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The story up to 2003-OCT:

Rev. Robinson was elected bishop by clergy and laity in New Hampshire in 2003-JUN. The election was confirmed by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, USA in 2003-AUG. Conservatives in the denomination are threatening to leave and/or create a separate Anglican church in the U.S.

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Events related to bishop-elect Robinson's consecration:

bullet2003-OCT-20: Beliefs of bishop-elect Robinson: The Weekly Telegraph, a British Newspaper, reported that bishop-elect Robinson "...is agonising over the turmoil his election is causing but believes God wants him to go forward." He said: "This is one of the hardest things I'll ever do...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."
bullet2003-OCT-21: Consecration appears on track: The Associated Press published an interview with bishop-elect Gene Robinson. He said:  "God and I have been about this for quite a while now, and I would be really surprised if God were to want me to stop now." His consecration is scheduled for Sunday, NOV-2. Rev. Michael Hopkins, the past president of the GLBT Episcopal organization, Integrity, expects protests, but said: "I'm confident that the consecration is going to happen. I expect it to be fairly orderly." 2
bullet2003-OCT-26: Bishop-elect Robinson "can hardly wait:" Rev. Robinson told the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement's annual conference in Manchester, UK that he wanted to "get on with God's work". He said that the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy is "...exactly what God would have us do: to hold onto one another while we continue to be in very different places about this. I think that is in the greatest Anglican tradition...We have to not let the conservatives take this book [the Bible] away from us. It is our scripture too...I can hardly wait for November 3 [the day after his consecration] when I will hopefully be an old news story and I can get on with what I am here to do."
bullet2003-OCT-27: Bishop-elect Robinson under guard: A British newspaper, The Weekly Telegraph, reports that "The Anglican Church's first openly homosexual bishop is under 24-hour protection from the FBI after receiving death threats from Christian fundamentalists....The threats are being taken seriously in America because of the growing militancy of religious extremists." He addressed a conference for homosexual priests in Manchester, UK, by satellite link from New Hampshire, during the weekend of OCT-26. He said that there were grave concerns for his safety. He noted that the precautions were costing: "unbelievable amounts of money - money we don't have....The standing committee of the diocese is taking this very seriously, as is the bishop. We are doing what we need to do to keep me safe so that I can try to keep making the witness that I am trying to make." He has received over 8,000 E-mails since his election. Some contained hate messages, including a postcard from England describing him as a "fornicating lecherous pig". But these messages were outnumbered by letters and E-mails supporting his position. He noted that:  "There have been all kinds of wonderful messages from around the world about what this means to people, especially from those not in cities or churches where it is safe to be who they are....The fact of the matter is that I am neither the devil one side would take me to be, nor the saint that others would have me to be....I am trying to hold on to who I am, as a human being and as a Christian on his own journey toward God." Commenting on the dilemma faced by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, Robinson said: "I have told him in a letter that I am praying for him and that I am so very aware of the difficulties that he is in....He is only doing what he said he would do, which was to sacrifice his personal views [in favor of homosexual clergy in committed relationships] and seek to hold the Church together while upholding the official policy of the Church." 3
bullet2003-OCT-27: Christian group assesses Robinson's consecration: The fundamentalist Christian group, Focus on the Family, published their assessment of Gene Robinson's election as bishop. They said that he "...is feeling the heat from parishioners upset with his ordination." They did not mention that most of his incoming E-mails and letters are supportive. They report that Rev. "Robinson accused major U.S. conservative donors of 'manipulating' the Episcopal Church. His supporters claim two church groups opposed to his consecration are heavily funded by two wealthy families." Diane Knippers, president of the Institute for Religion and Democracy appeared to confirm this assertion when she indicated that none of her donors dictate policy. She said: "I think that the fact that Gene Robinson himself is trying to deflect the criticism that he's been receiving from leaders representing millions of Anglicans around the world, is just a sign of the kind of weakness of his argument." Bruce Mason of the conservative group the American Anglican Council said that most Anglicans are opposed to the consecration. 4
bullet2003-NOV-2: NH: Gene Robinson's consecrated as bishop: The consecration ritual started at 4 PM on NOV-2, at a university sports arena in Manchester, NH. 5 About 4,000 people -- including 47 bishops -- participated. Police patrolled the area outside the arena, where some protesters were present. Some of the latter held up signs stating: "Homosexual: Abomination to God; Lev[iticus] 18 Lev 20," "Stop perversion. No Dean or Robinson Communion," and "God burned Sodom and Gomorrah; Genesis 19." From the Reuters news photos, the protestors looked quite grim and angry.

During the ritual, the presiding Bishop Frank Griswold asked the congregation if there is "any reason why we should not proceed." Assistant Bishop David Bena of Albany, NY, stated that he was speaking for 38 opposing bishops of the Episcopal Church and some in the Anglican Church of Canada. He said that they and most of the bishops in the rest of the worldwide Anglican Communion will not recognize Robinson as a fellow bishop.

Author's note: This is not an unprecedented development, because there are some dioceses in the Communion which still refuse to ordain women as priests, or allow females to be consecrated as bishops or do not recognize the legitimacy of female priests' ordinations and bishops' consecrations.

Bena said that Robinson's "chosen lifestyle is incompatible with Scripture and the teaching of this church." It was not clear whether his use of the term "lifestyle" referred to Robinson's sexual orientation, or his decision to enter into a committed relationship with another man. Rev. Earle Fox of the Pittsburgh diocese then objected. However, when he began citing specifics of same-sex behavior, Griswold politely asked him "Please spare us the details and come to the substance." The protests in the arena lasted a total of about ten minutes. The two complaining clergy left the arena. Griswold then asked those present whether Robinson should be consecrated as bishop. The congregation chanted loudly: "This is our will.

With a voice trembling with emotion, Robinson said that he felt deeply honored. He urged compassion toward church members who were angered and upset by his consecration.

The American Anglican Council issued a statement: "Today is a grievous day in the history of our Church. Heresy has been held up as holy. Blasphemy has been redefined as blessing....Holy Scripture has been abandoned and sin celebrated over sanctification. Our family is now split and the whole cloth of the Anglican communion is torn."

Minutes after the ritual, the leader of the Anglican Communion, Rowan Williams, said that: "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 is clear that those who have consecrated Gene Robinson have acted in good faith...But the effects of this upon the ministry and witness of the overwhelming majority of Anglicans particularly in the non-Western world have to be confronted with honesty." 6

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References used:

  1. "God urging me on," says gay bishop," Weekly Telegraph, UK, 2003-OCT-20, at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
  2. Christopher Curtis, "Episcopal official won't resign after all," PlanetOut, 2003-OCT-22, at: http://www.planetout.com/
  3. Jonathan Petre, "Gay bishop kept under 24-hour FBI guard," Weekly Telegraph, UK, 2003-OCT-27, at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
  4. Keith Peters, "Homosexual Cleric Condemns Opponents," Focus on the Family, 2003-OCT-27, at: http://www.family.org/
  5. Grace Episcopal Church has a web site with an E-mail address and link to an area map at: http://www.gracechurchmanchester.org/main.htm
  6. Richard Ostling, "Consecration of cleric ignites controversy and protest: The new gay bishop. Move threatens to split Anglican church worldwide," Associated Press, The Toronto Star, 2003-NOV-3, Page A1 & A3.

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Copyright © 2003 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2006-JUN-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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