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Robinson consent sent to House of Deputies

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    August 1, 2003 Robinson consent sent to House of Deputies by David Skidmore Episcopal News Service [ENS] The election of the church s first openly gay bishop
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2003
      August 1, 2003
      Robinson consent sent to House of Deputies
      by David Skidmore
      Episcopal News Service

      [ENS] The election of the church's first openly gay bishop may be
      decided Sunday afternoon in the House of Deputies. In the aftermath
      of an intense marathon hearing at the Hyatt Hotel Friday morning, the
      Committee on the Consecration of Bishops recommended the consent
      resolution (C045) on Gene Robinson, bishop-elect and current canon to
      the ordinary of New Hampshire, be adopted by convention.

      Adhering to instructions from the Rev. Carolyn Keil-Kuhr, co-chair of
      the committee, the crowd of bishops and deputies and reporters
      packing the hotel ballroom refrained from applauding or cheering the
      announcement. The committee's hope is that their decision "is received
      with grace," said Keil-Kuhr.

      The measure is expected to be reported out to the House of Deputies
      for action on Sunday afternoon and, if adopted, go to the House of
      Bishops as early as Monday morning.

      The two-hour hearing held in the Hyatt's Nicollet Ballroom drew more
      than 300 bishops, deputies, reporters and supporters of Robinson and
      the Diocese of New Hampshire. Nearly equal numbers of speakers signed
      up to speak for and against consent. When the allotted time ran out,
      19 had spoken for Robinson and 18 against. Most major papers and
      national news programs were present. CNN carried coverage of the
      consent at the top of its broadcast throughout the day.

      Robinson elected for his gifts, say supporters

      The Rev. Randolph Dales, deputy from New Hampshire and one of five
      diocesan representatives invited to speak before the general
      testimony period, said his diocese had chosen to call someone who
      they knew had the talents to be a bishop. His status as a gay man was
      not part of the decision, he said.

      "The choice was a person, it was about the ministry, not an issue. We
      called Gene Robinson for his humanity, not his sexuality," said Dales
      who also serves on the diocese's Standing Committee.

      His point was echoed by other New Hampshire representatives who talked
      about Robinson's gift as a leader and his teaching and pastoral
      skills. "Never in my life have I worked with a person in whom I have
      more confidence than I do of Gene Robinson," said New Hampshire's
      current diocesan bishop, Douglas Theuner. Throughout his 17 years as
      bishop, Theuner, who will be retiring in March 2004, has known
      Robinson, first as a consultant to the diocese and for the past 15
      years as his canon to the ordinary.

      Describing him as a man of uncommon ability and proven worth, Theuner
      said Robinson had always conducted himself "with the greatest

      The delegation's youngest member, 15-year-old Jenny Lombardo of St.
      Paul's, Concord, talked about how Robinson had inspired her to
      greater involvement in the church. "He respects youth and he simply
      cares," she said.

      Also speaking was Robinson's daughter Ella who shared a statement from
      Robinson's former wife, Isabella (Boo) McDaniel. In her statement,
      McDaniel took pains to correct a British newspaper story widely
      circulated that claimed her former husband had abandoned her and their
      daughters to take up a relationship with a gay man. The truth is they
      chose to end their relationship after years of dialogue and
      reflection, she said, and eventually chose to release each other
      from marital vows in a private service conducted by a close friend.

      She maintains close connections to Robinson and his partner, Mark
      Andrews, she said, and they continue "to cherish each other's
      families, heritages, and values."

      As for Robinson's suitability for the episcopate, McDaniel praised his
      strength of character, his intellect and organizational ability,
      pastoral sensitivity and charisma, which she said "will draw more
      people to the church than will leave due to his sexuality."

      Marriage affirmed as sacrament

      During questioning by the committee, Robinson said he was making an
      effort to reach out to members of his diocese opposed to his
      election. He has appeared at several forums and has been making
      unannounced Sunday visits to congregations for the past few weeks.
      Noting that there are three or four people in virtually every parish
      troubled by his election, Robinson said he was asking clergy to join
      him in reaching out to them, "just as on the international level it
      will be all of our jobs to reach out to the Anglican Communion."

      Taking issue with New Hampshire's emphasis on the personal qualities
      of Robinson as opposed to his sexual orientation was committee
      member Dean Mark Lawrence of San Joaquin who stressed that sexuality
      cannot be divorced from the matter.

      Asked by Lawrence about God's purpose in creating sexual beings, male
      and female, Robinson said he believed that God gave humanity sexual
      nature so "we might express with our love the love that is in our
      hearts" and which is lived out in marriage. The mutual desire between
      two humans "is just a glimpse of the desire that God has to be in
      relationship with us," he said, and why this love, as expressed in
      marriage, is a sacrament.

      Robinson said that he experiences this same love in his relationship
      with his partner and through it "experiences, just a little bit, for
      the kind of never ending, never failing love that God has for me."

      Church's teaching threatened, claim critics

      Most of Robinson's critics, particularly the bishops, distinguished
      their appreciation for Robinson as a gifted leader and Christian from
      his suitability to be a bishop of the church. Bishop John Howe of
      Central Florida, disputing Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold's position
      in a recent letter to the church's bishops that the election did not
      change church teaching, said past statements, studies and resolutions
      have "unambiguously" affirmed the church's teaching that sexual
      intimacy must be confined to heterosexual marriage. "In commending to
      the church as a wholesome example a person who is sexually intimate
      in a relationship other than holy matrimony is a massive repudiation
      of that teaching," said Howe.

