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Gay bishop-elect: 'This is what God wants for me'

V. Gene Robinson
V. Gene Robinson

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Robinson thinks his church will stay strong through the upheaval.
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V. Gene Robinson
Church of England
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MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) -- The Episcopal Church will consecrate on Sunday the Rev. V. Gene Robinson as its first openly gay bishop, in a move threatening to split the church.

Robinson joined CNN correspondent Susan Candiotti on Saturday for an exclusive interview to discuss his feelings ahead of the ceremony.

CANDIOTTI: Do you have any mixed emotions this day?

ROBINSON: No. I'm actually feeling very calm about this. The only thing that is sort of weighing on my heart is knowing this is very difficult for many people in our church, and for those people for whom this is confusing or disturbing, I'm very sorry about that. But I am feeling very calm about moving forward, that this is in fact what God wants for me.

CANDIOTTI: Now, because you have been open about your homosexuality and acknowledging you are in a committed relationship with another man and have been for a long time, your critics charge your consecration, in their words, is tragic. As one person told us, if you step aside, in their words, it will be the first sign of repentance. Strong words.

ROBINSON: Strong words and not terribly helpful, in the sense that surely these people don't believe that if I were to step aside all of this would stop, that we would go back to being the nice pretty picture that some have supposed us to be in the past.

There are extraordinarily gifted gay and lesbian people in serious positions of leadership throughout our church. They will be nominated as well. My stepping aside would not stop this one bit.

CANDIOTTI: If there is a split and people continue to predict this, because quite frankly, the majority of the worldwide Anglican community disagrees with this, and is opposed to it, what will happen?

ROBINSON: It's very interesting. The worldwide Anglican community, the vast majority of it, still disagrees with us about the ordination of women. Our women bishops, women priests would not be recognized around most of the world and not be allowed to function as bishops or priests. We've not come apart over that. I believe there's no reason for us to come apart over this. I so hope that that will not happen.

CANDIOTTI: There is going to be a commission formed to study this matter for a year. Do you think that some dioceses will break away before that commission completes its study?

ROBINSON: I think it will be almost impossible for an entire diocese to break away. There is nothing to keep individuals from leaving, but you can't just remove a diocese from the Episcopal Church. I think efforts to do that will be soundly defeated because we are still a church. If there are people who want to leave it, then a new bishop or new priest and standing committee will be elected. You can't just wholesale take a diocese out of the Episcopal Church.

CANDIOTTI: You said before that if people choose to leave the church, because of what happened, or the Anglican community, you won't feel responsible. Do you still feel that way?

ROBINSON: Yes, I do. Because I can't make them not leave, or conversely, I could not make them leave. I have no control over what they do, so they have to make a decision about whether to stay or go. I desperately want them to stay. I don't want them to leave. I don't believe that we are making them do anything that makes that necessary.

CANDIOTTI: Some have said that the church will never be the same after this. Critics take that in a negative way. What about you?

ROBINSON: The church has faced many crisis over its life. I would say we've probably grown the most when we've been in some sort of crisis. This last weekend we were celebrating Reformation weekend, there's another huge crisis in the church -- and God has a way of bringing Easter out of all kinds of Good Fridays.

Of course, we will never be the same again. Ten years from now we will be different again. And ten years later, will be different still. The church is a living breathing organism. We worship a god that is alive and well and living among us. So why shouldn't we be changing.

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