Bishop elect Mary Glasspool's election, consents and what-all, is cause for celebration, but also presents a problem.
News about her election and now about the consents for her election, almost always carry the banner that includes the word 'lesbian.' She is touted as the first partnered lesbian elected bishop, the first lesbian bishop (how do they know), the second homosexual partnered bishop (lesbian subset), and so on. Those who dance, dance, and those who weep, weep, and some both weep and dance. There might have been other reasons to dance or weep, but most of the public buzz is around the peculiarities of the category in which she is placed as regards the sexual markers of those she finds herself attracted to and affiliating with. It seems that almost everyone looks at this election as one filled with 'portent' because of her being put in a category of persons. "Category of persons" is code, of course, for the various bases for inclusion or exclusion. It is the basis for denying passports to this or that country.
I confess that I am uninterested in the peculiarities of her relationship with her life companion, except to say that I hope her relationship provides a bit of comfort in a broken and downtrodden world. Perhaps I am rude or simple-minded, but the reality is that she is, for me, a person of note for reasons having to do with the content of her character. She is held, by me and obviously many others, in high regard.
This news buzz is, of course, is an example of societal and ecclesial idolatry. "Homosexual" and "Lesbian" have become idols replacing genuine care and concern for the lives of individuals and those they love. Apparently, no one in the world of ecclesial news and views gives a damn about who anyone is, but only what category of persons they belong to. That is why homophobia is a form of idolatry. It is akin to such clear idolatries as apartheid, ethnic cleansing and genocide.
The reason we might well cheer and dance about Mary's election, and I cheer and dance, is because Mary Glasspool is a fine priest and will, I believe, make a fine bishop. She has skills and abilities that will serve the Church amazingly well. More, she is and will be a fine pastor. There is only one Good Shepherd and that we are even at our best only "pretty good shepherds" (to steal from Garrison Keillor), but my sense is that Mary will be among the best of the pretty good.
The reason to celebrate, dear friends, is that the Church in all its bumbling ways, elected someone bishop who is faithful, talented and loves people in and out of the Church. The electors and those giving consent saw past the idols and saw the reality and they were not stopped by the idols at the door.
Part of the reality is that Mary will not have to face into her new responsibilities alone. She has a life companion, a partner, "someone to hang on to," a dear one. That this strange world we live in, there seems to be more concern for the abstract possibilities (to all of us on the outside) of the nature of Mary's sexual relationship with her partner than there is for the concrete realities (visible to all of us who wish to see) of her stability of life and joy in living that are the product in part of that relationship.
Canon Mary Glasspool was clear in her comments during the election process that she wanted to be considered, and would consider the election, on the basis of her faith, abilities and experience. We cannot know why electors chose her, but there is every reason to suppose that some significant portion of that electorate voted for her because they could envision her as a bishop of the church, fulfilling that vocation to a good end.
So perhaps we ought to celebrate the fact that the electors have chosen as bishop someone who is of great promise and good faith. In itself that is cause for celebration, for often enough persons are elected bishop who turn out to be tepid, lukewarm, and more interested in safety then in setting out once again on that strange journey with Our Lord whose end is always death and resurrection.
Perhaps too we celebrate the death and resurrection of the Church each time we elect, for not only will the work of a bishop break her, as it does every bishop, but it will be an occasion for signs of resurrection as well. Who knows, perhaps a bishop who must live with and within wounded institutions, social structures, and idolatries, as intimately as Mary does will find new ways to heal and build up the faithful.
It is time to pray for Mary Glasspool, bishop elect. May she be worthy of the cross she will carry and filled with joy in the resurrection that it portends.