A Woman of Faith



“The decision was mine,” recalls Sander, 52. “Some of it was the theology [at St. Margaret’s], some of it was the realization that Mary wasn’t fully out, and the church wasn’t having that conversation yet. Mary’s a community builder, and she starts with where people are. That’s how she operates.”

The call to ministry endured, even though there were also times when Glasspool’s life felt “schizophrenic.” But she came out by inches over the years, talking with church folk on an individual basis. Some encounters were positive celebrations. Others were ambivalent “tell me something I don’t already know” or “I don’t really need to know all about your personal life” moments. And some were far worse, as in the experience of her goddaughter’s parents, who no longer speak to Glasspool.

Why is the issue of sexual identity so difficult for so many churches—Episcopal or otherwise? “I think the basic issue is gender,” Glasspool says. “And one can see this being played out in the Roman Catholic Church. The issue is the status and role of women, and the balance of the feminine and masculine in the way in which we experience and encounter God. Where we allow women to be in positions of leadership and power and authority, we have a more balanced view of the community that is the world.”

Her own elevation into a position of authority in the Episcopal Church came by surprise, Glasspool says. After serving as canon to the bishops of Maryland beginning in 2001, she was nominated in 2009 in part by a superior, Bishop Suffragan of Maryland John L. Rabb, who commends Glasspool’s masterful ability to “correlate the gospel with real-life situations.” Glasspool was nominated for one of two bishop positions in the diocese of Los Angeles. Diane Jardine Bruce, a fellow bishop suffragan, was elected a day prior to Glasspool; both will work with L.A. diocesan bishop J. Jon Bruno. Glasspool says she was honored by the nod and eager to work with new parishes in one of the church’s more progressive and culturally diverse dioceses.

When it comes to Archbishop Williams’s criticism of her election, Glasspool tries to stay above the fray. She has never met Williams, nor has she had any form of communication with him. She chooses not to address Williams’s “regrettable” statement—“You’re asking me a question that is directed at a pay grade over my head, which is to say that’s really at the level of [Episcopal Church presiding bishop] Katharine Jefferts Schori and the archbishop of Canterbury”—though she says she prays daily for Williams. “I think he’s in a very difficult and challenging position. I support him, and I will do everything I can to help the Anglican Communion do more than survive, to thrive in terms of our international relationships.”

Yet she does not sidestep other matters. Glasspool is frustrated when the church acts in contradictory ways—and angered when it acts in a cowardly manner. “When the church won’t stand up in Uganda to say that it is wrong to execute somebody for being gay, then I get angry. That’s unjust. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that.”

Nor does one need to be a theologian to see that the church still has a long way to go in affirming the lives of its gay and lesbian followers. Glasspool has tried to strike a balance and is hopeful that change will come, disagreements will fade, hearts and minds will open. “On a personal level I’ve come to understand that God has already blessed Becki and me in our relationship. And what we’re waiting for is the church to recognize that.... That’s the challenge for the more traditional churches: to find a different way of being open about the movement of God. ­Because God is bigger than the church.”