Vermont bishop defends Episcopal Church election of gay bishop

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(Host) The head of the Vermont Episcopal Diocese says he welcomes a report critical of the appointment of a gay bishop in New Hampshire. But Thomas Ely says church leaders made the right decision when they voted to support of the appointment.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) The report, called the Lambeth Report, was issued Monday in London by the Anglican Church. It sharply criticizes the decision by the Episcopal Church of the United States to appoint Gene Robinson as bishop of the New Hampshire diocese.

Last summer, Robinson became the first openly gay man to be named bishop. The report cites the rift in the church the election has caused. It calls on church leaders to apologize for the appointment and suggests they refrain from any further appointments of gay bishops until there is a clear consensus within the broader Anglican Church.

The Episcopal Church is the American branch of the worldwide Anglican Church. Thomas Ely is bishop of the Vermont Episcopal Diocese. Ely says the report doesn’t change his belief that he was right to support Robinson’s nomination.

(Ely) “Yes! I think it was the right decision. Others don’t. And I regret the pain and the discomfort and the difficulty that’s caused in other parts of the communion but I do believe that it was the right decision to make.”

(Zind) Last year’s decision on Robinson’s appointment caused an outcry from some quarters of the church. In this country some parishioners have left the church and aligned themselves with Anglicans overseas. Ely says he recognizes that the decision to elect a gay bishop has caused deep divisions within the church. He hopes the report will provide the church with an opportunity to come to an understanding – if not an agreement – on issues of sexual orientation.

(Ely) “The invitation of this report is to do the work of reconciliation. Yes there’s criticism. It’s always hard to have your decisions criticized and I’m not trying to have that criticism roll off my back because I do take it seriously. What the expression of that criticism does at least for me is it gives us a chance to be in conversation about those decisions.”

(Zind) Ely says the report will not affect the Vermont Diocese decision earlier this year to formalize the procedure for blessing of same sex unions. Ely says it may take some time for Episcopal church leaders to issue an official church response to the Lambeth Report.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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