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Episcopal Church Consecrates First Openly Gay Bishop - 2003-11-03

Amid a storm of controversy, an openly gay Episcopalian priest has been consecrated as bishop in the U.S. state of New Hampshire.

For five months, the nomination and eventual confirmation of Gene Robinson as bishop has sowed deep rifts within the Episcopalian Church in the United States and the wider Anglican Church worldwide. Reverend Robinson makes no secret of his homosexuality and has had a male partner for more than a decade.

But the controversy did not stop Sunday's consecration ceremony from going forward in the small New Hampshire town of Durham.

But some strenuously objected to the consecration. New Hampshire Episcopalian Meredith Harwood was one of four members of the Church who spoke out, arguing that the growing acceptance of homosexuality in some spheres of society must not translate into a violation of religious principle. "We shall not capitulate to what some in elite culture insist the Church should do. We must not proceed with this terrible and unbiblical mistake, which will not only rupture the Anglican Communion, it will break God's heart," she said.

For his part, Gene Robinson has dismissed calls for him to step aside, and said that his consecration will open doors for other gay people in the Episcopal Church. In attendance at the ceremony was the new bishop's partner, as well as his former wife and two daughters. Several demonstrators shouted anti-gay slurs outside the venue.

Gene Robinson was elected by local Episcopalians earlier this year and later confirmed by a majority of U.S. bishops. The head of the worldwide Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has expressed hope that wounds will be healed and divisions overcome. But dissenters have threatened to break with the Church and say they will not recognize Bishop Robinson.