Anglican Rift Avoided in Chicago Bishop Election

( [email protected] ) Nov 12, 2007 11:10 AM EST

On Saturday, the US Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Chicago avoided deepening the rift over homosexuality within the Anglican Communion when it elected the Rev Jeffrey Lee to be its twelfth bishop.

There were seven candidates for the position, including the openly lesbian Rev Tracy Lind, the dean of Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland.

Had she been elected, she would have been the second openly homosexual Episcopal bishop after Bishop V Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

It was the 2003 consecration of Bishop Robinson that has driven the worldwide Anglican Communion to the point of schism between the more liberal leaning Episcopal Church and traditionalists, who favour a conservative interpretation of Scripture, particularly those in the Global South.

The election of another openly homosexual bishop would have likely deepened the divisions within the Anglican Communion.

The new Chicago Bishop, the Rt Rev Lee, is regarded as a moderate. In a statement given to 500 delegates before the vote, Lee said he wanted to keep conversation going with conservatives on gay clergy but at the same time supported "the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the church".

Earlier this year the Episcopal Church said it would “exercise restraint” in choosing more gay bishops after intense pressure from conservative leaders in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Rev Lee supported the decision by the Episcopal Church, writing that he had a "deep desire to keep the conversation going forward at the international level".

Rev Canon Mike Stephenson of the Diocese of Chicago was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "He would be perceived as someone who is qualified for the job, but not polarizing as other candidates might have been."

Rev Lee was the rector of St Thomas Church in Medina, Washington, and was elected on the second ballot, receiving 337 clergy and lay votes, comfortably reaching the required 308 clergy and lay votes.

Rev Lind came in fourth on both ballots, receiving just 16 votes of clergy and lay people in the second ballot in which Rev Lee was elected.

In Rev Lee’s statement, he said that his church supported the inclusion of gays and lesbians, but did not exclude members who disagree with that stance.

He said, "I make it clear that I don't expect everyone to agree with me, but as a leader I have a duty to articulate my own understanding of what God may be calling the church to do."

According to AP, Rev Lee said that he was "honoured and humbled" by the appointment. His consecration ceremony is planned to be held on 2 February 2008.

The outgoing Bishop William Persell said that many of the delegates who voted where aware that voting for Rev Lind would have sparked controversy.

He also said that “this election should not be seen as a vote against a gay or lesbian person", and that the Diocese of Chicago was as committed as ever to full inclusion of lesbians and gays.