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The New York Times
Election of Episcopal Bishop Avoids Inflaming a Crisis
By NEELA BANERJEE
Published: May 7, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO, May 6 — The Episcopal Diocese of California on Saturday elected the Rev. Mark H. Andrus, bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Alabama, as its first new bishop in 27 years, a decision that averted inflaming a crisis over homosexuality in the denomination.
The broader Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion to which it belongs have been shaken by a dispute over the inclusion of gay men and lesbians that grew increasingly acrimonious after the Episcopal Church consecrated the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.
In the Diocese of California, which includes San Francisco, Oakland and five nearby counties, three of the seven candidates on Saturday's ballot for bishop were openly gay or lesbian ministers in long-term relationships.
Bishop Andrus, 49, was not one of the gay candidates. If a gay candidate had been elected, the trickle of congregations that have left the Episcopal Church U.S.A. since the consecration of Bishop Robinson might have accelerated, and the strained relations between the Episcopal Church and the broader communion could have been pushed to a schism, church experts have said.
Nonetheless, in an acceptance statement via a phone call piped into Grace Cathedral, where the voting was taking place, Bishop Andrus said he would continue to support the full inclusion of gay men and lesbians in the church.
"We must all understand, and here I address the Diocese of California and those listening from elsewhere, that your vote today remains a vote for inclusion and communion — of gay and lesbian people in their full lives as single or partnered people, of women, of all ethnic minorities, and all people," Bishop Andrus said, referring to continuing in the Anglican Communion, which has about 77 million members worldwide. "My commitment to Jesus Christ's own mission of inclusion is resolute."
Despite the tension surrounding the vote, local clergy members and lay delegates who voted on Saturday and outside experts familiar with the diocese said that the candidates' sexual orientation did not play a role in the election. In meetings two weeks ago between the seven candidates and members of the diocese, people emphasized that they wanted a bishop with a commitment to social justice, evangelism and young people, said those who went to the meetings.
To win, a candidate needed to receive a simple majority of the votes of the two representative bodies, the lay delegates from the parishes and the clergy members, on the same ballot. During the first two ballots, Bishop Andrus led among clergy members, and the Rev. Canon Eugene T. Sutton of the Washington National Cathedral led among lay people. The other candidates, gay and straight, were far behind. Bishop Andrus won in the third round of voting around midday.
Some parishioners, who supported Mr. Sutton, the lone black candidate, said Bishop Andrus won because he was the safe bet: a straight, white male, not unlike Bishop William E. Swing, who will retire in July.
But others who voted said that Bishop Andrus's open support of gay men and lesbians while serving as the bishop suffragan, or assistant bishop, in Alabama, a clearly unpopular position in that diocese, won them over. For example, Bishop Andrus has said that he backs the consecration of Bishop Robinson of New Hampshire.
"One of the things that attracted me was that he showed that people in the Diocese of Alabama could have different views on Gene Robinson," said the Rev. Robert Honeychurch, rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Fremont, Calif. "He acted actively and intentionally in a reconciling way in what must have been a very difficult situation."
The Episcopal Church's triennial general convention will meet in Columbus, Ohio, in mid-June, and Bishop Andrus is expected to be consecrated there. But while the vote in California did not worsen tensions in the church, anger over the acceptance of gay men and lesbians continues to simmer — as does the possibility that an openly gay or lesbian bishop might be elected elsewhere.
In the Diocese of Tennessee, for instance, voting for a new bishop ended in a stalemate on Saturday after more than 30 ballots. Lay delegates backed a conservative minister who they hoped would take the diocese out of the Episcopal Church, and clergy members backed a more moderate choice, said the Rev. William Sachs, director of research for the Episcopal Foundation, the church's analysis arm.
In September, the Diocese of Newark will elect a new bishop. Candidates have not been announced, but given the traditions of the diocese, church experts said, one of the candidates could be openly gay or lesbian.
Episcopalians avoid rift in picking bishop
Many had expected gay leader
- Matthai Chakko Kuruvila, San FranciscoChronicle Religion Writer
Sunday, May 7, 2006
The Episcopal Diocese of California on Saturday elected Rt. Rev. Mark Andrus to be its next bishop, tabling the question of whether the consecration of a gay priest would cleave the 220-year-old Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion of which it is a part.
The hundreds of those gathered in Grace Cathedral in San Francisco roared its approval upon hearing the results of the third vote, which required a majority from both clergy and lay members of the diocese -- which includes 80 congregations in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and part of Santa Clara counties.
The 157-year-old diocese has never had anyone but a straight, white male as its bishop, a pattern that Andrus will continue in the increasingly multicultural and multilingual Bay Area. But many voters said he would be a force for all peoples.
