Members of at least two New Hampshire Episcopal churches are asking an out-of-state diocese to supervise their congregations after an openly gay man was consecrated as bishop of New Hampshire. "There definitely looks like there's going to be some realignment," said Robert Newton, a lay leader at St. Mark's Church in Ashland, N.H. Newton said he has spoken to officials in the diocese of Albany, N.Y., which is led by conservative bishop Daniel Herzog. "They've already agreed to give us that oversight," Newton said.
Bishop Douglas Theuner, who continues to serve as bishop of the diocese of New Hampshire until his retirement in March, said he and incoming bishop V. Gene Robinson "will be happy to meet with any congregation wishing to consider alternative Episcopal pastoral care." He said they had not received any requests. Under church law, Theuner--or Robinson when he takes over the diocese--would have to approve any alternative arrangement in which an outside bishop worked with a local parish.
Newton said he is hoping the archbishop of Canterbury--leader of the global Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is the U.S. member--will intervene to allow churches to affiliate outside the New Hampshire diocese.
Kathy Lewis, treasurer of the Church of the Redeemer in Rochester, N.H., said she also sent a letter to the diocese of Albany asking for advice for her congregation, which includes a majority of members who do not support Robinson as bishop. She said she was advised to sit tight while plans are developed but that the New Hampshire church would likely fall within Albany's geographical area if a new system of oversight is created for conservative parishes.
Robinson was elected as the next bishop of New Hampshire by a majority of clergy and lay leaders in the state in June. His appointment was confirmed by national leaders in August, and he was consecrated Sunday. He still has widespread support among Episcopalians in New Hampshire, which has 50 congregations with about 16,475 members.