In an attempt to avoid further controversy in the worldwide Anglican church, the Episcopal Diocese of Newark has chosen a Massachusetts priest as its new bishop, rather than a gay candidate on the ballot.

Reverend Mark Beckwith, 54, of Worcester won on the third ballot, taking 253 of the 477 ballots cast by clergy and lay representatives.

Reverend Canon Michael Barlowe, 51, a gay priest from San Francisco, only had one vote from a lay person in the final round, reports the Associated Press. Even in the first round, he only had 40 votes, 16 from clergy members and 24 from lay people.

Beckwith previously served in the Newark diocese in Morristown and Hackensack.

The Episcopal News Service reports that, as in all Episcopal elections, Newark’s choice will require the consent of a majority of the church’s diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction. Those consents must be given within 120 days of the electing diocese’s standing committee sending the a certificate of election to the Presiding Bishop and the Standing Committees of all the dioceses. There are 126 days before the consecration date.

If he gets final approval, Beckwith will replace Bishop John Palmer Croneberger, who is resigning to spend more time with his ill wife, said the Reverend Sandye Wilson, a diocese spokeswoman.

Barlowe is an officer for congregational development for the Diocese of California in San Francisco.

The election in the historically liberal diocese came at a time when divisions over the Bible and sexuality are threatening the denomination and the worldwide Anglican family.

A dispute broke out in the Anglican community in 2003, after the Episcopal Church consecrated its first gay bishop, Gene Robinson.

In June, the Episcopal General Convention, the church’s top policy-making body, voted to ask US bishops to “exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration” of candidates “whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church.”

The Episcopal Church is the US branch of the global Anglican Communion.

© 2006 GayWired.com; All Rights Reserved.