The Episcopal Diocese of California averted another churchwide showdown over the role of gays in their denomination when delegates rejected three openly homosexual candidates Saturday.
The diocese instead chose the Rt. Rev. Mark Handley Andrus of Birmingham, Ala. on the third ballot. Andrus, who was chosen to replace the retiring Rev. William Swing, is married and the father of two college-age daughters.
The packed Grace Cathedral erupted was closely watched by Episcopalians around the country and their fellow Anglicans worldwide, who have been struggling to remain unified despite deep differences over homosexuality.
The 77 million-member Anglican Communion, represented in the United States by the Episcopal Church, is still reeling from the 2003 election of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop -- V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
Despite pleas for patience from church leaders, some observers said Californians would elect a second gay bishop to force the church to resolve its position on gay clergy.
Instead, Andrus emerged as the favorite among clergy delegates in the first ballot and quickly drew the support of lay voters in subsequent ballots. After four hours, he ended up with 72 percent of the clergy vote and about 55 percent of the lay vote.
Andrus, who has served as bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Alabama since 2001, received his master of divinity degree in 1987 from the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Va.
In a statement to California Episcopalians prior to his election, he said he found them "people of passion and energy, commitment, faith and humor. You are able to appreciated yourselves, and be self-critical, both rare qualities."
Before he is installed as bishop, Andrus must get approval from the denomination's top legislative body, the General Convention, which is set to meet June 13-21 in Columbus, Ohio. Delegates have a long history of deferring to dioceses' choice of leader.