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CULTURE DIGEST: Episcopal Church ordains lesbian bishop; …

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A West Coast diocese of the Episcopal Church has become the first to ordain an openly lesbian bishop, further straining the relationship between the U.S. branch and the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Mary Douglas Glasspool, 56, was consecrated as an assistant bishop at the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles in May with about 3,000 people in attendance. While she is the first openly homosexual woman to be promoted to such a status, she follows the ordination of the church’s first openly homosexual bishop, V. Gene Robinson, who was consecrated in 2003.

“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 try to build a relationship with them,” Glasspool said, according to Reuters.

Glasspool will assume her post at the 70,000-member diocese July 1. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said her ordination “raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion but for the Communion as a whole,” but he did not elaborate.

The Church of Ireland, which is part of the Anglican Communion, disapproved of the move.

“We wish to express sorrow that Mary Glasspool, a person who is living in a same-sex relationship, is to be consecrated,” the Church of Ireland said in a statement, according to CNN. “The elevation to senior church leadership of a person whose lifestyle is contrary to the will of God revealed in scripture is both wrong and disappointing.”

In recent years, as the rift grew more intense, some conservative Episcopalians left to form their own church, the Anglican Church in North America.

Glasspool, who most recently served in Maryland, said she made her sexuality clear in her presentation to the Diocese of Los Angeles, which also was considering another openly homosexual candidate. She told The Baltimore Sun she has been in a relationship with social worker Becki Sander since 1988, and she is comfortable as a symbol of hope for homosexual clergy.

Also in the interview, Glasspool shared her perspective on the controversy.

“It has to do not with issues of sexuality but of power and authority,” she said. “You don’t hear an outcry about ordaining lesbians and gay people. But once they attain more authority and leadership there’s an outcry.”

1 IN 8 AMERICANS RECEIVE FOOD STAMPS — One in eight Americans now are enrolled in the nation’s primary federal anti-hunger program, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture announcing in May that nearly 40 million Americans are receiving food stamps.

Reuters reported that enrollment has set a record each month since reaching 31.78 million in December 2008, and the USDA estimates that enrollment will average 40.5 million people this fiscal year, which ends in September, at a cost of nearly $60 billion.

Mona Charen, a syndicated columnist, in May quoted Ronald Reagan, who once said, “The closest thing on this earth to immortality is a federal program.”

“No problem that the federal government undertakes to tackle can ever be recognized as solved, because to do so would mean the dissolution of an agency,” Charen wrote.

She noted that First Lady Michelle Obama has launched a campaign to fight childhood obesity, perhaps overlooking the fact that “the federal government is also in the business of feeding a significant portion of the population.”

Charen also said more than half of all American infants are on the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition program, and 62 percent of American schoolchildren who eat school lunches are getting free or reduced-price meals.

“How in the world did programs intended to keep the neediest Americans from malnutrition end up feeding — even overfeeding — such a huge percentage of the population?” Charen wrote.

One way the government programs have burgeoned, she surmised, is that eligibility requirements have been relaxed over the years, and nothing prevents someone who gets WIC from also receiving food stamps and discounted lunches.

In 2004, Charen said, about 6 percent of WIC infants lived in families with annual incomes above 300 percent of poverty, which, for a family of three, would be about $52,000, she said.

“A funny thing happened on the way to preventing hunger among America’s poor — the nation got fat,” Charen wrote. “And the populations most prone to obesity are the poorest…. The obesity epidemic among the poor suggests that actual starvation is not the main challenge now.”

PRAYER DISPUTED AT SENIOR CENTER — Prayer before meals recently was disputed at a senior citizens center near Savannah, Ga., after the company contracted to provide the meals raised a separation of church and state issue.

Tim Rutherford, vice president of Senior Citizens, Inc., said some of his staff noticed people praying aloud shortly before lunch was served, and he believed that conflicted with the fact that seniors pay only 55 cents for the food and federal money pays for the rest.

In order to protect the funding, the company instituted a moment of silence in lieu of the communal prayer. “We’re asking them to pray to themselves. Have that moment of silence,” Rutherford said.

But a backlash ensued, with critics raising free speech and freedom of religion arguments. Rutherford said his company could have done a better job explaining their new policy, which he said wasn’t intended to keep people from praying altogether, just not aloud in an organized fashion.

A few days after the flap began, the prayers were reinstated by a clarification from the state, the Augusta Chronicle reported. The Division of Aging Services at the Georgia Department of Human Services had said the state did not permit oral prayer in any senior centers, but the state denied that any such policy was ever in effect.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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