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Historic day in New Hampshire: TLC 11.10.03 November 10, 2003

Posted by geoconger in Living Church, New Hampshire.
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First printed in The Living Church magazine.

Months of suspense, speculation and widely divergent predictions about the future of the Christianity reached a climax in Durham, N.H. Nov. 2 with the consecration and ordination of the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson as Bishop Coadjutor of New Hampshire.

Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold was the chief consecrator in a three-hour ceremony at the Whittemore Hockey Center on the campus of the University of New Hampshire before a congregation estimated at about 3,000. Almost immediately following the consecration primates from 20 of the 37 international provinces of the Anglican Communion said they would not recognize the ordination of a non-celibate homosexual person to the episcopacy and therefore a state of impaired communion existed between their provinces and the Episcopal Church.

In a fiery sermon that highlighted the current divisions, the Rt. Rev Douglas Theuner, soon to retire as Bishop of New Hampshire, compared the current discord over the morality of homosexual conduct to past arguments over slavery, divorce and remarriage. These arguments then were “about control, about power, about who is in and who is out, about who is right and who is wrong,” as were the current arguments that seek to deny a place in the Church to the outcast and marginalized, he said. The consecration of Gene Robinson, Bishop Theuner argued, was not a hindrance toward unity, but a mark of its fullness. Addressing his words to Bishop-elect Robinson, Bishop Theuner said, “Because of your presence, the episcopate will be more a symbol of unity than it ever has been.”

Numerous heavily armed police and additional security personnel were an unmistakable presence throughout the campus, and consecration planners took numerous precautions, which included restricting most protesters from campus property. Three formal objections did occur during the presentation of testimonials: the Rev. Earle Fox of Alexandria, Va., Meredith Harwood, of Orford, N.H., and the Rt. Rev David Bena, Bishop Suffragan of Albany. Bishop Bena, who spoke last, read a prepared statement endorsed by 36 other bishops from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada asking Bishop Griswold not to “put the future of the Communion in jeopardy.”

Bishop Griswold, who momentarily appeared flustered when Fr. Fox began with a graphic description of sex between men, interrupted during the reading of the first objection and asked the reader to make his point. After the last objection was read, Bishop Griswold thanked “our brothers and sisters in Christ for bringing their concerns before us” but noted the stated concerns already had been addressed.

The primates, Bishop Griswold said, believe that unity of doctrine is subsidiary to the desire for unity. The primates, he said, “register the deep sense upon them that the highest level of communion be maintained.” He added that the primates recognize that truth is not universal. It is specific to time, place and culture. “As Anglicans we are learning to live with the mystery of union at a much deeper level, below the level of civility; understanding one another’s contexts, one’s struggles to articulate the gospel in different places. I think that is precisely what we are doing here and therefore we shall proceed,” he concluded.

Addressing the congregation before the exchange of the Peace, Bishop Robinson sounded an optimistic note, thanking those present for their support while acknowledging the discord his consecration would cause. “There are people, faithful, wonderful Christian people, for whom this is a moment of great pain and confusion and anger,” he said. “Our God will be served if we are hospitable and loving and caring toward them in every way we possibly can muster.”

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