The real reason to cheer about Bishop elect Mary Glasspool

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.


  1. Mark
    Very well said! Thanks for helping to try and keep the focus in the right places!

  2. I take your point about it not being important that Mary is a lesbian. Except, of course, for other LGBT people. I'm glad it's unimportant to you. It is important to me. I confess that I've worked too hard over the years - and so have you, my friend - not to rejoice in this moment of justice. Just for a wee bit, anyway, before we get back up off our knees, bent in prayers of thanksiving, and get back to the work of the Gospel.

    I long for the day when an event like this will not make headline news. We're not yet there. We're on the path, but we're not out of the woods. Meanwile, prayers for Mary. Prayers for the church. Prayers for those who hate us and revile us. Prayers that we are alive in this time when we are fully alive in Christ.

  3. I have to confess that, in discussions of the election and the confirmation, I have allowed myself to get stuck discussing the "LGBT thing" and not Mary Glasspool. Thank you, Mark, for helping me get unstuck.

  4. Dear Elizabeth...of course it is important that Mary is everything Mary is, including being lesbian, and that she has been elected and given consent is indeed a source of rejoicing that all of her, who she is, who she loves and what she professes. You said it and you are right!

    Those of us who rejoice rejoice for the whole Mary and pray and dance with her this day. And of course she makes headlines.

    But I do wish some of those many articles would speak of her relationship and her life as if they are a whole that gives her strength to be who she is.

    Only one or two (ENS being particularly good on this) go so far as to even speak of her ministry, background, education, etc, as if any of that mattered at all.

    So rejoice indeed, and having done that rejoice again that we are all on this road together.

  5. wow, thank you for this. in the cacophony of the Anglican discussion on inclusion, it is nice to hear such a melodious voice.

  6. O would we all get to thepoint where her eminent qualififcations for this post render her sexuality irrelevant.

    it is to her.

    it is to manyofus.

    What does it say about the people for whom it isn't?

  7. The Rev. Scott Bellows, President of the Standing Committee, Diocese of Maryland18/3/10 10:33 PM

    Thank you, my brother; well said! Those of us who live and work and pray with (+)Mary on a daily basis rejoice in your clarity of thought and ability to bring us back to a proper focus on the totality that is Mary Glasspool - child of God and servant of the church.

  8. Please, let's be honest. Her sexuality isn't irrelevant to either side. Both sides focus on the same thing. If you took a description of her education, background etc. and changed the name to a man's and the information about her partner to, "a wife and two kids" nobody on the liberal side would be jumping up and down for joy. Satisfied, maybe,because she is progressive, but the glee and rejoicing is not because of her qualification,but maybe some here would not be satisfied either. Some commenters have complained when other diocese failed to put a woman or gay candidate on the ballot and some posts on "The Lead" when talking about the elections of male bishops get no comments at all. Those elections seem irrelevant. So the focus is the same whether one is liberal or conservative; the difference is whether they are laughing or crying.

    Chris H.

  9. Anonymous, but the joy comes from people finally having the opportunity where they haven't before. If you had been told for years that you couldn't go to school, and one day you woke up and found you could go, we would all rejoice with you in a much more ecstatic manner thant if you had been going to school every day for the last 20 years and were just going to the next day of school.

  10. Doug, I thought Mark was trying to say people should celebrate because of her qualifications, not just make it a "lesbian party" but that's what it is. I also found IT saying Mary's lesbianism was irrelevant rather laughable in itself. So go ahead, laugh and jump for joy all you want, but don't say it's just because she's "qualified".

    Chris H.

  11. Sorry JCF, but if a conservative ran two anti-gay blogs and then said they voted against Mary, not because she was gay, but because she "wasn't qualified"(assuming they allow women bishops) I'd laugh in disbelief at them too--as would others around here. Her other credentials sound pretty good. I don't see that I condemned Mary as a person. I disagreed with what I took to be the point of Mark's post about what made her celebrated election newsworthy.

    Chris H.

  12. Well said, Mark! As Mary was a good priest, she will be a good bishop.


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