Episcopal Church Panel Endorses Selection of Gay Bishop

New York Times, Aug. 1, 2003

INNEAPOLIS, Aug. 1 — Moving one step closer to a choice that some Episcopalians say threatens the unity of their denomination, a church committee today endorsed ratifying the election of a New Hampshire bishop who would be the first openly gay bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Consideration of the Rev. Canon V. Gene Robinson, the bishop-elect, now moves to the legislative houses of the Episcopal Church U.S.A., which is meeting here and could decide the matter by Monday. Next week, church leaders will also decide whether to create a liturgy for blessing same-sex couples.

In a hotel ballroom so full by 7 a.m. that scores of people had to wait outside, Mr. Robinson’s supporters, including his daughter, told the committee of his long history of service to the church and to his family, and warned that church leaders should not interfere with a choice New Hampshire Episcopalians, who elected him in June, had already made.

But opponents said that Mr. Robinson’s selection runs counter to religious scripture and would create a fury — even possibly a split among the church’s 2.3 million members in the United States, and among more than 70 million international members of the Anglican Communion, a group of churches that trace their heritage to the Church of England.

“I love you and this is painful,” Bishop Keith L. Ackerman of Quincy, Ill., said, looking across the room at Bishop-elect Robinson. Still, Bishop Ackerman said, “To a large extent, the fragile unity of this church is in the hands of this general convention.”

Opponents, many of whom conceded that Mr. Robinson appears likely to win approval, would not say what action they would take, but indicated that some protest was certain.

Mr. Robinson, 56, grew emotional after his daughter, Ella, 21, spoke to the committee. She read parts of a statement from her mother, Mr. Robinson’s former wife, who urged the Episcopalians to make him a bishop and described him as “a good man, a good priest, a good husband and partner, and a good father.”

A committee member asked Mr. Robinson, who was joined at the hearing by his longtime partner, Mark Andrew, what purpose human sexuality was meant to serve.

“What I can tell you is that in my relationship with my partner, I am able to express the deep love that’s in my heart,” Mr. Robinson answered. “And in his unfailing and unquestioning love of me, I experience just a little bit of the kind of never-ending, never-failing love that God has for me. So it’s sacramental.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday August 2, 2003.
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