisions, the US Episcopal Church voted to reverse this in July.

Commentators say that Williams is hoping that Episcopal heads in the US will reject the ordination, although this is thought to be unlikely to happen.

The Los Angeles church further expressed its commitment to diversity by choosing a woman, Canon Diane Jardine Bruce, as bishop of the diocese.

The schism in the Anglican Church over gay clergy was sparked by the ordination of openly gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003.

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