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Gay Episcopal bishop candidate receives panel's OK

From Susan Candiotti

Episcopal bishop candidate Rev. Gene Robinson speaks before the church's National General Convention in Minneapolis on Friday.
Episcopal bishop candidate Rev. Gene Robinson speaks before the church's National General Convention in Minneapolis on Friday.

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MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) -- Openly gay bishop candidate Rev. Gene Robinson received approval Friday from the Episcopal Committee on Consent of Bishops, the first step toward approval by the Episcopal Church's general convention, a move that would formalize his election.

The House of Deputies will take up the issue next followed by the House of Bishops. Both houses must ratify Robinson's election.

Robinson, who has been serving as assistant to the bishop of New Hampshire, won election to the post of bishop in a vote by his own diocese in June.

His daughter told the church committee she and her mother support Robinson's election as an Episcopal bishop, a controversy threatening to split the Episcopal church.

Ellen Robinson, in her 20s, said her father, who divorced her mother and has been living with a male companion for more than a decade, did not abandon his family.

"We love each other. Gene Robinson is a good man and a good father and I am proud to call him dad," she said.

The ratification of Robinson's election has set off a worldwide controversy among members of the Anglican community, of which the U.S. Episcopal church is a part.

Robinson's opponents have said that approving his election as bishop will split the Episcopal Church while alienating the U.S. church from the world Anglican community.

Mary Hayes, the bishop of Pittsburgh, told the committee and the packed hearing room, "No one questions Gene Robinson's ability ... this room is crowded today because of his sexuality."

John Howe of the Diocese of Central Florida said ratifying Robinson's election would be "a repudiation" of Episcopal teaching that the only proper union is between heterosexuals.

But Thomas Shaw, a bishop from Massachusetts, said the Episcopal Church should not fear a schism over the election of a gay bishop. He said there were similar fears in 1989 when the church voted to allow women priests.

"Instead, it has made us stronger," said Shaw.

He called Robinson "a man of deep spirituality and compassion."

A separate hearing has been scheduled for Friday night on whether to approve blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples.

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