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Episcopalians in L.A. diocese welcome first lesbian bishop

LONG BEACH – The Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool, 56, of Baltimore over the weekend became the first lesbian bishop – and only the second openly gay bishop -- in the Episcopal Church in the U.S.

Glasspool was ordained as assistant bishop of the Los Angeles Diocese of the Episcopal Church on Saturday in an elaborate ceremony at Long Beach Arena in front of 3,000 celebrants.

Glasspool and her partner, Becki Sanderson, have been a couple for more than 20 years.

Also Saturday, the Rev. Canon Diane M. Jardine Bruce of San Clemente was ordained as an assistant bishop at the ceremony in Long Beach.

The two became only the second and third female bishops in the 114-year history of the L.A. diocese.

The openly gay V. Gene Robinson, who was ordained as the Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, was among about 30 bishops to attend the ordinations.

The elections of the two women stirred up more controversy among Episcopalians, who are part of the Anglican Communion worldwide. More conservative members of the Anglican Communion oppose allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the clergy.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, initially urged the church to reject Glasspool’s election. Later, he said he was sorry for how he phrased his remarks.

This weekend, the Church of Ireland lamented the ordinations, saying in a statement that it leaves many members of the Anglican Community “alienated and hurt by this development.”

Before the ceremony began Saturday, a man stood up in the crowd and shouted anti-gay comments. He held up a sign that read, “Do not be deceived, homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God.” After the protester was escorted out of the arena, a boy holding a Bible shouted similar slogans before he, too, was led out of the arena.

Someone in the audience yelled back at the two protesters, saying “We’re praying for you.” That drew applause from the crowd.

Bishop Jon Bruno, head of the L.A. diocese, acknowledged the brief outburst inside the arena and the presence of a few protesters outside.

“They don’t understand the inclusive nature of the Episcopal Church,” he said.

Bruno also noted in his speech that he once opposed ordaining women, but now will happily serve alongside the two women.

"The world's transformed only if we turn to each and every one of our brothers and sisters and see the face of Christ superimposed on them," Bruno said in his sermon. "The ones we disagree with the most are the ones we're obligated to share our lives and teach the most."