The Anglican Communion looks set to appoint its first openly lesbian bishop, with the election of Mary Glasspool by the Diocese of Los Angeles. Her election still has to be confirmed by national Anglican structures in the USA.
However, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has risked outrage by appearing to question her appointment, only days after his office said that he would not publicly condemn the extreme measures of the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Despite his attempts to maintain a balance in church disputes over sexuality, Williams is likely to be accused of speaking out against the extreme on one side but not the other. Last week, his office suggested that he would be more effective working against the Ugandan Bill behind the scenes.
If her appiontment is confirmed, Mary Glasspool will become the Communion’s second bishop to be living openly in a same-sex relationship. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire in the USA, became the first in 2003.
While not condemning the appointment outright, Williams said that Glasspool’s election “raises very serious questions” for the Anglican Communion.
He pointed out that “the bishops of the Communion have collectively acknowledged that a period of gracious restraint in respect of actions which are contrary to the mind of the Communion is necessary if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold”.
This agreement had been taken to mean that there should be a moratorium on the appointment of gay bishops, an agreement that US Anglicans decided to overturn in July this year.
However, this understanding had also implied that the very conservative wing of Anglicanism should refrain from promoting prejudice against gay, lesbian and bisexual people.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill recently proposed in Uganda, which has divided the Anglican Church there, would introduce the death penalty for certain homosexual activity between consenting adults and imprison priests who failed to report on gay people in their congregations.
In response to public pressure, Williams’ office said three days ago (3 December) that “attempts to publicly influence either the local church or political opinion in Uganda would be divisive and counter productive. Our contacts, at both national and diocesan level, with the local church will therefore remain intensive but private”.
While most accept the Archbishop’s sincerity in opposing the Ugandan legislation, many suggest that he is being naïve about his tactics and giving the impression that Christian leaders will not speak up for gay people’s human rights. His decision to question Glasspool’s appointment, while saying nothing on Uganda, is likely to fuel such criticisms.
To sign the petition urging Christian leaders to speak out against the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill, visit http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Uganda_Christians/index.html .