Reports of an impending schism in the Anglican Church after the election of an openly gay bishop in the US are overstated, the man at the centre of the debate said this week.
The Rev. V. Gene Robinson, elected as bishop for the diocese of New Hampshire by the Episcopal General Convention on Tuesday, told CNN that grim predictions of a 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, he said.
The convention’s House of Deputies voted in favour of Robinson’s ordination on Sunday, a decision ratified by the House of Bishops on Tuesday, despite last-minute allegations against Robinson.
A parishioner alleged he had been touched inappropriately by Robinson some years ago, while opponents claimed the bishop-elect had connections to a gay youth website which featured links to pornographic material.
But Bishop Gordon Scruton, who investigated the claims, said the touching incident took place in public view and was brief. It involved Robinson touching the man’s back and forearm as he answered a question.
The investigating bishop also found that although Robinson had helped found Outright, a local organisation for gay youth, his involvement had ceased in 1998 and he was not aware that the organisation has a website until this convention. The website was launched in 2002.
It is my conclusion that there is no necessity to pursue further investigation and no reason on these grounds to prevent the bishops with jurisdiction from going forward with their voting, Bishop Scruton said.
Progressives in the church have welcomed the 62-45 vote in favour of Robinson, although conservatives, including Sydney archbishop Peter Jensen and Melbourne archbishop Peter Watson, have condemned the actions of the Convention.
The Rev. Susan Russell, representing gay and lesbian organisations at the Convention, said she was excited and thrilled by the result.
As difficult as these last couple of days have been, I am gratified to be part of a church that is willing to work together through hard times. This is a prophetic step forward taken by the Episcopal Church on behalf of GLBT people and the gospel, she said.