From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ACNS3538 Episcopal Bishops give consent to Consecration of

From "Anglican Communion News Service" <>
Date Wed, 6 Aug 2003 04:15:39 +0100

ACNS 3538     |     USA     |	  5 AUGUST 2003 

Episcopal Bishops give consent to Consecration of Canon Gene Robinson

by Matthew Davies 

The House of Bishops at the 74th General Convention of the Episcopal
Church, USA (ECUSA) voted this afternoon to consent to Canon Gene
Robinson's election as Bishop-coadjutor of the Diocese of New Hampshire.
Sixty two out of the 107 bishops with jurisdiction gave consent, with
two abstentions. Canon Robinson's consecration will take place on Sunday
2 November.

After the announcement of the vote, Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh,
with eighteen other bishops of ECUSA, made a statement to the House of
Bishops saying, "The bishops that stand before you do so with sorrow.
This body has denied the plain teaching of scripture and the moral
consensus of the church throughout the ages. With grief too deep for
words, the Bishops that stand before you reject this action. As faithful
members of the Episcopal Church we call upon the Primates of the
Anglican Communion to intervene in the pastoral emergency that has come
before us. May God have mercy upon his church."

At a press conference held afterwards the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA, the
Most Revd Frank T. Griswold, made a statement of his own. He said, "The
assent to this consecration by bishops and deputies of the Episcopal
Church will be interpreted in many ways over these next days, both
because those within our household of faith are not of a common mind on
issues of sexuality, and because these issues call forth a great deal of
emotion. For some this is a moment of great joy and represents an
affirmation of the place of gay and lesbian persons in this church. For
others, the decision signals a crisis and reflects a departure from
biblical teachings and traditional church practice."

Towards the end of his statement he said, "This decision does not, in my
view, resolve the issues about homosexuality in the life of the church.
What it does do is place squarely before us the question of how a
community can live in the tension of disagreement. So, it is now our
challenge to take up the difficult and holy work of living with a

Canon Robinson responded to the media by saying "this day is a good day
because Jesus is Lord. Yesterday was a terrible day but I got through it
because Jesus is Lord".

He described how he believes in the process that the Episcopal Church
has set up and is proud to be in a church that works to be a safe place
for all God's children. "The only thing that causes difficulty for me is
that not everyone agrees with this decision," he said. As a communion we
want to reach out to the dioceses and other denominations for whom this
is bad."

The Archbishop of Canterbury has already responded to the decision
saying, "It is my hope that the church in America and the rest of the
Anglican Communion will have the opportunity to consider this
development before significant and irrevocable decisions are made in
response. I have said before that we need as a church to be careful
about making decisions for our own part of the world which constrain the
church elsewhere.

It will be vital to ensure that the concerns and need of those across
the Communion who are gravely concerned at this development can be heard
understood and taken into account."

The vote was scheduled to take place on Monday afternoon but two
allegations came to light that generated an official investigation.
Firstly, there was speculation that Canon Robinson had been involved in
a web site that, in some way, included a link to a pornographic site.
The second allegation came on Sunday evening when several bishops had
been sent an email from an individual in Vermont claiming that Canon
Robinson had touched him "in an inappropriate way".

Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold appointed the Rt Revd Gordon Scruton,
Bishop of Massachusetts, to chair these investigations. Bishop Scruton
read his report to the House of Bishops today saying that the focus was
to determine if either or both of these concerns constituted cause for
further investigation. "The Episcopal Church has clear policies in place
to guide our response in such instances," he said.

Bishop Thomas Ely of Vermont contacted the individual on Sunday evening,
and again the following morning, and was able to confirm that the email
was genuine. On Monday afternoon Bishop Scruton spoke to the individual
and asked him to tell the story of the experience that had caused him to
raise his concerns. The incident that the individual was referring to
took place in November 1999. Bishop Scruton said, "There were two
exchanges between the individual and Canon Robinson. In the first, Canon
Robinson put his left hand on the individual's arm, and his right hand
on the individual's upper back. [In] the second incident.the individual
turned to Canon Robinson to make a comment. In response, Canon Robinson
touched the individual's forearm and back." The individual told Bishop
Scruton that the placement of Canon Robinson's hands seemed
inappropriate to him considering they did not know each other.

The individual admitted that he had not thought the House of Deputies
would consent to Canon Robinson's election and that when he wrote the
email he felt upset. "He regretted having used the word 'harassment' in
his email," Bishop Scruton said. "I asked him on two occasions whether
he wished to proceed with an official complaint and he said no."

In Bishop Scruton's investigation regarding the link to a pornographic
web site it became clear that Canon Robinson had not been associated
with the organisation in question since 1998. The web site involved was
erected in 2002. "I see no evidence that Canon Robinson was aware of or
associated with the web site or its contents," Bishop Scruton said. "It
is my recommendation that there is no necessity to prevent the bishops
with jurisdiction to go forward with their voting."

At a press conference on Tuesday morning the Rt Revd Geralyn Wolf,
Bishop of Rhode Island, said that this has offered an extraordinary
opportunity to show the depth and breadth of the Episcopal Church. "You
have seen a transparency that has been part of our church from the
beginning," she said. "We're a church that wrestles with the questions."
Bishop Wolf and the Rt Revd Mark Sisk, Bishop of New York, both
acknowledged the fact that vulnerability is a major issue in positions
of authority but it is necessary to take these accusations seriously.

Some say that today's decision, to admit Canon Robinson to the
episcopate, is contrary to the teaching of the Scripture and in total
defiance of the resolutions of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, [The full
text of these resolutions can be found at:] whereas others
feel that Canon Robinson has lived a life of fulfilled integrity and
faithfulness and that "morality and holiness of life" were the reasons
for voting in favour.