It was a theme Andrus echoed in his remarks, broadcast into the cathedral via telephone from his home in Alabama, immediately after his election.
"Your vote today remains a vote for inclusion and communion," Andrus said, eliciting another roar of approval.
Andrus, 49, who is a suffragan bishop in Alabama, had previously identified his demographic similarity to outgoing bishop William Swing as the biggest hurdle for the diocese should he be elected. They're both white, married men from the South, and Andrus feared that he'd be typecast as a mirror image of Swing -- whose 27-year tenure in the diocese Andrus greatly admires.
Andrus, in an interview, said his job would be to nurture an evolving vision for the diocese and its 27,000 members. Andrus said he would like the church leadership to come more from the ground up, using the church's ministries and the deacons who lead them as a primary force for change.
He also wants the church to be more global in its sensibilities, tapping into youth who have more of a global consciousness than previous generations. Andrus said he is also proud of his work on racial reconciliation, particularly his work reaching out to Spanish-speaking and African-American communities.
"I don't want to send some message that this is some step backward for the diocese," Andrus said of his election. His diocese in Alabama has more Latinos than the Diocese of California, despite living in a state with fewer Latinos. And he made it a priority to work with African-Americans, making it clear that he was at their service.
"Often we operate out of white privilege," he said. "We define how we're going to be useful, how long we're going to be useful, how long we're going to give and when we cease to give. In short, we're in control."
Andrus's election will have to be confirmed in June by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. That body rarely overturns a local diocese's selection.
The election of a bishop is typically a local matter, attracting little interest outside of a diocese. But the presence of three gay clergy among the seven candidates drew international attention because of the possibility that a second gay bishop could be consecrated in the United States.
The 2003 consecration of openly gay Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire drew reproach from conservative Episcopal churches as well as other members of the Anglican Communion, the international body of churches that share worship and prayer traditions rooted in the Church of England.
The possibility of another gay bishop had provoked fears and threats that the Anglican Communion would disown the Episcopal Church in the United States.
But for the hundreds of lay delegates and clergy gathered under the immense, vaulted ceilings at Grace Cathedral, international politics seemed to count for little. Many said they were trying to open themselves to the workings of the Holy Spirit to make their decision. Throughout the day, prayers, music and the sharing of communion were intended to remind those gathered of the piety behind the politics.
"It's a very powerful experience because one's vote will tend to shape the next 25 years of the diocese," said Jerry Dickinson, 58, who was chosen by his San Francisco church, SaintGregory of Nyssa, to be a lay delegate on Saturday. "My discernment is about the quality of the candidate, not whether they're male, female, gay or straight."
The other candidates were the Rev. Jane Gould of Massachusetts, the Rev. Bonnie Perry of Chicago, the Rev. Canon Eugene Sutton of the Washington National Cathedral, the Very Rev. Robert Taylor of Seattle and two members of the local diocese, the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe and the Rev. Donald Schell. Taylor, Perry and Barlowe are gay and are each in long-term, partnered relationships.
Beyond the mystical elements of faith, other voters said they partly made their selection based on the requirments of personal, day-to-day and, perhaps, mundane matters of leading the diocese.
John Anderson, 58, who attends St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Burlingame, said the bishop would need to understand how to handle something as small as mediating a squabble in a church, or as large as developing a larger vision.
"How does the church become culturally relevant in the Bay Area -- both to those who go to church and to those who don't?" Anderson said.
The answer for Anderson, and for many lay people on Saturday was Sutton, a pastor at the Washington National Cathedral in D.C. His engaging, dynamic and extremely charismatic style had won over many.
In the first two votes, Sutton had the most support from lay people. But clergy voted for Andrus. On the third vote, many of those who voted for other candidates in the first two ballots switched to Andrus.
That was enough for his victory, but it left many African-Americans in the cathedral disappointed. Sutton, who is black , was the people's choice, said several African-Americans afterward.
"We missed an opportunity to progress beyond where we've been," said the Rev. Katherine Ward, the former rector of St. Augustine's Episcopal Church in Oakland. But she said the vote didn't surprise her given that the largest group of clergy are white men.
Ward said she saw all candidates as equally qualified, but voted for Sutton because he is African-American.
Others had an even stronger view.
"The diocese is just not ready to move beyond the white Anglo male," Said Jeri Robinson, 63, who attends St. Augustine's.
Several clergy said that they saw Andrus as having the strongest qualifications, given his rank as a bishop. And some said that Sutton hadn't had enough experience leading a parish of his own.
In short, Andrus was viewed as someone who could work with the disparate corners of the church, said the Very Rev. Joseph Britton, dean of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University.
"He was the most likely to be able to relate to all of the complexities of the diocese of California and to have the theological depth to hold it all together," Britton said.
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