Anglican leader urges restraint on lesbian bishop
LONDON (Reuters) - Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said on Sunday the election of a lesbian priest as an assistant bishop in Los Angeles' Episcopal Diocese raised very serious questions for the global Anglican church.
The election of the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool by U.S. Anglicans on Saturday could widen a worldwide schism in the church over the ordaining of gay clergy and related issues.
A number of disaffected American congregations have already left the Episcopal fold, the U.S. branch of the Anglican communion. Anglican churches in regions like Africa have also broken ties with their more liberal brethren.
Pope Benedict has even offered alienated Anglicans the chance of joining the Catholic church while maintaining many of their own traditions.
Williams, the Anglican communion's spiritual head, said in a statement that Glasspool's selection still had to be ratified and could still end with her appointment being dismissed.
He reminded those involved that Anglican bishops had agreed there should be a "period of gracious respect" over decisions on controversial gender issues threatening to split the church.
Glasspool, 55, of Baltimore, is the first openly gay priest chosen as an Episcopal bishop since Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, whose 2003 consecration deeply strained church unity.
Her election remains to be approved by the national church. If ratified, she would be ordained as a bishop next May.
"The election of Mary Glasspool...as suffragan bishop elect raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole," Williams said.
"The process of selection however is only part complete. The election has to be confirmed, or could be rejected, by diocesan bishops and diocesan standing committees. That decision will have very important implications."
In July, the 2 million-member Episcopal Church lifted a moratorium on the election of gay bishops, which had been seen in some quarters as a "cease-fire" between liberal and conservative factions in the Episcopal Church and the 80 million-member global Anglican communion.
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