The US Episcopal Church has controversially approved the consecration of its first openly lesbian bishop, despite warnings that such a move could split the world wide Anglican Communion.
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, had previously urged the church not to take any action that would further divisions within the Anglican Communion.
But last week it was revealed that the Revd Mary Glasspool, who is in a same-sex relationship, will be consecrated as the Assistant Bishop of Los Angeles on 15 May.
A statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office lamented the decision, saying: “It is regrettable that the appeals from Anglican Communion bodies for continuing gracious restraint have not been heeded.”
The US Episcopal Church’s controversial stance towards sexuality has caused problems before, and in 2003 it became the first church in the Anglican Communion to appoint an openly homosexual bishop, Gene Robinson.
Critics have reacted to Miss Glasspool’s appointment with dismay.
The Most Revd Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney, condemned the decision, saying: “With the election of the Reverend Mary Glasspool, a partnered lesbian, as a Bishop in Los Angeles in The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion reaches another decisive moment.
“It is now absolutely clear to all that the national Church itself has formally committed itself to a pattern of life which is contrary to Scripture.
“The election of Bishop Robinson in 2003 was not an aberration to be corrected in due course. It was a true indication of the heart of the Church and the direction of its affairs.”
Revd Glasspool attempted to defend her appointment, saying: “I am also aware that not everyone rejoices in this election and consent, and will work, pray, and continue to extend my own hands and heart to bridge those gaps, and strengthen the bonds of affection among all people, in the Name of Jesus Christ.”
Last August the head of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) warned that the debate over appointing practicing homosexuals to clergy positions is unlikely to be resolved in the near future.
But the issue needs to be addressed without any “blurring” or “fudging”, said the Primus of the SEC, the Most Revd David Chillingworth.