Deputies OK Robinson as Bishop

Episcopal News Service. August 3, 2003 [2003-194-A]

David Skidmore

Gene Robinson's journey to becoming bishop of New Hampshire passed a crucial milestone Sunday afternoon when the House of Deputies voted to consent to his election as bishop coadjutor.

In a vote by orders on resolution C045, lay deputations voted 63 yes, 32 no, and 13 divided. Clergy deputations voted 65 yes, 31 no, and 12 divided. With the deputies' action, the final decision now rests with the House of Bishops, which will take up Robinson's consent at 2 p.m. Monday.

If the bishops grant consent, then Robinson may well be seated in the house that same day. The custom with the other bishops-elect who have achieved full consent this week has been for the bishops to give them seat and voice.

The spirited but cordial debate tracked the issues that have been filling e-mail lists and news and talk-show broadcasts for weeks leading up to convention and were addressed in the Friday morning hearing of the Committee on the Consecration of Bishops: faith and order in the Episcopal Church, sexual morality, and accountability within the Anglican Communion.

"I would imagine there are many deputies in this house who have made up their minds. I'm not going to try to change your mind," said Bonnie Anderson of Michigan before the vote. "My grandmother always told me fear is the absence of faith. Your vote to consent may have some repercussions for you at home. You may be called to exercise your pastoral skills in ways you never imagined. You may be afraid of schism. Do not be afraid."

But the Rev. James Flowers from Western Louisiana was concerned. "I do not know what I will tell my people back home should this election be confirmed," he said, "how to tell them that on a certain Sunday this church chose to separate itself from the body of Christ."

"My parishioners are not homophobes, they are not bigots. They are good people, hardworking people, and I don't have a clue what I might tell them. I am profoundly opposed to this resolution," he said.

For some of the strongest critics of Robinson's consent, the decision today may threaten the financial health of Episcopal congregations and jeopardize the church's standing in the Anglican Communion.

The American Anglican Council, which has opposed Robinson's nomination from the start, issued a statement shortly after the vote. "The AAC is deeply grieved by the decision today. It is a tragic decision that leads the Episcopal Church to the brink of shattering the Anglican family. The Episcopal Church now has one foot outside the door," the release said.