Monday, May 17, 2010

"First" Lesbian Bishop?

A couple of inches down the blog, we complained about misleading press coverage. Here's more.

Most Egg readers have surely been aware of Mary Glasspool, whom the (D&FMS of the) PECUSA has ordained as bishop of its Los Angeles diocese. She's a lesbian, which is interesting to the media for any number of reasons, most legitimately because the Anglican Communion is still ticked off about Gene Robinson, and has repeatedly asked the Episcopal Church to refrain from selecting more gay bishops.

We don't really care about that part of the story, though. What concerns us is the coverage, much of which has looked like this AP headline:

See that second comma? It makes it appear (as have many other headlines) that Mary Glasspool is the first professed lesbian ever set apart for service as a bishop. In fact, so far as we know, that honor belongs to Eva Brunne, who was chosen last year to be the Bishop of Stockholm. (Ironic note: several Anglican bishops (as well as fellow Lutherans) refused to attend her ordination).

All they need to do is remove the second comma and the headline becomes accurate. She is indeed the first lesbian bishop ordained by the Episcopal Church, but that's all.

And what is a "bishop," anyway? The article does make another point which, while accurate, may also confuse some readers. It says:

The Rev. Canon Diane M. Jardine Bruce, of San Clemente, Calif., was also ordained Saturday.

The two women were elected last December to serve as assistant bishops in the diocese's six-county territory

This is worth noting. Glasspool and Bruce are now "bishops suffragan" within the diocese, which in the use of the Episcopal church means that, although they do indeed hold the rank of bishop -- a significant thing, especially in ecumenical gatherings -- they do not exercise any territorial jurisdiction, and are subsidiary to the "bishop diocesan" of LA, Jon Bruno. They will serve alongside Bishop Suffragan Chester Talton and Bishop Assistant Robert Anderson. Lotta bishops on that staff.

Incidentally, LA has no "bishop co-adjutor," a title whose holder is typically expected to succeed as the ordinary of the diocese.

Here's where the confusion may come from. In the Roman church, a "bishop suffragan," while subsidiary to a metropolitan bishop in rank, nonetheless exercises jurisdiction within his own territory. That is quite a different thing than the work Glasspool et al. will do. They will be more like what the ELCA would call "assistants to the bishop," perhaps deployed regionally within the territory.

We don't expect the AP to spell all this out in a short article, of course. We just wish they'd watch their punctuation.

1 comment:

mark said...

Fascinating. Thanks.