NEW YORK — The lesbian priest who was elected assistant bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles said Tuesday that she was upset by claims that her role in the church is divisive.
The Rev. Mary Glasspool said that she was aware her win troubles some people, but that she believes her election last weekend was mostly "liberating" for the denomination.
"I've had hundreds, probably a thousand, e-mails from people all over the world who don't know me but who are expressing through the fact of my election a pride in the Episcopal Church," Glasspool said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.
"I've committed my life as a life of service to the people of Jesus Christ, and what hurts is the sense that anybody might have that my name or my servanthood could be perceived as divisive."
Glasspool is the second openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church and the world Anglican fellowship. The first was New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, whose 2003 consecration caused an uproar and widened long-developing rifts over what Anglicans should believe.
Just hours after Glasspool's election, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the Anglican spiritual leader, said in a statement that the vote raised "very serious questions" for the divided church, and he urged restraint in moving forward with her consecration.
Glasspool needs the consent of a majority of Episcopal dioceses before she can take the job of bishop suffragan. The 55-year-old clergywoman, who has been with her female partner since 1988, said she read the archbishop's comments on her laptop in her California hotel Sunday and found the statement "a tiny bit absurd" because he doesn't know her.
"Our Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori does have a personal relationship with the archbishop of Canterbury, and I need to let them work that out," Glasspool said.
On Tuesday, the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order, issued a statement from England echoing Williams' request for restraint. Jefferts Schori is expected to travel to London next week for a previously scheduled Anglican meeting.
Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno, who leads the diocese, has been defiant in the face of the criticism of Glasspool's win. Bruno on Tuesday said Williams was "the titular head of our church, and I don't think we should capitulate to a titular head."
The Episcopal Church is the Anglican body in the United States. In 2004, Anglican leaders asked Episcopalians for a moratorium on electing another gay bishop while they tried to prevent a permanent break in the fellowship.
Since the request was made, some Episcopal gay priests were nominated for bishop, but none was elected before Glasspool. In July, the Episcopal General Convention, the U.S. church's top policy making body, effectively overturned any moratorium, affirming that gay and lesbian priests were eligible to become bishops.
Breakaway Episcopal conservatives, with the support of several leaders of Anglican national churches around the world, have formed a rival church, the Anglican Church in North America, which they hope Williams will officially recognize.
Glasspool, the daughter of an Episcopal priest, was ordained in 1981 and has served for eight years as an adviser to the Diocese of Maryland's bishop.
When Glasspool heard she had narrowly won on the seventh ballot Saturday, she "choked up."
"It was a powerful moment," she said. "I've just been trying to be faithful to God and to God's call throughout my entire life. I never expected to be in this position."