Antigay priest removed in New Hampshire
November 08 2003 12:00 AM ET
An Episcopal priest opposed to having a gay bishop has been removed as interim pastor of the Church of the Redeemer in Rochester, N.H., the church treasurer said Friday. Kathy Lewis said members of the church's executive committee were told Thursday night that Bishop Douglas Theuner had removed the Reverend Don Wilson. Wilson opposed the consecration last weekend of Bishop V. Gene Robinson, as do many of the church's roughly 60 members.
Lewis said Wilson had clashed repeatedly with Theuner over Robinson's elevation, which has divided both the U.S. Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion to which it belongs.
Wilson, who lives in Berwick, Maine, is a retired priest who became interim pastor of the Redeemer Church when its rector retired in April. Diocesan officials said Wilson was serving at the pleasure of the bishop, who retained the right to remove him. "It's being treated as a pastoral concern by the bishop's office, and he is talking with parish officials," diocesan spokesman Michael Barwell said Thursday night. Theuner was out of state and unavailable for comment until Saturday, and Robinson did not immediately return a call to diocesan offices Friday morning. Lewis said Ann Elkins, the church's senior warden, informed her of Wilson's removal. Elkins declined to comment, referring questions to the diocese.
Wilson said Thursday night he had not been notified of his dismissal and that he wasn't surprised. "[Theuner] has refused to believe me--that I'm not the one stirring up the trouble," he said. "I have been trying to keep it under control. I have no intention of leaving the church or encouraging anyone else--in fact, the opposite. I'm trying to keep them from leaving."
Lewis said she was told the Reverend Marthe Dyner, who works at diocesan headquarters, would conduct the service on Sunday. She said Robinson opponents, from churches around the state, plan to confront Dyner, who declined to comment. Lewis said the upheaval threatens the existence of her small church. "If we don't get a conservative priest, you will see people leave," she said. "Ten people is not enough to keep this church going."
Parishioners at two Episcopal churches in the state, Redeemer and St. Mark's in Ashland, are working through a national dissident group to be supervised by the diocese of Albany. Both bishops in that diocese are affiliated with the group, the American Anglican Council.