A branch of the Anglican church in Chicago has nominated an openly lesbian priest, Rev, Tracey Lind, as a candidate to replace current Chicago Bishop William Persell.

The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago has included Rev. Lind as one of five nominees for bishop, as fellow Anglicans demand that the church bar gay bishops.

If she wins, she would be the second bishop living with a same-sex partner in the Episcopal Church, the Anglican body in the U.S.

The 2.4 million-strong US Episcopal Church’s ordination in 2003 of Bishop Robinson, the first gay bishop in the 450 year history of the Anglican church, led to the growing divide between the liberal and conservative camps in the 77 million member Anglican Communion.

In a statement Rev. Lind said: “I believe that accepting this nomination is what God is asking of me, and I will strive to respond to that call faithfully and with grace.”

“My life with my partner, Emily Ingalls (a cradle Episcopalian), is the gift that most sustains me.

“Together, we tend our garden, travel, hike.”

Immediately opposition to the decision arose. Bishop James Stanton of Dallas, an advocate against gay bishops described the decision as “distressing”:

“It’s an action that says Chicago really doesn’t care what the rest of the Anglican Communion says,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Rev. Kendall Harmon, a conservative theologian from South Carolina, said while the nomination does not violate any promises, it is too provocative a choice for such a sensitive period in the church.

“I think it represents a steely determination on the part of the Episcopal Church leadership to pursue its new theology no matter what,” Harmon said, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“It’s injecting more difficult dynamics in an already deeply frayed family fracas and that’s a shame.”

At the church’s national convention last year, delegates adopted a resolution to exercise restraint in selecting gay and lesbian bishops.

Next month, Episcopal bishops will meet with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in New Orleans to discuss demands that they pledge to withhold consent for another openly gay bishop until the global communion reaches consensus on the issue.

If the bishops don’t comply by Sept. 30, then international leaders have predicted the relationship with the 77 million member church will remain “damaged at best.”

Persell suspects the potential impact of Lind’s nomination on international church relations will not be ignored, but says it should not be considered a reason to vote for or against her.

“My hope is that people get beyond that,” he told the Chicago Tribune.

“It would be unfortunate if the focus becomes ‘lesbian for bishop.’ The focus really should be on the diocese and the candidate as a whole.”

Susan Russell, president of Integrity, an advocacy group for gay Episcopalians, said in a statement:

“The big news today is that discernment has trumped discrimination in the Diocese of Chicago.

“The inclusion of the Very Rev. Tracey Lind on the list of five extraordinarily qualified candidates for Bishop of Chicago is a bold step forward and a sign of hope and encouragement not only to LGBT Episcopalians but to the whole church.

“Her experience and leadership make her an excellent candidate and Integrity applauds the Diocese of Chicago for not allowing the forces advocating bigotry over ability to dominate their nomination process.

“It is long past time for the Episcopal Church to acknowledge that B033 — the 2006 resolution designed to prevent the election of a gay or lesbian bishop — has failed in its attempt to balance the unity of the Anglican Communion on the backs of the LGBT faithful.

“There is no turning back on the full inclusion of the baptized into the Body of Christ — only moving forward into God’s future as an Episcopal Church committed to mission and ministry, to unity in diversity.

“Integrity extends congratulations to all the candidates, any one of whom will make a fine bishop for the Episcopal Church. The Diocese of Chicago’s diverse list of qualified candidates is a sign of the end the ‘season of fasting’ at the expense of the vocations of gays and lesbians in the Episcopal Church and the whole church should rejoice and be glad in that.”

The election will take place on 10th November. Chicago Bishop William Persell plans to resign after his successor is consecrated.