The bishop of the diocese of Atlanta, the Reverend J. Neil Alexander, faced a tough audience Sunday at Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville, Ga., as he tried to explain the Episcopal Church's decision to elect its first openly gay bishop. For two hours Alexander tried to answer churchgoers' questions at a public meeting. At the denomination's August convention, Episcopal leaders voted to confirm the election of Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, an openly gay man. At the convention, Alexander voted in favor of Robinson's confirmation.
Churchgoer Dennis Bergin was one of those concerned by the decision. He stood up and told Alexander that his wife and children decided to leave the Episcopal Church because of the decision. "I'm at a loss," Bergin said. "My church is being taken away from me. What am I supposed to discount next? When are we going to stop and go back to what God's word says?" Alexander and members of the Atlanta deputation explained their reasons to the crowd. Alexander told the crowd that they had decided to confront the issue of homosexuality head-on after 30 years of debate. Other denominations have either put off the issue or pretend that they didn't have homosexuals in leadership positions, he said. "What's killing our sister churches is that they refuse to tell the truth,"