Warnings over gay bishop approval
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota -- Leaders of the Episcopal Church in the United States have approved the nomination of the church's first openly gay bishop despite warnings from some officials that the move could split the denomination.
The Rev. Gene Robinson was confirmed as the bishop of New Hampshire by 62 votes to 45 at the Episcopal General Convention in Minneapolis on Tuesday.
The vote had been scheduled for Monday but was delayed following the emergence of misconduct allegations.
Although he was cleared of the allegations just before the vote, the controversy that has followed Robinson's nomination seems likely to continue with some conservatives calling on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to intervene and others saying Robinson's confirmation would force them to consider splitting from the church.
Williams -- the spiritual head of the worldwide, 80-million-member Anglican Communion, which includes the Church of England and the U.S. Episcopal Church -- has himself called for calm and careful consideration from those opposed to the appointment.
"It is my hope that the church in America and the rest of the Anglican Communion will have the opportunity to consider this development before significant and irrevocable decisions are made in response," he said in response to the vote.
Opponents of the appointment of an openly gay man have warned the decision could split the 2.3-million-member U.S. church and distance it from the Worldwide Anglican Communion, which numbers 73 million members.
Speaking after the vote Robinson described the nomination as "a calling from God" and said he was "thrilled to be on my way to being the bishop of New Hampshire."
"It's been a long time in coming," he told CNN.
The diocese of New Hampshire had elected Robinson as bishop in June, but his election had to be confirmed at the Episcopal Church's General Convention.
Church spokesman Daniel England said Robinson's confirmation was "an important step for the church."
"Some will be elated at this news, others very disappointed. And yet the decorum and the civility throughout leads me to believe that things will hold together," he said.
Speaking for those opposed to Robinson's appointment, the Rev. Kendall Harmon of the conservative American Anglican Council said he was "devastated" at the outcome of the vote.
"This forever changes this church's teaching," he said.
Strong reaction also came from Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh who said those opposed to Robinson's approval were "filled with sorrow" and felt a "grief too deep for words."
"This body has denied the plain teaching of scripture and the moral consensus of the church throughout the ages," he said.
"This body has divided itself from millions of Anglican Christians throughout the world," he said, adding: "May God have mercy on this church."
Duncan said the bishops in opposition would be calling upon the Archbishop of Canterbury and the primates of other Anglican churches to intervene.
That position was echoed by several Anglican leaders elsewhere in the world.
In Malaysia Bishop Lim Cheng Ean, the leader of the Anglican Church of West Malaysia said homosexuality was "contrary to Scripture teaching."
"Practicing homosexuality is culturally and legally not acceptable here," The Associated Press quoted him as saying.
In India, Vice President of the All Indian Catholics Union John Dayal said the appointment of an openly gay bishop was "a blatant aggravation of societal norms."
"Irrespective of denomination, Indian bishops and clergy in international forums have opposed gay matrimony as well as ordination and consecration of priests and bishops," he said.
However, the head of Australia's Anglican community, Primate Peter Carnley dismissed fears that Robinson's appointment might split the church.
"I don't think it's a communion-breaking issue," he said.