      Bishop David Bane, suffragan of Albany, said a Robinson consent
      separates the church from traditional teaching and "threatens to
      shatter the Episcopal Church as we know it." He justified his
      statement citing the overwhelming vote at the 1998 Lambeth Conference
      upholding traditional teaching on marriage, the House of Bishops
      Theology Committee report urging the church to avoid legislative
      action on same-sex unions, recent statements from the primates of the
      communion, and British priest Jeffrey Johns standing down from his
      appointment as bishop of Reading.

      Said Bane: "We will lose vast numbers of congregations, members and
      revenue, and this act will show us not to be the prophets of the
      Anglican Communion but American mavericks going our own way."

      Stating he was "humbly" asking Robinson to step down as bishop-elect,
      Bane warned that proceeding to a vote, up or down, "will simply
      rupture the Episcopal Church family."

      Ominous warnings were also given by Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh
      and Bishop Edward Little of Northern Indiana. "The departure from the
      Christian consensus will separate us from the one holy catholic and
      apostolic Church," said Duncan, "and in the matter of the historic
      faith we will separate ourselves from the teaching about

      Given the church's fourth-century ruling that a council erring on one
      matter of faith invalidated all other actions of that council, Duncan
      warned that chaos created by a consent adoption would free many
      church members to "disregard all actions of this convention: its
      resolutions, its canons, and its budget."

      An adoption by convention, he said, "will invite intervention
      precisely because the council has erred and the only court of appeal
      is outside this nation," referring to the primates and other
      provinces of the Anglican Communion.

      Noting the difficulty in offering pastoral care to gays and lesbians
      and still remaining faithful to scripture, Bishop Little warned that
      confirming Robinson's election would effectively end dialogue on the
      issue. "We will have set aside the moral consensus of the Christian
      church throughout the ages, and there will no turning back," he said.
      "It will be a definitive moment."

      The tragedy of that action, he added, will be the likelihood of
      fostering "deeper and more disastrous conflicts" over the church's
      faith and order.

      Fear of schism overstated, supporters say

      Warnings of schism and impaired communion were countered by Robinson's
      supporters who pointed out that the Episcopal Church's vote in 1976
      admitting women to the priesthood and the Massuchusetts diocese's
      1989 election of Barbara Harris as the first woman bishop in the
      Anglican Communion had not resulted in a lasting break with other
      Anglican provinces. "Instead it has made us stronger and a more
      vibrant church with the full inclusion of women in ministry," said
      Massachusett's Bishop Thomas Shaw, arguing the same could hold true
      for extending the church's full ministry to gays and lesbians.

      At the 1998 Lambeth Conference, Harris and the other 10 women bishops
      were warmly welcomed, he said. "Far from being spurned, far from
      causing schism, they were the toast of the town."

      The potential for experience to transform people's understanding of
      scripture and tradition was also shared by the Rev. Mariann Budde of
      Minneapolis. When she was called to her first parish, Trinity Church
      in Toledo, Ohio, in 1988 the members had never experienced a woman
      priest. Some were confused and stayed away, but after several months
      they came back and told her they believed she was called to the
      ministry. The same could hold true for Robinson, she said.

      It is not the Episcopal Church that is abandoning the historic
      catholic and apostolic faith, argued the Rev. Howard Anderson of
      Minnesota. In keeping with its 20/20 mission, the Episcopal Church
      is at a place where it could spread its doors wide open to welcome
      all people into its ministry, he said, and the confirmation of
      Robinson would be one sign of that.

      The Episcopal Church, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, is known for
      its unique charism of inclusivity, he said. "We ordain women. We
      know the primary sacrament is baptism, not ordination." The
      committee needs to think hard about this charism, he said, "and
      decide whether we will be the last catholics - big 'c' or
      little 'c' - or whether we will be watered down Roman Catholics
      trying to defend some moral like the Pharisees, or dressed up

      Issue moves to deputies, bishops

      At the end of the testimony the committee withdrew to an adjacent room
      for a closed-door discussion lasting 15 minutes. In her report on the
      committee's decision, Keil-Kuhr did not indicate whether the
      committee's vote was unanimous, saying only that it was taken by
      secret ballot. She also reminded their action is not a final
      decision. It will be up to both houses to approve the consent, she

      The plan, confirmed at this morning's news briefing, is for the
      resolution to be placed on the House of Deputies' daily legislative
      calendar for Sunday afternoon. If adopted there, the measure goes to
      the House of Bishops for action, possibly as early as the Monday
      morning legislative session.

      In his remarks following the committees vote, Bishop Chester Talton,
      Los Angeles, bishops chair, said the six bishops on the committee
      found the hearing to be fair and the groundwork laid for a full
      discussion in the House of Bishops.

      With 106 bishops with jurisdiction in the church, the consent may
      require up to 54 affirmative votes to pass. In the consent votes on
      two other bishops-elect yesterday, the votes totaled 99 and 102 in
      the house. The bishops customarily have voted after the consent to
      seat the new bishops and give them voice during the sessions.

      Send QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS to Mr. James E. Solheim, director of
      Episcopal News Service, jsolheim@... Or to the Rev.
      Jan Nunley, deputy director, jnunley@... The enslist
      is published by Episcopal News Service: www.episcopalchurch.org/ens
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