Rev. Mark Andrus

Fears of a split in the worldwide Anglican Church were reduced today when the Episcopal Diocese of California voted to elect Rev. Mark Andrus of Alabama as its next bishop.

The election, held by 700 lay people and priest in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral, was to find a replacement for longtime Bishop William Swing, who is retiring. Three of the seven candidates under consideration were openly ‘gay’ clerics living with their partners.

Rev. Gen Robinson

Episcopalians have not elected an active homosexual to a bishop position since Gene Robinson was selected to head the Diocese of New Hampshire three years ago, a choice that has caused great division.

Andrus, who was leading among the clergy after the second round of voting defeated Rev. Eugene Sutton of Washington, D.C., the laity’s favorite, on the third ballot. Both men are heterosexual.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, had expressed concerns over the nominations which were seen, by many, as capable of splintering the worldwide Anglican Church.

The Reverend Bonnie Perry of Chicago, a lesbian, reportedly withdrew her nomination shortly before noon.

Canon Michael Barlowe, who works in the Diocese of California, and the Very Rev Robert Taylor of Seattle were the other two homosexual candidates.

Several Anglican provinces, particularly in Africa, have broken with the U.S. church, calling the ordination of homosexual bishops “unbiblical.” Some U.S. Episcopal priests have attempted to transfer their association to the African province in an effort to maintain orthodoxy.

The election of Andrus still has to be ratified by the U.S. church’s general convention in June. According to the BBC, some bishops had already indicated they would have blocked the consecration of a homosexual bishop if that had been California’s choice.

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