National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  August 15, 2003

Two votes overshadow all other business

Among all the business Episcopalians needed to cover during their 10-day General Convention in Minneapolis, two votes dominated attention: confirming an openly gay priest as bishop and approving rites for same-sex unions.

The Rev. V. Gene Robinson was confirmed as bishop of New Hampshire by the House of Bishops Aug. 6 on a 62-43 vote. The approval came after a 24-hour investigation into 11th-hour charges of sexual misconduct and pornography that were found to be baseless.

Robinson, 56, faced allegations that he sexually harassed a Vermont man at a church meeting in 1999. Questions were also raised about Robinson’s affiliation with a gay youth group, whose Web site contained secondary links to online pornography.

Bishop Gordon Scruton of Western Massachusetts, who investigated the two allegations, said Robinson’s accuser declined to file formal charges. Scruton also said Robinson had ended his involvement with the youth group five years ago and was unaware of its Web site.

“In both allegations, it is my conclusion that there is no necessity to pursue further investigation, and no reason on these grounds to prevent the bishops ... to go forward with their voting,” he said.

Robinson, the No. 2 official in the New Hampshire diocese for the past 16 years, easily won the approval of more than 830 clergy and lay delegates Aug. 3.

On the issue of blessing same-sex unions, the bishops approved a resolution that directed Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold to compile resources to “facilitate” a conversation over the next three years.

The bishops deleted language that would have created rites “by which support and blessing may be expressed for same-sex relationships.” That bill could, however, still be amended when it is considered by the House of Deputies.

Gay groups, meanwhile, said the resolution at least gives recognition to their relationships, even if does not grant outright approval. The resolution acknowledges that some dioceses already bless same-sex unions, including three -- Delaware, New Hampshire and Kansas -- that do so officially.

“It’s a major step forward,” said the Rev. Michael Hopkins, president of Integrity, an advocacy group for gay Episcopalians. “To use the language the conservatives have been using, we have crossed a line.”

-- Religion News Service

National Catholic Reporter, August 15, 2003

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