News from the States

The news came through last night that the Anglican Communion is to have its second bishop who happens to have a gay partner. Canon Mary Glasspool was elected as a new suffragan bishop in Los Angeles a few months ago. What’s happened since is that the wider American church has had a chance to say yes or no to her appointment. The system in the US is that after an election, bishops with jurisdiction and diocesan standing committees are asked to confirm the election of a new bishop. There has to be a majority of both bishops and standing committees.

Our system is different in Scotland. It used to be that after an election, the College of Bishops was asked to confirm it. Now, the confirmation process takes place before the election in that the bishops agree to each of the names that go onto the shortlist, confirming that they will consecrate anyone from that list who is elected. (It is this confirmation process which our bishops have abandonned for partnered gay candidates in Scotland, preferring to declare a blanket ban on such people being considered rather than to accept due process and vote amongst themselves in regards to each candidate).

Anyway, Mary Glasspool has the requisite number of consents. She will be consecrated. There will be a fuss. The world will keep turning. She is not the first partnered lesbian bishop we are in full communion with anyway. That honour went to Eva Brunne some time ago.

I think people are weary of the fuss and generally just want to get on with being the church.

So, good wishes to the Diocese of Los Angeles and to Bishop-Elect Mary who will serve them. Peace and blessings be upon the fuss-makers.

What's going on in America?

There is quite a lot going on in the Anglican world this week. The Church of England Synod was meeting, but did not make much headline news, with the exception that they decided not to shift power from committees and boards to bishops. (ie from laity, clergy and episcopacy to episcopacy).

More interesting is what is going on in the States, where the General Convention of the Episcopal Church is taking place. It only happens every three years and is their great decision making body.

The General Convention has passed a resolution which is getting a lot of press at the moment, Resolution D025. It is worth reading what it actually says and not simply relying on other people’s interpretation. (Including mine!)

The American church seems to have decided that honesty is the best policy. They say simply where they are at with events which have become so toxic within Anglicana. They say that they remain fully committed to the Anglican Communion and also that their methods of selecting bishops remain those of their constitution and canons. This means that those who must consent to Episcopal elections must apply their own conscience when giving consents. The Anglican world cannot simply assume that the American church will reject a bishop who happens to be gay, just because Rowan Williams (or anyone else) asks them to.

That does not mean that there will be a sudden rush of gay bishops. Nor should it. It simply means that the American church is being true to who it is. Just as in Scotland, there is plenty of scope within the canonical process to reject someone who happens at any time to be unsuitable to be a bishop. The Americans will use their own polity to determine who can be a bishop and not have some additional extra-canonical process imposed on them.

They are quite right to do so. What holds for them should hold for us.

The Americans have not walked away from the Anglican Communion. They have walked away a little from the idea that the conflict over LGBT issues would disappear if everyone did what Rowan Williams said and adopted the proposals of the Windsor Report. They were right to do so.

The Windsor process has little currency now. The notion that world Anglicanism could be held together by asking churches to discriminate against gay people is shot to pieces.

We need to return to the rather more basic notion that it is devotion to Jesus which holds the potential to unite Christians, not devotion to prejudice. And we must thank God that the Americans have shown us how to make that real.