Magazine article The Christian Century

Episcopalians Sidestep Crisis

Magazine article The Christian Century

Episcopalians Sidestep Crisis

Article excerpt

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH sidestepped a potential crisis early this month when a married father of two was elected bishop of San Francisco over three openly gay contenders. The winner, however, was no less supportive of gay rights in the church.

Mark Handley Andrus, 49, of Alabama won a seven-person race May 6 that drew national attention just weeks before homosexual issues come to a boil again at the mid-June U.S. Episcopal convention in Columbus, Ohio.

Speaking by phone to diocesan delegates at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral after the vote, Andrus promised to maintain support for full involvement of gay Christians in the church--a position that has not been popular during his ministry in Birmingham, where he was an assistant bishop.

"Your vote today remains a vote for inclusion and communion--of gay and lesbian people in their full lives as single or partnered people," Andrus said. "My commitment to Jesus Christ's own mission of inclusion is resolute."

The three gay candidates--Michael Barlowe of San Francisco, Bonnie Perry of Chicago and Robert V. Taylor of Seattle--all trailed in the final voting after Andrus was elected on the third ballot to replace Bishop William Swing in the five-county Diocese of California surrounding San Francisco Bay.

Had any of the three gay candidates won, conservatives said, it would likely have led to permanent schism in the 2.3-million-member Episcopal Church and with sister churches in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The U.S. church has been deeply divided over the inclusion of gays and lesbians in ministry since 2003, when an openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson, was elected in New Hampshire.

The church's top leader, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, had warned that "definite difficulty" would occur if San Francisco elected the church's second openly gay bishop. In April a special church panel warned dioceses to proceed with "very considerable caution" when considering gay bishops. …

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