Where God Wants Her to Be: L.A. Bishop Mary Glasspool a New Standard Bearer of the Modern Inclusive Church

Article excerpt

SPENDING AN HOUR with the Rt. Rev. Mary D. Glasspool is an uplifting experience. As you leave the Echo Park office of the warm and charming new bishop suffragan of the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles, your step's a bit lighter, your perspective a bit sunnier--maybe the world isn't such a bad place after all.

This past summer, Bishop Glasspool, 57, completed her first year of office in one of the U.S.'s largest and liveliest Episcopal dioceses (147 parishes and missions). Looking at once both elfin and elegant in a black jacket, skirt and court shoes, she projects a presence much larger than her petite frame.

Glasspool is not the first female bishop in the diocese; her colleague the Rev. Canon Diane Jardine Bruce, who ordained her, precedes her as a bishop by a couple of months. But she is the first openly partnered lesbian bishop.

On those grounds, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams urged the American church not to proceed with the ordination, warning that it would further alienate traditionalists in the Anglican Communion who consider active homosexuality a sin.

Glasspool had doubts herself, as she began to acknowledge her sexual orientation during her post-secondary years. "Did God hate me? Or did God love me?" wondered the traditionally raised college student.

Glasspool was born on Staten Island and raised in the upstate town of Goshen. "Both my parents modelled a profound faith in God, which was a gift they gave to me," she says.

Her father was an old-school Episcopalian rector, whose answer to the question of women priests "was a resounding no," she recalls.

Glasspool graduated summa cum bade from a broad-based music program at Dickenson College in Carlisle, Penn., with voice as her major instrument.

But two things marked her path during her college years, 1972 to 1976. She felt an urgent calling to the ordained ministry and was blessed in meeting Rev. Barbara Chaapel, a Presbyterian minister from Princeton who was serving as the college's assistant chaplain. Chaapel provided "incarnational and relational" proof that her once impossible dream could be realised.

Glasspool graduated from Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., near Boston, in 1981 and was ordained in 1982, In Boston she met her life partner, Dr. Rebecca Sander, recently a social work professor at the University of Maryland.

Glasspool served as an assistant rector or rector in parishes in Philadelphia, Boston and Annapolis. In 2001 she went on to become canon to the bishops of the Baltimore-based diocese of Maryland. …