Wednesday, May 10, 2006

You know your church is liberal (and in trouble) when this is the headline announcing your new bishop...

Heterosexual elected Episcopal Bishop of Calif

By Duncan MartellSat May 6, 6:17 PM ET

The Episcopal Diocese of California on Saturday avoided widening a rift over gays in the global Anglican Communion by electing a heterosexual man as its next bishop.

More than 1,000 clergy and laypeople packed Grace Cathedral in San Francisco's tony Nob Hill neighborhood to elect the Rt. Rev. Mark Andrus as successor to longtime Bishop William Swing, who is retiring after 27 years.

Two openly gay men and one lesbian were among the seven candidates on the ballot.

No gay or lesbian cleric has been elected bishop since the consecration of Eugene Robinson in 2003 as bishop of New Hampshire threw the U.S. church and the worldwide family of 77 million Anglicans into turmoil.

"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," 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."

Rev. Andrus of Alabama was elected with 72 percent of the clergy vote and 55 percent of the lay vote. The Rev. Canon Eugene Sutton of Washington, D.C., who is also heterosexual, came in second, with 13 percent of the clergy vote and 33 percent of the lay vote.

'FOSTERING DIALOGUE'

When told a bishop had been elected, members of the diocese cheered, rose and applauded, and church bells rang out to commemorate the election.

Andrus, who has served as Bishop Suffragan in the Diocese of Alabama since 2001, is known for building bridges and reaching across different points of view, said John Kater, acting president of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific.

"He has the ability to take strong positions on social justice issues," Kater said. "He seems to be incredibly good at fostering dialogue across strong disagreements."

The roots of the U.S. Episcopal Church are as old as the country and eight of the first 14 presidents were Episcopalian. The church has long prided itself for including liberal and conservative ideologies.

Robinson is the first bishop known to be in an openly gay relationship in more than 450 years of Anglican history.

The issue of homosexuality within Anglicanism has been simmering since at least 1979, when the Episcopal Church's General Convention resolved that the ordination of gays was inappropriate.

Robinson's eventual consecration prompted some U.S. churches to leave the Episcopal Church and affiliate themselves with a network of churches in Africa, where homosexuality is largely taboo.

Last month, the Special Commission of the Episcopal Church, composed of clergy and laypeople and formed to address divisions caused by Robinson's consecration, recommended that the church be cautious about installing another gay bishop.

The group's report said its members were divided over whether to go further and instruct the 2.3 million-member U.S. church to "refrain" from putting gays into the episcopate, but settled on telling members to use "very considerable caution" before doing so.

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