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November 5th, 2003, 11:12 PM
(originally printed November 3rd)
Episcopal Church consecrates openly gay bishop

After months of bitter infighting, the Episcopal Church consecrated Rev. Gene Robinson Sunday as bishop of the New Hampshire Diocese -- the first openly gay man to reach that level in the church hierarchy and in the Anglican community worldwide.

"You cannot imagine what an honor it is for you to have called me," Robinson preached afterward, on the verge of crying. But he also noted that many people in the church were in "great pain" because of his promotion.

Robinson's selection to be bishop set off anger among church conservatives, who believe that gay and lesbian relationships violate Christian teaching.

In a statement, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rev. Rowan Williams, warned that divisions created by Robinson's consecration would have "very serious consequences for the cohesion of the Anglican Communion."

However, at the ceremony, bishops lined up to congratulate Robinson. Only a handful of people demonstrated outside the University of New Hampshire sports arena where the consecration was held.

The crowd attending the ceremony at the University of New Hampshire sports arena -- about 4,000-strong, according to The Associated Press -- reacted with laughter when the state's retiring bishop Rev. Douglas Theuner said in his speech that "the disagreement over your election and consecration, Gene, has been labeled by one of your detractors as the defining battle in the war for Anglicanism's soul, the mother of all battles."

"But guess what," Theuner said in a speech interrupted often by applause. "It is not... You are no more or less a child of God like everyone else."

"What a joy it is to have you here," he said, as many bishops hugged Robinson.

Robinson's consecration was preceded by testimonials by diocesan members and other lay and religious leaders.

Before the consecration, Rev. Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the church, asked if anyone had objections -- a traditional part of the ceremony -- and three people came forward.

Assistant Bishop David Bena of Albany, New York, spoke for 36 opposing bishops in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, according to The Associated Press.

Reading from a statement, Bena said Robinson's "chosen lifestyle is incompatible with Scripture and the teaching of this church," the AP reported.

Rev. Earle Fox from the Pittsburgh Diocese also objected. "Whatever else homosexual may be, it is a behavior. We are forbidden to judge persons but are allowed to judge behavior," Fox said.

However, Griswold interrupted Fox when he started describing sexual practices he said were common in homosexual relationships. "I plead you spare us these details and come to the substance, please," Griswold told Fox.

A woman from the New Hampshire Diocese called the consecration a "cowardly act" and warned, "If this consecration goes forward, the Anglican [Communion] fabric will be torn."

"We should not go through with this terrible mistake."

Robinson received his bishop's miter from the hands of his partner Mark Andrew during the ceremony.

While he initially appeared to be holding back his tears, toward the end of his consecration Robinson, wearing his golden miter and matching gown looked up toward the public and joined the choir singing "Hallelujah" as the procession of clergymen who took part in the ceremony was leaving the stage.

Robinson will not take over as bishop of the New Hampshire Diocese until the retirement of Theuner next month.

Despite Sunday's ceremony, the statement issued of by the Archbishop of Canterbury indicated that divisions continue within the Anglican community.

"It was recognized fully at last month's meeting of Anglican leaders that the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop in New Hampshire would have very serious consequences for the cohesion of the Anglican Communion," the statement said.

"The divisions that are arising are a matter of deep regret; they will be all too visible in the fact that it will not be possible for Gene Robinson's ministry as a bishop to be accepted in every province in the Communion," it concluded.

Under U.S. church law, lay people and clergy in each diocese elect bishops, who are then confirmed by the national convention and consecrated. In August, the Episcopal Church USA, meeting for its General Convention in Minneapolis, voted to ordain Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

The Archbishop of Canterbury called a meeting afterward to discuss the action. More than 2,000 Episcopal clergy and parishioners met in Plano, Texas, in October to consider splitting from the Episcopal Church USA.

Robinson told CNN's Susan Candiotti Friday that while he doesn't believe his election will lead to a formal split in the 2.3 million-member U.S. church, there could be difficult times ahead.

Robinson has likened the current turmoil to the furor over women, who are not allowed to be priests in a vast majority of Anglican dioceses around the world.

The Anglican Communion is made up of 38 independent self-governing churches, of which the U.S. Episcopal Church is one. The Communion represents more than 70 million people in over 160 countries.

11/01/2003 19:04 GMT-5

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ZippyTheChimp
November 6th, 2003, 09:28 AM
My choice was 1, but I am indifferent about any schism.

Jasonik
November 6th, 2003, 10:03 PM
The way I see it, the church will find out who it's conservative supporters are, and who Robinson's liberal supporters are. The interesting question is whether the church feels threatened enough by the latter to abandon 500 years of entrenched dogma.

In a way, I hope for a schism. Compromise is inseperable from politics, but divinely inspired morality? At the very least, a divided church would have less hipocracy, and fewer hidden agendas.

On the other hand, a divided church would create a very exposed prejudicial attitude between the two factions, gay-hating bigots in the one camp, and godless sodomites in the other. :shock:

Maybe the Anglican Church is going after the very desirable affluent gay demographic... (cha-ching). :wink:

I doubt that devout Anglicans who oppose his appointment will leave the church... so I predict; the church will endure.
(I voted 'no opinion', which meant - indifferent toward Robinson's promotion, not worried about a schism.)

Gulcrapek
November 6th, 2003, 10:06 PM
I don't really care. I think there should have been no special media coverage of him because he's gay, but I guess that's the way things are these days. I wish things could just go on no matter what/who the person is. The Christian church needs to reform anyway.

fioco
November 7th, 2003, 12:03 AM
For centuries there have been "gay" clergy, including bishops. It offered a lifestyle outside marriage in a noble profession. Some were committed to the life of celibacy, others not. In the present day, this issue is most volatile in communities in which sexual identity and human sexuality are ignored, or worse, denied.

Robinson has upset the apple cart because he is "openly" gay and living in a committed relationship. To make the issue even thornier (thorny apples?), Bishop Robinson's wife and daughter offered their support and witness during his nomination process. For some, it is easier to have compassion for gays as perverts than as mainstream people sharing similar values, hopes and dreams.

As a lay professional in the Roman Catholic Church, I worry about the possibility of further schism because I have witnessed its damage. Further splits and factions keep the issue at a reactive, emotional level. The difficult and necessary intellectual work (philosophy and theology) is avoided, while namecalling, fear and outcroppings of hatred make discourse all but impossible.

My faith continues to be a great source of strength, but my connection to institutional church is fraught with horror stories and great angst. I left a position with a Long Island diocese. The administration continues to refuse to deal with reality (not just theological and moral, but also criminal). When I finally realized that the ploys were deliberate and not just misguided, I went into a deep depression in denial of my own rage, pain and anger.

The basic message of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation is difficult to live, but very easy to preach. Especially if you believe it. Even religions that have no god accept these tenets. We church leaders make it complicated and obtuse because we are afraid of the truth. Let's hope that the Bishop of Canterbury can keep the communion going. I pray that the Romans are paying attention.

Without schism, everyone has to smell the elephant's shit.

BTW, my first post. I have admired this group for nearly a year. Decided to jump on board. It's a privilege to share in the unique exchange all of you have created.