THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH, USA
ACTIVITIES AT THE
YEAR 2003 GENERAL CONVENTION
Daily news from the Convention:
|JUL-30: Convention mood: Rev. Mark Harris reports that
there is a sense that the House of Bishops would support the
Robinson election. But the House of Deputies, made up of clergy and
lay members from each diocese, must approve it first. He senses a
rising support in both Houses. However, it was not clear whether it
will be sufficient to affirm the election. 1|
|JUL-31: Voting procedures: Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, "Following
recommendations from his Council of Advice," asked the House
of Bishops to approve special procedures for the vote on whether
Bishop-elect Robinson's election would be confirmed or rejected.
Discussion would be limited to a half-hour of table conversation and
an hour of conversation as a committee of the whole. The public
would be excluded from the latter. Ballots would then be distributed
to all bishops who have oversight of a diocese, except for the
presiding bishop. They would be given an hour to vote. The bishops
unanimously agreed to the procedures. 2|
|AUG-1: The two issues are really one: The Daily Encompass -- a daily
newsletter produced by the conservative American Anglican Council
-- interviewed the Rev. Ephraim Radner, a deputy to the General Convention
from the Diocese of Colorado. Radner is concerned that progress in
ecumenism will suffer if the Convention votes to blessing same-sex unions.
He said: "The credibility of our dialogue with the Roman Catholic
Church is in serious question." He feels that the two controversial
votes at this year's Convention -- the blessing same-sex unions and
confirming Canon Robinson's as the ninth bishop of New Hampshire -- are
really a single issue. He said: "They're equal. The notion that they're
separable is a fiction- certainly it is to our ecumenical partners."
He also feels that an affirmative vote would harm the work of all
Christian missionaries in nations with heavy Muslim populations. "The
credibility of interfaith discourse by Anglicans throughout the world will
be severely undermined." Radner believes that Convention's being so
close to making these two decisions "is extraordinarily short-sighted
and uncompassionate." 3|
|AUG-1: Committee endorses Robinson: After two hours of testimony from bishops, deputies and
visitors, the Legislative Committee on Prayer Book and Liturgy
endorsed the ratification of the Rev. V. Gene Robinson as bishop-coadjutor
of New Hampshire. The ballroom where the decision was announced was packed
with at least 500 attendees. Two hundred more were in the lobby and
another hundred were in an overflow room. The voting was by secret ballot
and the results have not been released. 4|
|AUG-2: Evangelical involvement: Doug LeBlanc is an Associate Editor of Christianity Today -- America's
leading Evangelical Christian magazine. He commented: "...I'm at Convention to work alongside
Episcopalians who oppose Gene's [Robinson] confirmation as a bishop. I'm convinced
that confirming Gene forces our decades-long discussion about sexuality to
a premature and false sense of resolution. I cannot agree that his
confirmation magically stands isolated from our debates on blessing
same-sex couples. Most centrally, I do not believe God is sending a new
revelation that contradicts his already complete self-revelation in
Scripture and in the person of Jesus Christ.
Some of the most fiercely
committed may not understand how activists can hold their ground, even
resist each other sharply, and still love each other. That's only one of
the mysteries that tends to get lost amid the dueling slogans of our open
hearings and plenary debates. I worry it will be only more obscured if
Gene Robinson is confirmed through autonomous and unaccountable American
|AUG-3: Deputies ratify Robinson's election: CNN.com reported that the House of Deputies voted
to ratifying Canon Robinson's election. The overall vote was 128 to 63, an
unexpectedly large majority. The lay members voted 63 to 32; the clergy
voted 65 to 31. The votes of lay members from 13 dioceses and clergy from
12 dioceses were not counted
because their members could not reach a consensus. CNN reported that: "Bishops who
believe gay sex is a sin contend that allowing him to serve is a tacit
endorsement of ordaining homosexuals. These conservatives said it would
force them to consider leaving the church, weakening the denomination and
sparking a bitter fight over parish property and funds....But liberals
said the threat has been exaggerated, and note that many conservatives had
pledged to break ties before over issues such as ordaining women but did
not follow through." 6 Canon Robinson said: "I
think all of the grim predictions about some sort of schism are probably
overstated. We certainly lost a few people when we ordained women, but
there were great predictions that there would be a real worldwide split in
the church, and indeed that's not come to pass." 6|
|AUG-4: Final vote scheduled: The third and final vote on Robinson's election was
scheduled in the House of Bishops. "Of the 110
dioceses that are part of the church, 106 are voting on Robinson's
candidacy -- three bishop posts are vacant and one bishop is submitting a
write-in ballot." 7 |
|AUG-4: Final vote delayed:
Two items suddenly emerged together, about two hours before debate was to begin:|
|A man in Manchester, VT, who is allegedly studying for the Episcopal
priesthood, sent an E-mail to Bishop Thomas Ely of
Vermont, asserting that Robinson had touched him inappropriately a few
years ago at a church convention. His views on gay or lesbian priests
and bishops is unknown. He allegedly wrote: "When I first
encountered Gene at a ... convocation a couple of years ago he put his
hands on me inappropriately every time I engaged him in conversation."
