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Episcopal Church Debates Whether to Accept Gay Bishop

Aired August 1, 2003 - 19:18   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We go now to Minneapolis, where the stage is set for a critical vote that some say could split the Episcopal Church.
At issue, an openly gay man elected bishop of New Hampshire. Now, the debate is dominating the church's triennial convention.

CNN's national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, is there.

Susan, has the Episcopal Church ever seen anything like this before?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have, Anderson. A lot of people are comparing this debate to one that happened in the 1970s, when women were initially ordained as Episcopal priests. And eventually, in 1989, when the first woman was elected as a bishop in the Episcopal Church.

Now, there is similar talk of a rift if Reverend Gene Robinson, of New Hampshire, who was elected by his diocese there, is formally approved as a bishop by the entire Episcopal Church. And there's a convention to decide that issue right now in Minneapolis.

Now, I had a chat with Reverend Robinson about that today. He says he does not think, in his opinion, that the church need to split over this. That he wants to make everyone feel that they are a part of his diocese and to feel comfortable with the fact that he is carrying on a relationship, a long-term one, with another man. Although he certainly understands why some people might not feel comfortable with that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. GENE ROBINSON, BISHOP-ELECT: I'm not the first gay bishop. There have always been gay bishops throughout the church and in every denomination. I'm just the first person talking about it honestly.

Second of all, I would say that most people sitting in their pews are just not going to notice much difference on a Sunday morning when they go to church. I hardly intrude into the lives of the people in my own diocese, never mind in a diocese halfway across the country or halfway around the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: Robinson appeared before a committee today, which moved forward a resolution to continue the debate after hearing from both supporters and detractors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The teaching of this church is that sexual intimacy is for life-long monogamous, heterosexual marriage. And nothing else. And commending to the church as a wholesome example, a person who is sexually intimate in a relationship other than holy matrimony is a massive repudiation of that teaching.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The electing convention in New Hampshire was well aware that Canon Robinson is a homosexual living in a committed relationship with his life partner. And the diocese of New Hampshire has made a prayerful decision about these realities. It deserves your unconditional support for adoption and consent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: A final vote on this is expected to come on Monday.

But there are other issues, as well. All these people standing behind me are about to hear a debate as to whether there should be a rite of blessing in the Episcopal Church for same-sex couples -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. We'll have to wait till Monday. Susan Candiotti, thanks.

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