Saturday, 16 July 2016

Out of Her Ecclesiastical Tree : From Pilgrim to Bishop

There was a time when most people followed the same profession as their parents. Today the choice of employment is much more varied. There are, however, still quite a few people whose career is still influenced by their ancestors. Today’s subject is an example.

Mary Douglas Glasspool (b.1954) was consecrated as a suffragan bishop in the diocese of Los Angeles on 15 May 2010. This not only made her the first openly lesbian bishop in the American Episcopal Church but it made her the first openly lesbian bishop in the worldwide Anglian church (Bishop Eva Brunne, consecrated in 2009, is of the Swedish Lutheran Church). This wasn’t the first “first” achieved in the Episcopal Church by a member of her family. In 1841 Mary Glasspool’s great-great-grandfather Alfred Lee (1807-1887) was the first Bishop of Delaware when that diocese was created.

Even though Mary Glasspool was consecrated in a diocese on the west coast of the USA her ancestry is based mainly on the east coast where she was born and raised. She returned “home” this year when she became an Assistant Bishop in the diocese of New York, her home state.

Mary’s father, Rev. Douglas Murray Glasspool (1927-1989), was the Episcopal Rector of St. James’s Church in Goshen, New York. Douglas is the maiden name of his Scottish-born mother. The Glasspools, though, were English, originally from the village of Cocking in Sussex (this village will be mentioned again in my “Out of Their Tree” article in August).
New York plays a large part in Bishop Glasspool’s ancestry. Her mother’s grandfather, William Henry Adams (1841-1903), was a Justice of the Supreme Court in New York, and her great-grandfather, Elbridge Gerry Lapham (1814-1890), was a New York Senator. Having mentioned the name Adams you might wonder if there’s any link to the two US Presidents of that name. The answer to that is yes. There’s a direct male-line ancestry from Bishop Glasspool’s mother, Anne Adams, to the immigrant Lt. Thomas Adams (1612-1688) whose brother was the ancestor of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

More recent presidential links emerge through the above-mentioned Bishop Alfred Lee of Delaware. His sister Emily was the grandmother of Mrs. Edith Roosevelt (1861-1948), the second wife of President Theodore Roosevelt.

To return to Bishop Mary Glasspool’s ecclesiastical heritage further we look at her ancestors who sailed on the Mayflower. Those Pilgrims were escaping religious persecution in England and they laid the foundations of the American nation. Among the Mayflower Pilgrims who are the bishop’s ancestors are William Bradford and John Howland. Through them Mary Glasspool is related to actors Clint Eastwood, Christopher Reeve and the Fonda dynasty, and Olympic gymnastic twins Paul and Morgan Hamm. Among the members of the lgbt community Mary is related to actors Anthony Perkins and David Hyde Pierce, writer Marion Zimmer Bradley, artist Ellen Day Hale, and Olympic figure skater Toller Cranston.

Mary’s Mayflower ancestor William Bradford was the first Governor of Plymouth Colony. There are other colonial governors in her ancestry. George Wyllys (d.1645) was Governor of Connecticut in 1645, and John Haynes (1597-1654) was the previous governor and before that was Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Through several of her ancestors Bishop Mary Glasspool has royal blood. Through the above-mentioned Governor Wyllys she is descended from King Edward III, son of the gay King Edward II, and through the Adams family she is descended from their ancestor King Henry II. The bishop is also descended from several Magna Carta surety barons and, in this year celebrating the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, is descended from the only known gay Norman baron who is believed to have fought there (more of this in October). The bloodline of William the Conqueror also flows through Mary Glasspool’s veins.

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