He defined the contact as "harassment."
If that contact was inappropriate and distressing to the individual,
one wonders why he continually engaged Robinson in conversation during
the convention. One would think that he would avoid Robinson after the
first experience, if he considered it to be an unpleasant form of
|Robinson co-founded a single, local, mutual support group called "Outright"
in 1995. After having helped to get it started, he severed his
involvement with the group in 1998. Four years later, in 2002, the group
established a web site at
http://www.outright.org Its purpose was "to
create safe, positive, and affirming environments for young gay,
lesbian, bisexual, trans and questioning youths aged 22 and under."
Over time, eight other similar groups were organized. All are separate
from the original Outright; all shared the same name; and all are
believed to be 501(c)(3) organizations. Each created a web site which
was linked to the original web site, making a total of nine web sites,
in: in Augusta, Bangor, Ellsworth, Lewiston-Auburn, Portland, Rockland,
ME; Concord, Portsmouth, NH; and Burlington, VT.
Those web sites contains links to outside sites that give youths access
to a range of resources. Obviously, they have no control over the
content on those external web sites. Allegedly, about six months ago, the
webmaster of the Concord, NH site added a hyperlink to an
external web site which, some time in the past, added erotic photographs.
Robinson told CNN that he not aware of such a link. During the reporting
by the media, the description of the "erotic" photographs evolved
into "pornography." When the news surfaced, the hyperlink was
quickly removed from the Concord site, because, as their spokesperson
said: "The adult site is not
something that we consider appropriate for any youth." On CTV news
-- a Canadian TV news program -- for the evening of AUG-5, a screen view
was shown that was apparently from the offending, external web site. It
had a single picture of three youths or young adults. There were
attractive two males and one female shown in a group, dressed in bathing
It is not known whether the link to the external web site was
intentional or not. The ReligiousTolerance.org web site -- the
one that you are now visiting -- has had instances where we linked to
external religious and theological web sites that later went offline.
Without our knowledge, their URL was bought up by a porn company who had
no connection to the original owner. They converted the original
theological web site into a link to their porn site. We also removed the
external links as soon as we became aware of it.
David Virtue, a conservative Anglican activist "and writer who has
been among the harshest critics of Robinson and of Episcopal gay
activists" alerted bishops to the link. He is apparently a "member
of the American Anglican Council, which opposes Robinson's ratification."
Robyn Cotton, a supporter of Robinson from Concord, NH called the
allegations "preposterous. This is horrible. It's character
Rev. Susan Russell, another supporter, said that it took "at
least two or three clicks" to get from Outright's Web site to a
pornographic one. It probably look five clicks: one to go from the
Outright site to the Concord site; one to get from that site to their
links page; a second to select a category of links; a third to get from that page to the external web site;
and a fourth to
get to erotic photographs. She continued: "I've spent enough time on
the Web to know that no matter where I go, I'm three clicks away from
where I don't want to be." 9
Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, asked the bishop of Western Massachusetts, the Right Rev. Gordon P. Scruton
to conduct an investigation into the two allegations.
|2003-AUG-5: Robinson cleared: Bishop Scruton completed his investigation in less
than 24 hours, clearing Bishop elect Robinson of both charges. 8
Bishop Scruton stated: "In both allegations, it is my conclusion that
there is no necessity to pursue further investigation, and no reason on
these grounds to prevent bishops with jurisdiction from going forward with
voting about whether or not to consent to Canon Robinson's consecration."
Scruton contacted the man from Vermont who explained that Robinson had
touched him on the arm and upper back briefly and in public -- allegedly
in a large room with about 300 people present. Scruton said that the man
from Vermont: "...acknowledged that other people could have seen the
exchange as natural and normal...."I asked him whether he wanted to
bring a formal charge of harassment. He said very clearly 'no'...He said
he regretted having used the word 'harassment' in his E-mail....he
indicated he had no desire to pursue the matter further."
Scruton said that Robinson "was not aware
that the [Outright] organization has a Web site until this convention."
