Episcopalians approve gay bishop

Opposition vows to seek intervention from Anglican leaders
CNN, Aug. 5, 2003

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) — The House of Bishops voted Tuesday evening to confirm the Rev. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, making him the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church’s history.

Robinson needed a simple majority of the 107 votes to be confirmed. He received 62.

Church spokesman Daniel England called the approval “an important step for the church.”

“Some will be elated at this news, others very disappointed. And yet the decorum and the civility throughout leads me to believe that things will hold together,” England said.

In comments after the vote, Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, spoke for those opposed to Robinson’s approval, saying they were “filled with sorrow” and feel a “grief too deep for words.”

“This body has denied the plain teaching of Scripture and the moral consensus of the church throughout the ages,” Duncan said. “This body has divided itself from millions of Anglican Christians throughout the world.”

Duncan said the bishops in opposition will be calling upon the archbishop of Canterbury and the primates of the Worldwide Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church of the USA is a part, to intervene in the decision.

“May God have mercy on his church,” Duncan concluded.

Some Episcopal leaders who have opposed ratifying Robinson since the New Hampshire diocese elected him in June said that if he won Tuesday’s vote, they would walk out of the church’s meeting in Minneapolis and go across the street to a Lutheran church for a prayer service.

The vote by the House of Bishops follows weeks of heated debate, several days of a contentious conference and a one-day investigation that cleared Robinson of wrongdoing related to two 11th-hour allegations.

Sunday, Robinson won a vote by the House of Deputies, made up of more than 800 priests and lay leaders.

The bishops’ vote had been set for Monday but was postponed after David Lewis of Vermont accused Robinson of touching him inappropriately at a convocation and an activist opposed to Robinson’s candidacy told bishops an organization Robinson was connected to offered a link on its Web site that could lead to erotica.

A spokesman for Robinson said he did not recall meeting Lewis, though he did remember the crowded event that Lewis described. He also said Robinson had no relationship to or knowledge of the Web site.

Organizers of the Web site — outright.org — also said Robinson had no connection to the site, and that potentially objectionable links were removed. Outright in Portland said the link was not in line with its mission “to create safe, positive and affirming environments for young gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and questioning people ages 22 and under.”

The allegation, the group said, was “clearly an attempt to discredit this important nomination.”

Lewis, in an e-mail sent Sunday night to Bishop Thomas Ely of the Vermont diocese, said Robinson “does not maintain appropriate boundaries with men.”

“When I first encountered Gene at a … convocation a couple of years ago, he put his hands on me inappropriately every time I engaged him in conversation. NO GAY MAN HAS EVER BEHAVED TOWARDS ME THIS WAY” (capitals in original).

Church investigators went to Manchester, Vermont, on Monday to speak to Lewis, church officials told CNN.

“Where there’s smoke, there isn’t always fire,” Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island said about the allegations. “There’s a lot of smoke in our culture today, on all sides of all kinds of issues. And it doesn’t mean that there’s any fire there.

“The fire can be really the fire of evil, deception, and fear — but the fires of truth and righteousness will prevail.”

Bishop Mark Sisk of New York said, “I believe that in the end the people have confidence in and trust the results of the investigation. … That person’s reputation will not be adversely affected, unless of course they turned out to be guilty of what they were accused of.”

Although Lewis would not speak to reporters, several people who know him described him as a man of integrity and deeply held faith.

Lou Midura, senior warden at Zion Episcopal Church, said he was speaking “as a personal friend of the Lewis family, not as an officer of the church” and read a statement calling Lewis “a man of strong faith and integrity, thoughtfulness and intelligence. I know him to be a devoted member of this parish, the church and the community at large.

“He is active in the ministries of Zion and as a lay minister, chalice bearer, teacher and occasional member of the choir.”

Lewis, a husband and father of two, “would like everyone to know his statement was meant to be privately conveyed to the governing body of the Episcopal Church and was not to be debated in the secular press,” Midura said.

Robinson had won the support of other church members in two other votes held at the Episcopalian annual General Convention being held in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Opponents of Robinson’s appointment warned the that appointment of an openly gay man could split the 2.3-million-member U.S. church and distance it from the Worldwide Anglican Communion, which numbers 73 million members. His supporters say the allegations were made to derail his appointment.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday August 6, 2003.
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