It was a shot heard around the Anglican world from Concord, N.H.
The election of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop this month may have triggered the beginning of all-out war for the soul of the Episcopal Church in the United States, one that could lead to the rupture of the 70-million-member worldwide Anglican Communion. The 2.3-million-member Episcopal Church is one of 38 Anglican "provinces," the majority of them headed by evangelicals and orthodox traditionalists. Concord provides more ammunition for conservative primates who want to declare the Episcopal Church "out of communion" and replace it with a biblically faithful province in North America. (By an overwhelming margin, Anglican bishops from throughout the world in 1998 ruled that homosexual acts are "incompatible with Scripture." But liberal forces in Canada and the United States have pressed ahead with rites for same-sex unions and ordination of homosexuals.)
Delegates to the diocesan convention in New Hampshire on the second ballot chose local priest V. Gene Robinson, 56, from a field of two male and two female clergy to be the bishop to succeed retiring Douglas Theuner. His election (by 58 of 77 clergy and 96 of 165 lay delegates) must be ratified by the bishops and delegates at the 10-day triennial national Episcopal convention that opens next month in Minneapolis. Rarely has any bishop's election ever been reversed, but evangelicals and other conservatives in the denomination are gearing up to try to make it happen this time.
The bishop-elect told reporters he sees no conflict between biblical teaching and his gay lifestyle: "We have to push right through those seven brief biblical references, or what seem to be references, to homosexuality." They don't apply, he claimed, to "faithful, monogamous, lifetime-intention relationships between people of the same gender."
Expressions of outrage and disapproval came from many quarters, including some bishops in the evangelical-oriented American Anglican Council. They vowed to work for defeat of the election in Minneapolis. "An abomination," said archbishop and primate Peter Akinola of Nigeria, the world's largest Anglican province.