Leaders of the two million-member Episcopal church in the United States have approved the first openly gay bishop. The choice of the Reverend Gene Robinson has alienated some of the church's more conservative members who say anointing an openly homosexual bishop amounts to endorsing sexual behavior that contravenes Biblical teachings. Some Episcopalians are concerned the move could threaten to split the church and maybe even the Anglican community worldwide.
Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, leaders of Episcopal dioceses from across the United States voted to approve 56-year-old Reverend Gene Robinson as a bishop from New Hampshire. The divorced father of two has been openly living in a homosexual relationship for more than a decade.
Tuesday's vote was delayed a day by the sudden emergence of allegations that Reverend Robinson may have had inappropriate contact with a male parishioner or have had links to internet pornography. Those charges were looked into and he was cleared of any wrongdoing before the vote.
But it's Reverend Robinson's openly gay lifestyle that has led conservative members of the Episcopal Church to oppose his nomination as bishop, a move some say could divide the denomination as well as the larger worldwide Anglican Communion. For them, his endorsement raises fundamental religious issues, including whether the apparent approval of homosexuality by a bishop conflicts with Biblical teachings about sex being between men and women.
Speaking on FOX News, the Reverend David Anderson, President of the American Anglican Council, said: "It really puts the Episcopal Church outside of the Anglican family. It's an act of schism by this body from global Anglicanism. Now what the rest us who are Biblically orthodox Episcopalians in the United States are going to do, we'll start to put our heads together and figure that out as soon as we go home from convention."
In fact, he and others representing conservative bishops across the United States plan to decide in October whether Tuesday's vote means Episcopalians, who disagree with the choice of Reverend Robinson, should consider breaking away perhaps triggering a schism within the denomination, one that could lead to a similar movement by Anglicans worldwide.