- The Washington Times - Friday, June 6, 2003

A clergyman who left his wife and two daughters for a male lover would become the first openly homosexual priest elected an Episcopal bishop if he prevails in a contest in New Hampshire.

Canon Gene Robinson, 53, the second-most-senior figure within the Diocese of New Hampshire, is the local favorite in tomorrow’s four-man race. It is being closely watched by members of the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which the U.S. Episcopal Church is a part.

Mr. Robinson has run unsuccessfully for bishop twice before, placing second in 1999 in the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, N.Y., and third in 1998 in the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, N.J.

“If he wins, there will be more rhetoric, but in the end the church will hold together,” said the Rev. Michael Hopkins of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Glenn Dale, Md., and who is president of the Episcopal homosexual-caucus Integrity. “There’s a long history in the Episcopal Church of supporting bishops’ elections.”

In a profile posted on the Diocese of New Hampshire Web site — www.nhepiscopal.org — Mr. Robinson, who left his wife in 1986, described his divorce.

The two of them, he said, “returned to church, where our marriage had begun, and in the context of the Eucharist, released each other from our wedding vows, asked each other’s forgiveness, cried a lot, pledged ourselves to the joint raising of our children, and shared the body and blood of Christ.”

Episcopalians are aware of the marital split, said Bruce Mason, spokesman for the conservative American Anglican Council. “But it didn’t seem to cause much of a ripple,” he said.

The prospect of a homosexual bishop in a senior position infuriates traditionalists, among them the archbishop of Nigeria, who broke communion with a Canadian diocese last weekend when its bishop allowed a homosexual “marriage” to be performed.

In Anglican parlance, “breaking communion” is a form of excommunication.

Calling the Canadian action a “flagrant disregard for the Anglican Communion and what the vast majority of it stands for,” the Most Rev. Peter Akinola, head of 17 million Anglicans under 81 bishops in 80 dioceses, severed relations with the Canadian Diocese of New Westminster on May 30.

The Nigerian province, which is the largest of the world’s 38 Anglican provinces, dwarfs the Episcopal Church, which has 2.3 million members.

Bill Atwood, general secretary of Ekklesia, a Dallas-based network of evangelical Anglicans, said the breaking of communion between a province and a diocese was unprecedented in the 450-year history of the Anglican Communion.

And if Mr. Robinson is elected, “The Episcopal Church would be utterly cut off from the bulk of the Anglican Communion,” he said.

The Canadian rite, which took place May 28 at St. Margaret’s Anglican Church in East Vancouver, British Columbia, was authorized by diocesan Bishop Michael Ingham. It was performed one day after 38 archbishops representing 77 million Anglicans issued a statement ruling out same-sex unions.

“The question of public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions is still a cause of potentially divisive controversy,” the statement said. “There is no theological consensus about same sex-unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorization of such rites.”

In March, a theology committee for the House of Bishops for the Episcopal Church rejected same-sex rites after 18 months of study. In 1998, the world’s Anglican prelates voted that sex between homosexuals is “incompatible with Scripture” at the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops in Canterbury, England.

A dissenting minority, however, has refused to abide by that resolution. Numerous U.S. Episcopal churches have allowed such rites, although none with the open approval of a bishop.

The archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, also has expressed support for homosexual unions.

According to a new biography serialized last week in the London Times, Anglicans should change their minds on homosexuality, he says, in the same way they have altered church teaching on slavery, hellfire, usury and remarriage after divorce.

Episcopal online journalist David Virtue called these trends an “invasion of pansexual behavior into the Anglican Communion” on his Virtuosity Web site.

“There can be little doubt,” he wrote, “that the Apostle Paul, the church fathers, the Reformers and more, would roll over in their graves if they could see what is going on in the Anglican Communion today.”

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