The Episcopal Church in the US has caused further controversy in the ongoing Anglican debate over homosexuality within the Church, after the Diocese of Chicago announced an openly lesbian priest as one of the candidates for its bishop.
Conservative Anglicans were left outraged after the openly gay Rev Tracey Lind, dean of Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland, was included among five nominees for the vote to take place on 10 November.
The nomination has sparked fears that she could become the second bishop in the Episcopal Church who lives with a same-sex partner.
That notion may be enough to wedge an insurmountable barrier between the warring factions of the worldwide Anglican Communion, who are still fiercely debating the Scriptural basis for the 2003 consecration of New Hampshire Bishop V Gene Robinson, who has a male partner.
While many Anglican bishops have yet to confirm their attendance at next year’s landmark ten-yearly Lambeth Conference, the latest developments in Chicago could be enough to push the Communion to the brink of schism.
Rev Lind’s inclusion as a candidate for bishop will further intensify the focus on September’s meeting of US Episcopal Church bishops, who are due to meet and discuss whether to agree to demands from the Anglican Communion to unequivocally pledge not to consecrate any further openly gay bishops.
That meeting, set for 30 September, could prove a pivotal point in the history of the Anglican Communion. If the US bishops refuse to bow to demands from the Communion, the Church could potentially lose its full membership status within the 77 million-member Communion.
If, on the other hand, the Church does reject the demands and Canterbury refuses to retract the Church’s membership, then African and Asian Church members, who have been the most stringent opponents of the US developments, may decide to break away from the Communion.