Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Area leaders push unity in gay bishop debate

By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer

    • Charges halt vote on gay bishop
    • Area leaders push unity in gay bishop debate
    • Bishop's letter to the diocese
As Episcopal bishops postponed a vote Monday to confirm the election of an openly gay bishop-elect for New Hampshire, Episcopal leaders in the Greater Cincinnati area continued to debate how the vote will affect the church.

Until sexual-misconduct allegations against the Rev. Canon V. Gene Robinson surfaced Monday afternoon, speculators widely assumed bishops would vote to confirm Robinson's election at the triennial Episcopal General Convention in Minneapolis. Some suggested the approval might split the church, which has 2.3 million members.

But local Episcopal leaders continued to preach unity in a time of disagreement.

"We have been a fractured church before," The Right Rev. Herbert Thompson Jr., bishop of Southern Ohio, wrote in a letter to the diocese. "The first generation of Christians were divided over whether or not to admit Gentiles into the church. ... Even today, some within the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion have yet to resolve whether or not it is permissible for women to be ordained. Whenever the Church is distracted by division, God's people suffer and the Church's mission in the world is weakened."

On Sunday, the House of Deputies - a legislative body composed of clergy and lay people from all the dioceses nationwide - voted to approve Robinson's election by a 2-to-1 margin.

Both the lay and clerical representatives from the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio voted Sunday to confirm Robinson's election.

The diocese's clergy representatives consisted of four area priests: Rev. Canon Anne W. Robbins of St. Patrick's Episcopal Church in Dublin; Rev. Kwasi A. Thornell of Christ Church in Cincinnati; Rev. Vicki Diane Zust of Trinity Church in Newark; and Rev. Benjamin E. K. Speare-Hardy II of St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Dayton.

The House of Bishops, composed of 106 bishops, was set to vote Monday when the allegations against Robinson surfaced. Diocese representatives declined to say how Thompson planned to vote.

Representatives from Northern Kentucky's Episcopal diocese could not be reached for comment.

But the head of Cincinnati's most prominent cathedral compared the acceptance of gay bishops in 2003 to the acceptance of women priests in the 1970s.

"I really believe the Episcopal Church is voting on the issue of candor," said Dean James Diamond, head of the Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati. "What Canon Robinson's election in New Hampshire did was force this out into the open."

A deputy to Thompson said the Episcopal Church of the United States doesn't force churches to follow an official "doctrinal" church position.

The diocese in southern Ohio will remain united, said the Venerable Archdeacon James Hanisian.

"Our diocese will fare better than most," he said. "Our bishop is someone who has stood for and lived his life as a reconciling person."


E-mail rforgrave@enquirer.com

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