Parishioners opposed to gay bishop walk out of service

BY admin

November 11 2003 12:00 AM ET

About half the members of an Episcopal parish walked out of Sunday services to protest the dismissal of their interim minister, who opposes an openly gay man's selection as bishop of New Hampshire. About halfway through the service at Church of the Redeemer in Rochester, N.H., approximately 35 people who opposed the choice of the Reverend V. Gene Robinson as bishop-elect walked to the street and held a news conference to express their anger at the removal of the Reverend Donald Wilson. Bishop Douglas Theuner of the diocese of New Hampshire removed Wilson on Friday for insubordination when Wilson refused to come to Concord to meet with Theuner on the matter. Robinson will automatically succeed Theuner when the bishop retires next year.

The congregation of Church of the Redeemer, which numbers about 70, recently voted 28-10 to oppose Robinson's selection. Wilson came to Sunday's service and remained inside with about 30 others. He did not comment on the walkout. Theuner "decided to take our priest away from us and didn't even ask us," said Lisa Ball, one of the spokeswomen for the group opposing Wilson's removal. She said they want Wilson returned or at least replaced by another conservative priest who also believes the Bible prohibits gay priests. Kathy Lewis, another member of the group, said they would keep walking out until they get a priest to their liking. Ball said the protest has nothing to do with homophobia and "it has nothing to do with gay bashing. This is [Theuner's] way of punishing Redeemer...not respecting our opinion."

Meanwhile, Robinson was beginning his ministry on Sunday by preaching at All Saints Parish in Peterborough, N.H. Speaking to reporters after services, Robinson said the disagreement in Rochester is unfortunate but that Theuner did not remove Wilson simply because the minister opposed Robinson's election and consecration. "What he said was he...would not submit to my authority as bishop. That's a violation of his ordination vows," Robinson said. "No one has to agree with the new bishop in order to get diocesan support," Robinson said, adding that the diocese has given almost $100,000 to the Redeemer parish over the last few years. "You don't have to march in lockstep to be in
communion."

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