LOS ANGELES The Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles ordained an openly lesbian bishop on Saturday, a move likely to stoke further tensions between liberals and conservatives in the deeply divided global Anglican Communion.
Mary Douglas Glasspool is now a suffragan, or assistant, bishop in a liberal diocese on America's famously tolerant West Coast, and she offered to meet with her critics as a "reconciling person".
Some 3,000 people attended the ceremony, said diocese spokesman Bob Williams. "The event was joyful and well attended," he said.
Two people, a man and a young boy, disrupted the beginning of the service, urging people to repent and calling homosexuality a sin, but otherwise it went as planned.
The event is news for the 77 million Anglicans around the world and the seriously split Anglican Communion, the group of Anglican national churches in which the Episcopal Church is the U.S. member.
The Communion was rocked by the Episcopal Church's consecration of its first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2003. It urged the U.S. Church not to appoint another homosexual bishop because of the stiff opposition to change from conservative Anglicans, mostly in Africa.
Some conservative Episcopalians have since left to form their own church, the Anglican Church in North America, in protest against liberal reforms in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.
The conservative African churches will protest strongly and redouble their efforts to defend traditional policies against homosexual clergy. Traditionalists in the Church of England who oppose plans to permit women bishops there will probably see it as another reason to leave for the Roman Catholic Church.
In an interview with Reuters Television, Glasspool said she was ready to meet with critics. "I am a reconciling person and I will seek to reach out and engage with people who believe or think differently than I do, and to try to build a relationship with them," she said.
The ceremony also consecrated a second bishop suffragan, Diane Jardine Bruce.
The Glasspool drama is unfolding against the backdrop of America's wider debate over sexual orientation issues, such as gay marriage, child adoption by same-sex parents and the status of homosexuals in the military.
Polls consistently show gays and lesbians enjoying growing acceptance in American society. But fast-growing faiths in the United States, such as many evangelical Protestant churches and the Mormon church, regard homosexual relations as sinful and proscribed by scripture, and voters have opposed gay marriage, including in California.
The Anglican Communion is the third-largest Christian denomination in the world, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches.
(Reporting by Erik Tavcar and Alan Devall in Los Angeles, Peter Henderson in Oakland and Ed Stoddard in Houston. Writing by Ed Stoddard: editing by Tom Heneghan and Sandra Maler)