Mixed feelings at consecration of gay Anglican bishop

 Over 3,000 people, gathered yesterday at the Whittemore Centre - part of the University of New Hampshire, Durham - to celebrate one of the most controversial and momentous occasions in the history of the Anglican Communion. The Rt Revd Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, was consecrated as Bishop-coadjutor of New Hampshire in a three-hour ceremony that involved choirs, bell ringers, brass bands and thunderous applause, but also heard the witness of some Episcopalians who were not happy with the first openly gay bishop to be consecrated in the Anglican Communion. At the point during the service when people were asked whether they knew of any just reasons why the person should not become a bishop, Meredith Harwood, a parishioner of St Mark's Episcopal Church, Ashland, NH said: "To press forward with this consecration will be to turn our backs on Almighty God. "This is the defiant and divisive act of a deaf church.... The vast majority of Anglicans worldwide have told us not to take this step which many of them see as a scandal, yet we are deaf to their cries." She concluded: "We must not proceed with this terrible and unbiblical mistake which will not only rupture the Anglican Communion, it will break God's heart." The Rt Revd David Bena, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Albany, read a statement endorsing the "assessment of the Primates of the Anglican Communion". Part of the statement, which was signed by 38 bishops from the Episcopal Church, said, "All Christians, and bishops in particular, are called to guard the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God... It is impossible to affirm a candidate for bishop and symbol of unity whose very consecration is dividing the whole Anglican Communion." After the objections had been raised, Bishop Griswold said: "one of the African Primates at the meeting in Lambeth Palace had said that the Holy Spirit can be doing different things in different places and I think that's precisely what we are doing here." During the sermon the Rt Revd Douglas Theuner, VIII Bishop of New Hampshire, expressed his confidence in Gene Robinson's consecration to the episcopate saying, "Because of who you are Gene, you will stand as a symbol of the Church like none of the rest of us can. Because of your presence, the episcopate will be more of a symbol of unity than it ever has been." Bishop Theuner continued by describing what he called "defining moments" in the Christian life. "When an abused woman attends a bible study in a local church and feels enough love and support there to realise that she is a child of God filled with worth and value...that's a defining moment in Christian life. When a young man unsure of his sexual orientations reads 'The Episcopal Church welcomes you' on a sign outside a church and enters that church and finds out through the love and acceptance of its members that the church really means what the sign says, that's a defining moment in the Christian life." The American Anglican Council issued a strong statement shortly after the consecration asking for people to redirect their financial giving "to ministries or organizations that call Jesus Lord". The statement also included such lines as "Heresy has been held up as Holy" and "Blasphemy has been redefined as blessing". On the other side of the dispute the Revd Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude - a national organisation of Bishops, Priests and Lay People in the Church of England calling for the full participation of lesbian and gay people in the Anglican Communion, said: "Gene Robinson's ministry will inspire lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual Christians with new confidence that we have a full place at the communion table of our Lord. The highest offices of the church can be open to lesbian and gay people without pretence." He added that "a new honesty is present, undermining the secrecy of 'don't ask, don't tell' policies and the fear of discovery and abuse which many lesbian and gay Christians live with." Outside the hall protestors gathered from both sides of the issue. Bishop Robinson told the congregation that, although he felt deeply honoured, he urged compassion towards church members angered and upset by his consecration. "Our God will be served if we are hospitable and loving and caring towards them," he said, fighting back the tears. "If they must leave, they will always be welcomed back into our fellowship." Source: ACNS

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