RIVERSIDE, California – The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles elected the first female bishop in its 114-year history Friday but ended voting for the day with one of two openly gay candidates still vying for the second bishop's position.
Rev. Diane M. Jardine Bruce, rector of St. Clement's-By-The-Sea Episcopal Church in San Clemente, was elected Friday at the diocese's annual convention to replace one of two retiring assistant bishops.
Bruce, who was elected in the convention's third ballot, is a former bank executive who has spent the past 12 years working as a priest in Orange County.
Voting for the second spot did not produce a winner Friday and balloting will continue Saturday.
The election has garnered national attention because two of the six candidates vying for the vacant positions are openly gay. One of those candidates, the Rev. John L. Kirkley of San Francisco, withdrew late Friday.
The other, the Rev. Mary D. Glasspool, of Baltimore, was one of the top two vote-getters in the first two rounds of balloting for the second position and is considered a favorite.
If elected, she would be the first openly gay bishop since Bishop V. Gene Robinson was chosen in New Hampshire in 2003. Robinson's win six years ago led dozens of conservative parishes and four dioceses to vote to leave the 2.1-million member U.S. denomination and pushed the 77 million-member Anglican fellowship to the brink of schism.
It is hard, however, to know what impact the selection of a second gay bishop would have on the church today. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of Anglicanism.
The majority of Anglicans outside the United States are theological conservatives.
Within the United States, breakaway traditionalists have formed the Anglican Church in North America as a rival to the Episcopal Church.
Episcopalians have made clear to the rest of the Anglican family, however, that they will not roll back their support for same-sex couples.
Last July, the Episcopal General Convention, the church's top policy-making body, effectively lifted a moratorium on electing another gay bishop. The temporary ban had been requested by Anglican leaders seeking to prevent a permanent break in the communion.
The Los Angeles diocese has 70,000 members and covers six Southern California counties.