Clergy and laypeople voting to replace two retiring assistant bishops in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles will choose Friday from a pool that includes two openly gay candidates.
The selection of one or both of the gay candidates at the diocese's annual convention would mark the first election of a bishop in a same-sex relationship since Bishop V. Gene Robinson was chosen in New Hampshire in 2003. Robinson lives with his longtime male partner.
Robinson's win six years ago led dozens of conservative parishes and four dioceses to vote to leave the 2.1-million member U.S. denomination and pushed the 77 million-member Anglican fellowship to the brink of schism.
There are six candidates in this week's election, including the Rev. John L. Kirkley of San Francisco and the Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool of Baltimore, who are openly gay.
It is hard to know, however, what further impact the selection of a second gay bishop would have on the faith.
The majority of Anglicans outside the United States are theological conservatives.
Within the United States, breakaway traditionalists have formed the Anglican Church in North America as a rival to the Episcopal Church.
Episcopalians have made clear to the rest of the Anglican family that they will not roll back their support for same-sex couples.
Last July, the Episcopal General Convention, the church's top policy-making body, effectively lifted a moratorium on electing another gay bishop. The temporary ban had been requested by Anglican leaders seeking to prevent a permanent break in the communion.
The Los Angeles diocese has 70,000 members and covers six Southern California counties.