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Episcopalians unhappy about gay bishop in new parish

Katharine Webster | November 3, 2003

CONCORD, New Hampshire — Spurred by their opposition to the consecration of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, about 30 people met to form a new congregation separate from the Episcopal Church.

"There is a liberalization move in the Episcopal Church that finally pushed me beyond my willingness to accept it," Jarvis Coffin, 73, said Saturday.

"I believe that sodomy is sodomy, and it has never been condoned by any (religious) group that I'm aware of," he said.

Coffin and his wife joined the Anglican Church in America in August, after the Rev. V. Gene Robinson's election as bishop of New Hampshire was approved by the national Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the global Anglican Communion.

"It was like coming home," Coffin said.

The Anglican Church in America uses the old Book of Common Prayer and rejects the ordination of women and same-sex relationships. It is not part of the Episcopal Church.

Conservatives in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion have threatened a split over Robinson's election and the practice in some dioceses of blessing same-sex unions.

But Robinson has said he feels called by God to become bishop and that he hopes he can pave the way for fuller acceptance of gays and lesbians by the church.

His consecration is set for Sunday at the University of New Hampshire. He will assume his duties in January, when the current bishop retires.

The Rev. Dean Steward, who officiated at Saturday's service and also leads traditional Anglican congregations in Amherst and Holderness, said that according to the Bible, homosexuality is a sin.

Steward, who went to seminary with Robinson and thinks him "a nice fellow," said everyone is a sinner and faces temptation.

But sinners are supposed to repent, not say that "certain things are no longer sins," he said.

"If Robinson repented of his sins and started preaching orthodoxy, I'd have no problem with him being a bishop," he said.

Coffin was less forgiving of Robinson, whom he called "arrogant" for aspiring to be bishop, despite being divorced and openly gay.

"He must know the schism it's going to cause," Coffin said.

After the 4 p.m. service, the mostly elderly congregants agreed to form All Saints Church and continue worshipping together on Saturdays at the Concordia Lutheran Church, for the time being.

Former U.S. Sen. Gordon Humphrey, a Republican who represented New Hampshire from 1978 to 1990, served as an usher at the service.

He declined to speak with an Associated Press reporter about his reasons for attending. –Sapa-AP

Nigerian church rejects gay bishop, but schism not inevitable

LAGOS — The Anglican Church in Nigeria rejects the consecration of an openly gay bishop in the United States, but a split in the world church is not inevitable, a Nigerian archbishop said Sunday.

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon of Kaduna, who has been appointed to a worldwide commission set up to heal the rift in the Anglican Communion, said Nigerian worshippers opposed active homosexuality in the priesthood.

But he told AFP that a decision by the US Episcopalian Church to go ahead later Sunday with the appointment of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire would not immediately trigger a schism in the church.

"The Nigerian Church has made it very clear that it is not in support of the consecration. This is wrong, it's not acceptable," the archbishop said, in a telephone interview.

Previously the head of the Nigerian wing of the Anglican Church, Primate Peter Akinola, has said that he would take its 17 million believers out of communion with US members if the consecration went ahead.

But the Nigerian position has won support elsewhere in the church, and Anglicanism's spiritual head Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, has called on Robinson not to take up the post.

Idowu-Fearon said the US bishops represented a small minority in the church, and that the commission set up last week by Williams to look at the issue of homosexuality should be given a chance to head off a crisis.

"Let's wait until the commission has made its decision," he said.

The commission, which brings together bishops from the liberal and conservative wings of the church, is due to report back by September next year on a way out of the bitter and long-standing dispute. –Sapa-AFP

Related stories
US gay Episcopal bishop to be consecrated
Massachusetts bishops don't support same-sex benefits
US lesbian Methodist minister likely to face church trial
Anglican head names conservatives, liberals to gay commission
Episcopal priest resigns amid furor over article supporting gay priest



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