- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Rev. Mary Glasspool, an Episcopal priest who commutes daily from Annapolis to her office at the Baltimore-based Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, may be on the verge of a much longer journey.

If she’s chosen this weekend in an election for two suffragan bishops in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, she would be the second openly gay bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The first is New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson. His 2003 election has been the wedge that split the Communion into conservative and liberal camps and caused roughly 100,000 Episcopalians to flee the church.

I’m not expecting quite that amount of fireworks should Ms. Glasspool, 55, be elected, but ever since the denomination voted last summer to allow more gay bishops, there’s been this informal race among dioceses to see who can be first.

Clergy in the Los Angeles diocese tell me that she’s got a decent chance because her executive experience in Baltimore assisting the bishop and mentoring clergy ranks her above the other five candidates for the two jobs.

She is the daughter of an Episcopal priest who opposed women’s ordination (must have been an interesting father-daughter tension there), and she was rector at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Annapolis during the 1990s where it was a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation about her homosexuality. Ms. Glasspool’s partner, Becki, “was invisible as far as the parish was concerned,” she wrote sadly in her bio.

Her being a lesbian is “a nonissue” in Los Angeles, one clergyman told me. Ms. Glasspool is up against two Hispanic men, a gay white man and two straight women, one black and the other white.

The suffragan positions in Los Angeles have been diversity seats, and the men who are retiring from both spots are black and Hispanic.

“I think a gay candidate has a strong possibility of being elected,” the Rev. Altagracia Perez, rector of Holy Faith Church in Inglewood, told me. “Most people I’ve asked say she’s their first or second choice. She has a great resume.”

“I think Mary has a great chance,” said the Rev. Brad Karelius, rector of Messiah parish in downtown Santa Ana and a senior priest in the diocese. “There is aggressive lobbying by the gay-lesbian constituency here to get a gay bishop.

“Her biggest challenge — I’m saying this as a lifelong Californian — is the culture. This is the most religiously diverse area in the world … and I don’t know how East Coast formalities would work here.”

Susan Russell, the former president of the Episcopal gay caucus Integrity and a priest at All Saints Church in Pasadena, told me that Ms. Glasspool had been “well-received.”

“We are past due for a female bishop,” she said, alluding to Los Angeles having elected only men up to this point. As to a gay one, “The Episcopal Church is ready to put that kind of profiling we’ve seen in the past behind us.”

I don’t know about that. Los Angeles always likes to be out front on these things. Its bishop, J. Jon Bruno, was the first sitting Episcopal bishop to openly conduct a same-sex wedding ceremony (that of 80-year-old author Malcolm Boyd) involving an Episcopal clergyman in May 2004.

I’m guessing they’ll try to make history again.

Julia Duin’s Stairway to Heaven column runs Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at jduin@washingtontimes.com.

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