American Baptists should always keep an eye on the Episcopal Church. There are certain mainline/sideline parallels betweeen the two bodies. Here's a report on what may happen in the California Episcopal Diocese.
A conservative Anglican leader says if one of the two openly homosexual priests who are candidates to become bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California is elected, the fallout could rival that of the controversy over the denomination's 2003 ordination of homosexual Bishop Gene Robinson.
Bonnie Perry of Chicago and Robert Taylor of Seattle -- both of whom have longtime same-sex partners -- are among the five nominees for the position of Episcopal bishop of California. Others candidates for the post are Eugene Sutton of Washington, DC; Jane Gould of Massachusetts; and the Diocese of Alabama's Mark Andrus. The Episcopal Diocese of California stretches from Marin County south to the town of Los Altos, and includes approximately 27,000 church members.
Following Bishop Robinson's ordination, an emergency panel of the global Anglican Communion -- convened in 2004 -- called for a moratorium on installing bishops in same-sex relationships. But apparently the issue of diversity took precedence in selecting candidates for the California position. A spokesman for the Episcopal Diocese of California told the San Jose Mercury News that the search committee did not intend to provoke a political debate, but merely picked candidates who resembled the region itself: men and women from the country, white and black, homosexual and heterosexual.
Canon David Anderson, president and CEO of the American Anglican Council, says the nominations are no shock to conservatives.
"This is not surprising to most of us in the Orthodox part of the Episcopal Church," says Anderson. "We understood that there is an agenda within the Episcopal Church for trying to subvert it into a 'holy homosexual' kind of a church. So we anticipated that they would do this again and again."
Anderson says the nomination of two homosexuals in California is a clear indication of what he calls the "disrespect and disdain" the leadership of the Episcopal Church has for the Anglican Communion. And like other conservative observers within the denomination, Anderson believes the rift over homosexual bishops is about to explode.
"I believe there are some other dioceses that before the end of 2006 will probably also put forth some gay or lesbian candidates as well," he offers. "This is only two people who are in a pipeline. There are going to be more."
The diocese will choose its new bishop at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral on May 6. That selection must be approved by the church's General Convention in June in Columbus, Ohio.