He noted that Outright's response to investigators "emphasized to me"
that Robinson had no part in the creation of the web site." 8
|AUG-5: Robinson's election confirmed: The House of Bishops voted on Robinson's confirmation. He needed 54 votes from
the 107 bishops. He received 62. Canon Robinson has now been affirmed as bishop-coadjutor of New Hampshire.
Responses were highly polarized, as expected:
|Church spokesman Daniel England called the approval "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." |
|Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, PA is opposed to Robinsons
consecration. He said that those who fought approval of his election
were "filled with sorrow" and feel 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. This body has divided
itself from millions of Anglican Christians throughout the world....May
God have mercy on his church." Later, Bishop Duncan read a
statement by than a dozen conservative bishops. He said: "With grief
too deep for words, the bishops who stand before you must reject this
action....We are calling upon the primates of the Anglican Communion,
under the presidency of the
Archbishop of Canterbury, to intervene in the pastoral emergency
that has overtaken us." Their intervention will have to be limited to
persuasion, as the Anglican Communion cannot order one of their
Provinces, like the Episcopal Church, USA to do anything. With the
majority of Episcopalians in New Hampshire voting in favor of Robinson's
election, and a majority of laity, priests and bishops having separately
voted to confirm Robinsons election, the rest of the Communion has a
weak case if they wish to roll back time.|
|The Rev. Susan Russell of the gay Episcopal group Claiming the
Blessing, said she believes the church is strong enough to survive
the conflict over gay and lesbian priests and bishops. She said: "Yes,
there's a lot of fear, but I happen to believe the love of God can
overcome that....What we really need to do is hang together as we have
in this convention through this difficult time, and find a way through
this." On another occasion, she said: "This is an example to
the country, to the culture, and to other denominations that diversity
is something to be celebrated and that the entire family of God is
enriched by individuals who commit themselves to each other."
|Bishop Edward Little of Indiana warned that: "The Episcopal
Church will emerge from this convention broken, wounded, divided and
desperately polarized." |
|Rev. David Anderson, president of the conservative American Anglican
Council, said: "The repercussions will start when people go home to
their congregations, when records meet parishioners at the church door,
when people start to say, 'I'm out of here'." He said that he will
organize a meeting of conservative Episcopalians in October to carefully
consider their options, including the possibility of forming orthodox
parishes into a new Anglican province in the United States whose
territory would be geographically identical to the Episcopal Church,
|Rev. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian for the Diocese of South
Carolina, said that the three votes were too close to be definitive:|
|The lay members of the House of Deputies voted 63 to 32 to confirm
|The clergy followed suite by voting 65 to 31.|
|The vote by the House of Bishops was 62 to 43 with two
abstentions. 10 This gave Robinson a 19 vote margin. Harmon
allegedly said the
approval had only a nine-vote margin. He seems to have meant that if
nine supporting bishops had changed their mind and voted against
Robinson that his confirmation would not have occurred.|
Under church law, a simple majority of all three groups is sufficient.
Dorothy Spaulding, 74, a church member from Virginia, said:
"I feel betrayed...We have a lot of gays in our parish
and most of them are nice people. They are still living in sin." She
did not know whether she would attend church this Sunday. If she goes, she
does not know whether she will put money on the collection plate."
About 300 Episcopalians -- including about 20 bishops -- who opposed
Robinson's election, met for worship at Westminster Presbyterian Church.
"In the pews, several
people wept. Some spoke of the decision as a death."
Bishop Robert W. Duncan of the Pittsburgh Diocese said:
"We've been dealt a grave blow. How do we go forward and forth? I want to suggest
to you, you already know the answer. It's one word, five letters. Jesus."
On another occasion, he stated:
"This body willfully confirming the election of a person sexually
active outside of holy matrimony has departed from historic faith and
order of the Church of Jesus Christ." 12
Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney said that the Episcopalians were "turning
away from the clear teaching of the Scriptures."
|Bishop Robinson thanked his supporters and pledged to work towards
reconciliation. He said: "I am proud to be in a church which works to
be a safe place for all of God's children."
It would be interesting to compare the above positive and negative
comments with debates in 1976 when the church debated whether to allow
women to be ordained as priests, and with debates in the mid-19th
century over the abolition of slavery. There might well have been many
points of similarity. The Episcopal Church avoided schism on those two
occasions. They will probably lose some congregations and members this
time around, but will probably avoid a schism.
It is understandable that the entire Anglican Communion will be
thrown into turmoil over the election of the first openly gay bishop.
