Man who accused bishop regrets calling it harassment

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

MANCHESTER, Vt. -- The man who accused the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop of inappropriately touching him regrets using the word "harassment" in his e-mail, according to a church report released Tuesday.

David Lewis described how the Rev. V. Gene Robinson touched him on the arm and back twice in conversation, which made him uncomfortable, according to a report by a bishop who looked into Lewis' complaint.

Lewis said he was thankful the church took his request seriously, but he had no desire to pursue a formal, written complaint, according to the report by Bishop Gordon Scruton, who conducted the investigation.

Scruton "asked him whether he wanted to bring a formal charge of harassment," the report said. "He said very clearly, no. He regretted having used the word 'harassment' in his e-mail."

In an e-mail Sunday to the bishop of Vermont, Lewis wrote that Robinson "put his hands on me inappropriately every time I engaged him in conversation" at a church event in 1999.

A friend of Lewis' family said Tuesday that Lewis never meant for the e-mail to be made public.

The allegation "was meant to be privately conveyed to the governing body of the Episcopal Church and was not an issue to be debated in the secular press," Lou Midura said.

Lewis declined to speak with reporters Monday after giving a lecture at the church. No one answered the door at his home Tuesday.

The allegations of improper touching stem from a meeting in November 1999, according to the report. Lewis and Robinson had two exchanges, both of them initiated by Lewis, the report said.

In the first, Robinson placed one hand on Lewis' arm and the other on Lewis' upper back. The exchange took place in full view of the public, and Lewis acknowledged that many who saw it would not have judged it inappropriate. He said Robinson answered his question and didn't say anything offensive.

In the second exchange, Robinson placed his hands on Lewis' forearm and back and responded to a comment Lewis made with a comment of his own.

Lewis said the exchanges made him feel that Robinson "presumed a far greater familiarity or intimacy than was the case" between the two men.

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