Canon Robinson, aged 56, took the difficult decision to leave his wife
because he felt that God wanted him to acknowledge his sexuality. When
asked, "What risks have you taken for the Gospel?" he replied, "Risking
the loss of my children and the exercise of my ordained ministry in the
Church were the biggest risks I've ever taken, but it left me with two
unshakable things: my integrity and my God."

Before the vote, the House of Bishops engaged in a general conversation
that lasted about an hour. The Rt Revd Thomas Shaw, Bishop of
Massachusetts, said that a few days after Canon Robinson was elected in
the Diocese of New Hampshire, he found himself surrounded by a group of
young people who explained how they had stopped going to church but had
now regained faith.

Speaking of the scriptures, the Rt Revd Robert Ihloff from Maryland
said, "As a liberal I am aware that it is not enough for us to.just
throw these passages out. They are all there for learning." He added
that the scriptures prohibiting homosexual behaviour were written at a
time when it was assumed that everyone was heterosexual. "It's not about
a group of gay men behaving badly but a group of heterosexual men
behaving atrociously," he said. "We need to be open to a variety of
interpretations and not be simplistic."

Urging the House not to consent to Gene Robinson, Bishop Ed Little of
Northern Indiana said, "I am absolutely committed to Jesus Christ, this
Church, this House, and you. Yet if we confirm Gene Robinson as a bishop
of the Church, the unity of this House will be shattered forever." He
continued by saying that "the Episcopal Church will emerge from this
General Convention broken; wounded; divided; and more desperately,

The Rt Revd Peter Beckworth, Bishop of Springfield, said, "Gene
Robinson's lifestyle is inappropriate at best. Today I question not
whether we are on the same page or even in the same book, but if we are
in the same library."

In his opening address to the General Convention the Presiding Bishop of
ECUSA, the Most Revd Frank T. Griswold, talked about the "diverse
center" as holding the church together. "One thing I am deeply aware of
in our churches is what I like to call the diverse center in which
different perspectives [say] 'like it or not, we are members of one
body' and that is our larger value," he said. "It is unfortunate that
most of the air time is claimed by those on either extreme."

Forty five minutes was offered to the deputies on Sunday who wanted to
address the House, with two minutes being allocated to each speaker. The
queues were so immense that fewer than half the people who wished to
speak received their opportunity.

One of the first speakers, Ms Bonnie Anderson from the Diocese of
Michigan, said, "I'm speaking to those who haven't made up their minds
yet. Fear is the absence of faith. You may be afraid; don't be."

Speaking in opposition, the Revd James Flowers from Western Louisiana
said he was concerned what he would tell his parishioners. "How do I
explain that the Church they love has chosen to separate from the one
Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in the Body of Christ," he said. "My
parish are neither homophobes nor bigots but they do not understand why
we are having this conversation."

The Revd Howard Anderson from the host diocese of Minnesota declared
that every time the Episcopal Church has tried to exclude, it has been
foiled by the movement of the Spirit. "Let us be true to our heritage of
Anglicanism," he said. "Now is the chance to show the world that this
Church follows Christ."

After the vote was passed in the House of Deputies on Sunday, Canon Gene
Robinson announced to the media that "God is doing a new thing" and that
"He [God] doesn't always wait for the Church". He added, "I believe it
will bring growth - remarkable growth - in New Hampshire."

Stephen Bates, Religious Correspondent from The Guardian UK, asked Canon
Robinson how the Church of England might respond to his confirmation in
light of Canon Jeffrey John's withdrawal from his appointment to the See
of Reading. "The child must sometimes teach the parent," Canon Robinson
responded. "Watch us for a while and see how we are blessed."

Several questions were raised regarding schism and unity in the Anglican
Communion and whether Canon Robinson was prepared to take responsibility
for the consequences that might arise. "I am willing to take
responsibility of discerning God's call to me and play whichever role I
am playing in the work God is doing," he said. "But I can't take
responsibility for what others decide to do. I want these people in my
Church and I hope they want me. If they decide to leave it's not because
I have asked them to."

The Revd George Werner, President of the House of Deputies, admitted
that the result in the House of Deputies was more pronounced than he had
expected and that he was impressed with the quality and demeanour of the
debate. "What you saw today was people really trying to find their
souls," he said. "I have so many friends on both sides of the issue but
you saw the demeanour of the House; you saw the restraint and
discipline. I am just so proud."

Another statement, issued by the American Anglican Council, began, "The
Episcopal Church USA has shattered the Anglican family."

The statement ended: "We stand united with hundreds of millions of
Christians worldwide in proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord. This
simple, profound and life-transforming truth cannot be changed by any
human vote."

Canon Robinson has served as canon to the ordinary in New Hampshire
since 1988 where he coordinates diocesan staff and ministry of the
current bishop, the Rt Revd Douglas E Thuener. Since 1983, he has served
as executive secretary of the Episcopal Province of New England, and
since 2001 on the Board of Trustees of the General Theological Seminary
in New York.

A 1969 graduate of the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee,
Canon Robinson has a BA in American Studies/History. In 1973, he
completed the MDiv at General Theological Seminary and after ordination
served as curate at Christ Church, Ridgewood, New Jersey. Upon moving to
New Hampshire in 1975, he co-owned and directed an accredited girls'
summer camp and horse farm. As founding director of Sign of the Dove
Retreat Center in Temple, New Hampshire, he facilitated spiritual
direction and designed programs for a variety of groups. He also managed
the diocesan "Living into Our Baptism" program of spiritual growth and

Canon Robinson enjoys entertaining and cooking, gardening, music and
running. The father of two grown daughters, Jamee and Ella, he lives
with his partner Mark Andrew who is employed by the New Hampshire
Department of Health and Human Services.

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