The Episcopal Diocese of California veered away from schism with the worldwide Anglican Communion yesterday when it rejected three homosexual candidates in a field of seven candidates for bishop, and instead selected the former rector of a church in Middleburg, Va.
The Rt. Rev. Mark Handley Andrus, 49, suffragan bishop of Alabama, won the election on the third ballot. He served as rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Middleburg from 1996 to 2001.
Grace Cathedral in downtown San Francisco erupted in cheers when the results were announced about 1 p.m. Pacific time.
“Your vote today remains a vote for inclusion and communion — of gay and lesbian people in their full lives as single or partnered people, of women, of all ethnic minorities, and all people,” Bishop Andrus said by telephone over the cathedral’s public-address system to members after being told of his election. “My commitment to Jesus Christ’s own mission of inclusion is resolute.”
The race for bishop, which could have resulted in the election of the second homosexual leader — after the 2003 election of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the denomination’s first homosexual prelate — ended up being between two heterosexual men.
The main challenge to Bishop Andrus, who is married with two grown daughters, was from Canon Eugene T. Sutton of Washington National Cathedral, who came in second.
Bishop Andrus, who is expected to be confirmed in his new position next month at the Episcopal General Convention in Columbus, Ohio, easily led on the first ballot, with 116 clergy votes and 71 laity votes. Canon Sutton, however, was more popular among the laity, earning 117 lay votes and 43 clergy votes.
A nominee needed 131 clergy votes and 148 lay votes in order to win.
The second ballot widened the gap between the other five candidates and the two front-runners. Bishop Andrus’ clergy vote total grew to 161 votes and his lay votes grew to 104. Canon Sutton’s clergy votes dropped to 39, but his lay votes grew to 125.
Bishop Andrus won on the third ballot, with 188 clergy and 161 lay votes to Canon Sutton’s 34 clergy and 97 lay votes.
None of the homosexual candidates received more than a handful of votes.
Bishop Andrus, the only candidate to list Scripture verses on his official biography, is a solid church liberal known for his ecumenical and administrative expertise, Emmanuel Episcopal Church members said. Church members also credited him with tripling Emmanuel’s membership during his stay there.
“Mark is a marvelous individual,” said Fred Kohler, a longtime member. “He must have mesmerized them when he got out to San Francisco. He is destined [for] many great things.”
Wendy Oesterling, the church organist, called him “an exceptional parish priest.”
“When I learned who the top four candidates were, I thought Mark would be elected,” she said. “The people of California are so fortunate. He is one of the most godly men I know.”