US gay Episcopal bishop to be consecrated
October 29, 2003
CONCORD, New Hampshire — The first openly gay Episcopal bishop will be consecrated before
some 4,000 people, mostly supporters, a few opponents, his family - and a former inmate he befriended while she was in prison.
The woman met Bishop-elect V. Gene Robinson when he visited the
New Hampshire women's prison last summer. She asked him to baptize
her, which he did this fall, then invited her to the ceremony
Sunday in Durham, where she will sit with his family.
Prison officials would not release the woman's name without her
permission, which they could not obtain Thursday. But another
inmate who met Robinson said she and her fellow offenders were
impressed by Robinson.
"He was very down to earth," said Valerie Hall, a Massachusetts
woman who is serving a 10- to 12-year sentence for killing her
Hall, 19, wrote to Robinson that she was neither gay nor
Christian, but his election gave her hope there was a church that
would accept her.
"I just really appreciate how brave and courageous he is in a
world that doesn't accept homosexuality," she said in a telephone
interview Thursday from the New Hampshire State Prison for Women in
Many conservative Episcopalians do not share Hall's positive
view of Robinson's election and they will have an opportunity to
speak against him during the ceremony Sunday.
Allowing a moment for objections is standard when Episcopal
bishops are consecrated. What's unusual this time is everyone
involved expects a response Sunday when Presiding Bishop Frank
Griswold says: "If any of you know any reason why we should not
proceed, let it now be made known."
A clergyman representing the American Anglican Council, a
national association for conservatives opposed to ordaining gays,
plans to make a statement against the consecration at that time.
Griswold - head of the 2.3 million member church - will deal
with objections in a dignified way, said James Solheim, a national
church spokesman. If there are more than a handful, or if the
objectors become unruly, they may be asked to register their
complaints in another room.
"At some point, it becomes a security issue, not a liturgical
issue," Solheim said.
Robinson was open about his sexual orientation when he was
elected to lead the Diocese of New Hampshire earlier this year, and
when the denomination's national convention ratified the vote.
Conservative Episcopalians are moving toward a break with the
denomination over Robinson, and the bishop-elect has faced a
torrent of objections from Anglican leaders worldwide who believe
homosexuality is contrary to Scripture.
If any evidence is presented against Robinson, the ceremony
inside a sports arena would stop while the bishops considered it,
said the Rev. Jan Nunley, Solheim's associate.
"If there are any substantive reasons, not just,
`We-don't-like-him-because-he's-gay,' ... then they probably would
take them off to another room," he said.
Protesters also are expected outside the University of New
Hampshire arena, and the American Anglican Council will hold an
alternative service at a church about two miles (three kilometers)
In the ceremony, Robinson, 56, will be presented by his two
daughters, his ex-wife and his partner, Mark Andrew.
He will become bishop after the laying on of hands, when all the
bishops present - 49 were expected at last count - gather around
and touch him, asking God to "pour out upon him the power of your
The Rev. Alice Roberts, the prison chaplain and a fellow
Episcopal priest who invited Robinson to visit the inmates, said
many of the women were inspired by Robinson's honesty and caring.
"He thinks that what's happening to him is a message - the world
is changing to a better, kinder place," she said. –Sapa-AP
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