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Glasspool, Mary (b. 1954)  
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The election of openly lesbian Canon Mary Douglas Glasspool as a Bishop Suffragan (assistant bishop) of the Episcopal Church in 2009 met with some opposition from conservative elements, but she remains committed to her calling and confident of "God's ever-unfolding reign of love and justice."

The future priest was the child of a priest. Her father was the Rector of St. Simon's Episcopal Church and Vicar of All Saints' Church in New York City when she was born on February 23, 1954. Two months later he was appointed Rector at St. James' Church in Goshen, New York and continued to serve there until his death in 1989.

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Glasspool enrolled at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1972. She excelled academically and graduated magna cum laude with honors in music in 1976. She also received the college's prestigious Hofstader Prize, awarded annually to recognize the outstanding woman in the graduating class.

While at Dickinson, Glasspool had to grapple with two vitally important personal questions, her sexual orientation and the work to which she would devote her life. At the time, the Episcopal church was not as hospitable to gay men and lesbians as it is now, and the ordination of women was still controversial.

Nevertheless, Glasspool recognized her lesbianism and her vocation to the priesthood, and she informed her father of her determination to become a priest.

The Reverend Douglas Glasspool was conservative: he was opposed to the ordination of women and would not even let girls serve as acolytes at St. James'; still, he gave his daughter his blessing to pursue her calling.

"I was an exception to his rules, not an example of the rule itself. That's how he was able to live with it. In his own gracious way, he sort of separated out public and private," stated Glasspool to Lisa Miller of Newsweek, adding, "I think he honestly was proud of me on a personal level and wanted to support me but couldn't break out of the kind of characteristics he himself promoted as someone who upheld the Tradition."

Mary Glasspool embarked on her studies at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1976. Three years later, while still a seminarian, she attended the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and signed up to be one of the people giving short presentations before the subcommittee on resolutions regarding sexuality, including whether there should be barriers to the ordination of homosexuals.

She made the point that when talking about human sexuality, one was not talking about "issues" but about people. She concluded her remarks by saying, "I trust that God's love at this Convention will transcend the issues and address the people--all of us--in our wholeness. I trust and pray that that same love will prevent any of us from condemning others--particularly, in this case, homosexuals--in our human, and full, and loving wholeness."

As she sat down after her testimony, she was approached by her Bishop, the legendary Paul Moore, who was later revealed to have been bisexual and who became the first Episcopal Bishop to ordain an openly lesbian priest. He gave her a big hug and told her, "Now that you've come out to 1,500 people, don't you think it's about time to tell your parents?"

Glasspool graduated as a Master of Divinity in May 1981. The following month her father proudly attended her ordination as a deacon.

Glasspool began her career in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, serving as Assistant to the Rector at St. Paul's Church. Three years later she left that affluent parish to accept the rectorship of St. Luke's and St. Margaret's Church in Boston.

In her application to become Bishop Suffragan, Glasspool described the Boston parish as an "exciting branch of the Body of Christ," but it was certainly also a challenging one. Upon her arrival she had only about fifty people on the congregation roll, forty-five thousand dollars for the annual operating budget, and a host of problems, including housing, immigration, social justice, and other practical matters, to address. Under her leadership great strides were made in all of these areas.

During her years in Boston, Glasspool became acquainted with another woman priest, Barbara Harris, whom she nominated for Bishop Suffragan of Massachusetts in 1988. Harris was the first woman elected bishop, a decision that caused considerable controversy.

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Rev. Mary Douglas Glasspool (YouTube video still).
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