Episcopal church closes as result of gay bishop's election

BY admin

January 22 2005 12:00 AM ET

The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Rochester, N.H., which lost members after the New Hampshire diocese elected Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as bishop, plans to close in the spring. Parishioners met with Robinson on Wednesday to make the closing official. The church has operated for more than 100 years. "Perhaps it was time to rest," Robinson said. Parishioners made the decision, he added, with "much disappointment and sadness." The church will remain open until April. Its final service is set for Easter Sunday.

A group of 36 parishioners decided in June they couldn't stay in the church after Robinson refused to grant complete pastoral supervision to a more orthodox bishop. Since then, only 12 to 14 parishioners have attended weekly Sunday services. Parishioners voted 24-1 at an annual meeting Wednesday to approve the closure. The sole dissenter voted no "because he finally found a church he loved
and didn't have anywhere else to go," Robinson said.

Kevin Gorham, a parishioner for 18 years who helps run the church, said its congregation was too small even before the split over Robinson. "It was an event that made us face the facts, but the facts have been here," he said. The diocese has given the church about $200,000 in support over roughly the last decade, officials said. Formally, the church is classified as a mission, which permits the support.

The church had survived a similar conflict in 1988. More than 100 parishioners left as the church's rector installed female clergy and replaced the 1928 Book of Common Prayer with the 1979 version, as national Episcopal Church policy demanded. The splinter group became the Trinity Anglican Church,
eventually building a new church on Rochester Hill Road. The building's fate after April hasn't been decided, Robinson said. He predicted the church someday will rise again in a new form. "God will reveal the new shape of ministry here," he said.

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