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House Of Deputies Continues Debate On Gay Bishop

Aired August 3, 2003 - 16:39   ET


CALLEBS: Ok. Now back to Minneapolis. The Episcopal church's House of Deputies is closing in on a vote on making a gay priest bishop of New Hampshire. For the past half hour or so, the deputies of the delegation have been making their pleas to members there, both pro and con.
CNN's Susan Candiotti has been following this and brings us up to date. Susan, at times some very impassioned words coming from people.

CANDIOTTI: Oh, yes, there are 800 deputies in all here, and they will all -- well, not all have an opportunity to speak because they only have 45 minutes in all, but so far it has been a very controlled and a very powerful and compelling debate over whether Reverend Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who was elected by his own diocese, should be elevated as bishop in the entire U.S. Episcopal church, which would be historic, the first time that has ever happened.

Now, just by way of introduction briefly, to remind you, Reverend Gene Robinson is a man who was married for 13 years, had two grown children, then divorced, and has been involved in a very open relationship with another man for the past 14 years. There are many people who predict that if this elevation to bishop occurs there will be a split in the church. Others argue that is not the case. One woman from Michigan saying that people should not be afraid that fear is the absence of faith. Another man who was against it said that he doesn't know what he'll tell his parishioners if this goes through.

Right now let's listen to part of the debate that's going on now. This is a speaker who is against the elevation to bishop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're all in a luxury liner representing the worldwide Anglican communion. And the Episcopal church, or more specifically, this general convention, is loading itself into one of the lifeboats. If we vote to approve Gene Robinson today, the boat will begin to be lowered. Tomorrow if he is approved by the house of bishops, the boat will be cast off and depart.

And while thinking a great victory will be won, we have really begun a process of isolating ourselves from the wider Anglican communion and aligning ourselves with other parts of the Anglican world that are dying such as Britain, Canada, and western Europe. And I pray that none of this happens.

It's not too late. I pray that when the members of this house pick up those voting machines today they will press no to Gene Robinson and yes on faithfulness and obedience. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Microphone 8.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, fellow deputies, I'm Marge Killkelly, from Maine. For 16 years I served in the Maine legislature. I've served as a selectman in my small town, and this is my second general convention. I hold in high regard the process of self- determination that was established by our forefathers at the inception of this great country and church, the basic premise of that structure is trust and respect.

The consent process is about respect. Respect for our brothers and sisters and the diocese of New Hampshire who gathered faithfully and prayerfully to discern the will of God in the selection of a person to become their bishop. We are not selecting a bishop for them any more than we selected a bishop for Florida, New jersey, or Nebraska. I ask you to respect their decision and acknowledge their process. Consenting to a decision that has been made by them.

At some point in time all of our diocese will be faced with the prospect of electing a new bishop. Whether we are from a conservative, liberal, or middle of the road diocese, do we want to establish a precedence of this body doing that election for us as if we had not the wisdom to do it ourselves?

CANDIOTTI: Some people say that this debate is reminiscent of the great controversy that took place in the 1970s when there was argument at a convention line this as to whether women should be elevated as Episcopal priests and then in 1989 the first Episcopal female priest was elevated to bishop.

What happens after this vote if Father Robinson does prevail, it moves on to what's called a House of Bishops. That's a much smaller body made up of about 100 people or so. That vote will take place on Monday,

And I just want to wind up by saying as one of the observers here said in his words, the world is watching and God is watching. So we'll have to see what develops -- Sean.

CALLEBS: Well, Susan, this is something that has been building for months now and they've been speaking for more than half an hour. What's the mood like there? One can imagine that this is very tense because people feel very strongly about this one way or the other.

CANDIOTTI: To a degree, but I must say overall throughout the several days that we've been here, despite what way you feel about this, everyone has been very polite with each other. We haven't heard any voices raised. It's been what I would call a controlled debate, because everyone -- no one seems to dispute the man's qualifications professionally, if you will, speaking. The question clearly is hinging on his personal affairs -- Sean.

CALLEBS: Ok. Susan Candiotti in Minneapolis, thanks very much.


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