Episcopalians delay vote on gay bishop

E-mail from Vermont man alleges inappropriate touching
CNN, Aug. 4, 2003

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) –The vote on whether to approve the Rev. Gene Robinson as the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop was postponed Monday afternoon. It was not clear when the vote would be held.

Discussions leading to the vote in the House of Bishops were to have begun at 2:30 p.m. [3:30 p.m. EDT].

The delay was called after 11th-hour allegations of inappropriate conduct were leveled against Robinson. One has to do with an e-mail message received Sunday night from a man in Manchester, Vermont, accusing Robinson of having touched him inappropriately a few years ago at a church convocation. The man’s e-mail asked the church to look into his allegation, church officials said.

No immediate response was available from Robinson.

A second allegation has been floating around the convention for several days. It contends that a Web site Robinson founded several years ago that counsels gay and lesbian youths contains a link to a Web site with erotic photographs, the church officials said.

Robinson told CNN he has had no connection to the Web site for several years and was not aware of any link it might have had to any such outside site.

The House of Bishops vote is the final step on the road to consecration.

The House of Deputies — a body of clergy and lay members of the Episcopal Church — voted Sunday to approve Robinson’s candidacy.

Robinson’s diocese in New Hampshire selected him as bishop in June. A key group, the Episcopal Committee on Consent of Bishops, approved his candidacy Saturday.

Robinson, 56, has been serving as assistant to the bishop of New Hampshire.

Episcopalians are meeting in Minneapolis for their annual General Convention, attended by 835 deputies representing about 110 dioceses in the United States.

The bishops and deputies also are discussing whether to approve a rite of blessing for same-sex couples.

The church could decide to approve it or make it an option for each of its 110 dioceses. Some diocesan priests conduct such rites, but they do so without the formal approval of the church, which grants its priests significant autonomy.

Of the 110 dioceses, 106 are voting on Robinson’s candidacy — three bishop posts are vacant and one bishop is submitting a write-in ballot.

The issue has sharply divided the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church in the United States, which is part of the 73 million-member Worldwide Anglican Communion.

Church members opposed to Robinson’s approval as bishop have said they fear an even greater split that could distance their church from the wider Anglican Communion.

In an interview Saturday with CNN, Robinson said that he did not believe the issue should cause such a rift.

“I think all of the grim predictions about some sort of schism are probably overstated,” Robinson said. “We certainly lost a few people when we ordained women, but there were great predictions that there would be a real worldwide split in the church, and indeed that’s not come to pass.”

Should his candidacy be denied, Robinson said, he would be disappointed but would stay in the church.

A divorced father of two, Robinson has a partner of 13 years, Mark Andrew. One of his two daughters, Ella, 21, told the church committee Friday that she and her mother support Robinson’s election and called him “a good man and a good father.”

Those who favor Robinson’s election said he would make a fine bishop and that it would position the Episcopal Church as a forward-moving group. They say Robinson and his partner share a committed, monogamous relationship that keeps them within the bounds of Scripture.

Opponents of Robinson’s selection said his homosexuality is contrary to biblical teaching.

“There are no scriptural arguments to support this,” said the Rev. Kendall Harmon of the American Anglican Council, a conservative Episcopal group. “The whole of Scripture as it coheres as a unit, as well as its individual teaching, is against this.”

CNN correspondent Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday August 4, 2003.
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