Unprecedented vote elects gay man Episcopal bishop in N.H.

Sunday, June 8, 2003

CONCORD, N.H. -- In a national first, New Hampshire Episcopalians on Saturday elected an openly gay man as their next bishop.

The selection of the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, 56, is still subject to confirmation next month by the church's national General Convention, and it is expected to be debated.

Bishops in the Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church in the United States, approved a resolution in 1998 calling gay sex "incompatible with Scripture."

Robinson, who was married and has two grown children, now lives with his partner, Mark Andrew, in Weare and is an assistant to retiring Bishop Douglas Theuner. He preaches at area churches and has been active in local causes, such as establishing "Concord Outright," a support group for teenagers.

According to the Episcopal News Service, the only other bishop to publicly state that he is actively gay is Otis Charles, former bishop of Utah, who made the announcement in 1993 after retiring.

The Rev. Hays Junkin, head of the committee that selected the candidates, expects Robinson's election to be contentious at the General Convention.

Robinson faced opposition in New Hampshire, though all the candidates and Theuner have expressed support for gays and lesbians in the church.

His election is expected to be even more controversial among Anglicans abroad. Conservatives in the Church of England and elsewhere protested the appointment last month of an English bishop with liberal views on homosexuality, even though the new bishop vowed to uphold existing church policy on the subject.

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