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August 05, 2003
Lock up your Children - the Bishops back in Town - Witchhunt Ensues

Local Episcopal leaders responded with shock, sadness and a call for patience Monday when a New Hampshire clergyman's bid to become the first openly gay elected bishop in the Episcopal Church was postponed amid allegations involving inappropriate touching and pornography.

Just hours before they had been scheduled to vote, many of the church's 107 bishops received an e-mail message this morning accusing Robinson of "homosexual harassment" and urging them not to confirm his election as a bishop in New Hampshire.

"When I first encountered Gene at a Province I convocation a couple of years ago he put his hands on me inappropriately every time I engaged him in conversation," said the e-mail, which was signed "David Lewis" and listed a post office box and telephone number in Manchester, Vt.

Opponents of Robinson's election distributed copies of the e-mail to reporters. The e-mail did not provide any details of the alleged touching, and phone calls by reporters to the Vermont number were not returned. A church spokesman, James Solheim, said that at least one bishop had spoken to Robinson's accuser this morning and verified that the e-mail was genuine.

"I've never heard this before," said the Rev. Steven Giovangelo, the pastor of All Saints Episcopal Church at 16th Street and Central Avenue in Indianapolis. "Someone is making an allegation, and they wait until now? I'm just absolutely astounded. As far as I'm concerned, everyone's innocent until proven otherwise. All we can do now is wait."

The Rev. V. Gene Robinson's possible confirmation has caused a rift in the Episcopal Church, which includes more than 10,000 members in 48 parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis. The diocese covers the lower two-thirds of the state.

Many reserved judgment after learning of the allegations against Robinson, who could have been confirmed Monday in a vote that would have been both historic and controversial.

"We don't really have a reaction at this point," said Arizeder Urreiztieta, the communications director for Christ Church Cathedral on Monument Circle. "Since the vote has been suspended, we're going to wait and see what happens."

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, the national convention's presiding bishop, noted that Robinson was among those who have asked for an investigation of the allegations before a final vote of his confirmation.

"That puts the whole thing in a different light," said the Rev. Thomas Kryder-Reid, the pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church at 3243 N. Meridian St. "It's very important that a complete clarity about the bishop-elect's integrity be established.

"The only other thing I'd have to say is, 'One has to wonder about the timing of these allegations.' "

The allegation involving pornography was brought to the attention of church lawyers Sunday night by the American Anglican Council, a Washington-based group devoted to orthodoxy that has vigorously opposed Robinson's election.

AAC's president, the Rev. David C. Anderson, said its members found an Internet link from the Web site of Outright, a secular outreach program for gay and bisexual youth, to a pornographic Web site. He said Robinson was a co-founder of the Concord, N.H., chapter of Outright and has publicly praised its efforts.

Anderson conceded that there is no evidence that Robinson had anything to do with the Web site or was aware of the alleged link to pornography. "He may be completely innocent, and he deserves a chance to defend himself," Anderson said.

Posted by tstubbs at August 05, 2003 09:46 AM | Trackback
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