- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2003

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — The Episcopal Church’s first openly homosexual bishop-elect said yesterday he agonizes over the turmoil his election is causing but believes God wants him to go forward.

“This is one of the hardest things I’ll ever do,” Bishop-elect V. Gene Robinson told about 40 people during religious-education hour at Grace Church. “I do have this sense I’m supposed to go forward, and I do feel that’s coming from God and not my own ego. But I don’t know.”

Mr. Robinson was elected by New Hampshire clergy and parishioners in June and confirmed by the national Episcopal Church in August. He is scheduled to be consecrated as bishop of New Hampshire in two weeks.

The election and confirmation of Mr. Robinson outraged some conservatives, who threatened to divide the Episcopal Church in the United States and the worldwide Anglican Communion of which it is part.

At an emergency meeting in London last week, Anglican leaders warned that if Mr. Robinson is consecrated Nov. 2, “the future of the communion itself will be put in jeopardy.” However, the Anglican Communion’s spiritual leader, the archbishop of Canterbury, has no authority to discipline the self-governing national churches.

Mr. Robinson, who was accompanied by a police officer yesterday, said he remains optimistic about the future of the church, saying it has weathered similar crises in the past.

Much of the Anglican Communion still does not recognize the ordination of women, he said, and yet the communion holds together.

Asked by one parishioner to explain the anger over his election, Mr. Robinson said he believes it’s a sign that patriarchy is ending in the church as women, racial minorities and homosexuals are more fully included.

The election of a practicing homosexual as bishop is a “threat to the way things have been done, when white men have pretty much been in charge of everything,” he said.

Anglican leaders, representing 77 million members worldwide, have called homosexuality “contrary to Scripture.” Mr. Robinson and his supporters say that is outweighed by Scripture’s call for love and acceptance of all.

During Mr. Robinson’s conversation with parishioners, Paul Apple of Mont Vernon asked him to consider stepping aside in the interests of preserving the larger church.

“I personally think it’s not worth losing the family,” Mr. Apple said.

Mr. Robinson responded that he struggles with that issue as well, but said, “If I step down, do you really think other qualified gays and lesbians wouldn’t be elected?

“I don’t want anyone to leave the church,” he said, “and I don’t like being thought of as the reason they leave the church.”

Even if he were to bow out, Mr. Robinson said, the vigorous and sometimes bitter church debate over homosexuality would continue.

“It’s not all going to go back to being nice and pretty again. It’s going to be messy for a while,” he said. “This is not our church to win or lose. It’s God’s church.”

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