However, as in the case of other moral issues such as human slavery,
contraception, and ordaining women, it was necessary for one Province to
deviate from the consensus within the Communion -- to take the first step,
and lead the other Provinces towards change.
AUG-6: Convention approves compromise resolution on gay
ritual: There were signs that the delegates to the Convention were
exhausted by the controversy over Bishop Robinson's confirmation process.
Some protested in silence. "A dozen people wore ashes on their
foreheads, as a sign of penance and mourning. A few wore black armbands.
Some seats on the floors of the two decision-making bodies — the House of
Deputies and the smaller House of Bishops — stayed empty all day."
11 The bishops "seemed eager to create no further
controversy, division or pain. They said unity — or at least agreeing that
they did not yet agree on what their religion says about homosexuality —
would be better." 11 They rejected a resolution which
would have created a church ritual to bless same-sex and other
non-traditional relationships. Instead, they overwhelmingly approved a
compromise resolution which would introduce a local option into the church:|
|It discusses the treatment and pastoral care of gay and lesbian
|It recognized that some priests were already performing blessings of
gay and lesbian couples in some dioceses in the U.S.|
The resolution It stated that local congregations "are operating
within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience
liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions." The Associated
Press said that: "Some bishops interpreted that as allowing the
blessings while others said no authorization had been given for blessing
Leaders of Integrity, a gay-positive Episcopalian group, said
that the latter section would, for the first time, signal to bishops
that they had the broader church's permission to allow same-sex unions in
their dioceses if they choose to. Rev. Michael W. Hopkins, president of
Integrity, commented: "This is a major step forward. There has never
been an explicit statement that acknowledges that bishops can do it."
The resolution must still be approved by the House of Deputies.
However, this is expected to happen.
Bishop Gethin Hughes of the diocese of San Diego, CA said: "This is
best because those of you who have reached a further point of clarity can
continue to do what you think is right in your area. For
many of us who are still struggling" there will be more time for
sorting through the issues and coming to some answer together. 11
Rev. David H. Roseberry of Plano, TX left the House of Deputies,
turned in his resignation letter to the leader of his delegation and sent
a note saying goodbye to his diocesan leader in the House of Bishops.
"We have violated our own constitution, so I am doing what I was called
in my own heart to do. What has happened is incredible. This is not the only body that
is listening. There are 70 million Anglicans listening around the world."
The Rev. Canon Ephraim Radner, a deputy from Colorado,
also left. He told the House of Deputies that: "It is with profound sorrow and trembling reluctance that I inform the house of my conviction that this
convention's action of consent to Canon Robinson's election as bishop in
this church is unconstitutional." He said that he was "no longer a
representative to anything" and left the Convention.
- Rev. Mark Harris, "A Sense of Impending Struggle.
Notes from the front lines of the Episcopal Church General Convention,"
Beliefnet, 2003-JUL-30, at:
- David Skidmore, "Bishops Approve Procedure for Robinson's Consent,"
Evangelical News Service, at:
- Douglas LeBlanc, "Gay rights would not bless ecumenism,"
American Anglican Council, 2003-AUG-1, at:
- David Skidmore, "Robinson consent sent to House of Deputies,"
Episcopal News Service, 2003-AUG-1, at:
- Doug LeBlanc, "Gene Robinson and me," American Anglican
Council, 2003-AUG-2, at:
- "Gay bishop clears key vote," CNN.com, 2003-AUG-3, at:
- "Episcopalians delay vote on gay bishop candidate," CNN.com, 2003-AUG-4,
- "Church clears gay bishop nominee of allegations: Accuser describes
how he was touched," CNN.com, 2003-AUG-5, at:
- "11-th hour sex claim stalls vote on gay bishop. E-mail alleges
misconduct. Episcopal Church opens probe," The Toronto Star, Toronto,
ON, 2003-AUG-5, Page A1 and A14.
- Alan Cooperman, "First openly gay bishop approved: Cleared of
sexual misconduct. Vote threatens to split Anglicans," 2003-AUG-6, The
Toronto Star, Pages A1 and A18.
- "Episcopal Leaders Reject Proposal for Same-Sex Union Liturgy,"
New York Times, 2003-AUG-7, at:
- "American Episcopals choose sin over Scripture," Massachusetts
Family Institute, MFI E-alert, 2003-AUG-8.
- "Episcopal Bishop To Perform Blessing Service For Gays,"
Associated Press, 2004-MAY-28, at:
Copyright © 2003 & 2004 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2004-JUN-05
Author: B.A. Robinson