ROCHESTER, N.H. — Hymns were raised to the heavens from two parts of town Sunday after a church split apart over the election of the first openly gay bishop to head an Episcopal diocese.
Since then, many members of the Church of the Redeemer threatened to leave the congregation unless Robinson relinquished authority over the church in Rochester, about 30 miles east of Concord. Thirty-six members voted this week to leave. Just three voted to stay.
In response, nearby Grace Baptist Church invited Episcopalians fleeing from Redeemer to attend a joint service.
At the same time, Redeemer held services for a handful of remaining members, who were joined by dozens of supporters from other Episcopal churches and by Robinson and his partner, Mark Andrew.
Parishioners on both sides described the day as a new beginning.
“Today, your resurrection begins,” preached the Rev. Tim Rich at Redeemer. “You begin a new journey in the Holy Spirit.”
Robinson, who did not speak at the service, said later that he was touched that so many people attended to offer support. “We’re all eager to put this unpleasantness behind us,” he said.
Robinson’s opponents say homosexuality is a sin and insist Robinson has no business serving as an Episcopal leader if he will not repent.
“Today is a very joyous day for me,” said Katie Trafton, 18, who left Redeemer with her family. “It’s been a very big battle … I’m very proud to be part of the family that stood up for Christ.”
Negotiations had been ongoing since Robinson’s consecration in November.
The bishop had offered to let parishioners at Redeemer work with a bishop and a priest who shared their views on homosexuality, as long as church members met with him once every three years as church law requires.
The majority of members declined the proposal, and plan to launch a new church outside the control of Robinson’s diocese.