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Gay bishop says
no to ultimatum

Gay bishop says
no to ultimatum


V. Gene Robinson, whose consecration as the first openly gay Episcopal bishop has brought the world's Anglicans to the brink of schism, said Tuesday that the Episcopal Church should not give in to demands by the Anglican Communion that it roll back its acceptance of gays.

The first openly gay Episcopal bishop, whose consecration has brought the world's Anglicans to the brink of schism, said Tuesday that the Episcopal Church should not give in to demands that it roll back its acceptance of gays.

New Hampshire bishop V. Gene Robinson said in a statement that Episcopalians should set aside the Anglican Communion's request for now ''and get on with the work of the Gospel'' even at the risk of losing their place in the Anglican fellowship.

''Doesn't Jesus challenge the greater whole to sacrifice itself for those on the margins?'' Robinson said. ''Now is the time for courage, not fear.''

It was Robinson's first public statement on an ultimatum that Anglican leaders issued last week during a meeting in Tanzania. They gave the U.S. denomination until September 30 to unequivocally pledge not to consecrate another gay bishop or authorize official prayers for same-sex couples. If it doesn't, the church risks a much-reduced role in the Anglican family of churches that trace their roots back to the Church of England.

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. wing of world Anglicanism.

Robinson's comments were a direct criticism of Episcopal presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who has been regarded as a liberal leader but left the Tanzania meeting saying the denomination should make concessions ''for a season'' until relationships with fellow Anglicans can be healed.

Jefferts Schori personally supports ordaining gays and voted to confirm Robinson in 2003; but, noting that the season of Lent was beginning, she said Anglican leaders--called primates--were asking for a ''fast'' by both sides in the debate. Conservative Anglican leaders have been asked to stop crossing into Episcopal territory to take control of breakaway conservative parishes.

Robinson said gays and lesbians were being asked to sacrifice much more than others. He compared Anglicans who oppose full acceptance of gays and lesbians to the Pharisees and said Jesus would never have been asked to halt his ministries out of sensitivity to them.

''How will we explain this 'forbearance' to all those gay and lesbian Christians who have come to the Episcopal Church because, for the first time ever, they have believed that there is a place for them at God's table, not simply beneath it, hoping for fallen scraps?'' he wrote.

Meeting these latest demands of the primates may not even avert a communion-wide split, so Episcopalians should decide in their own time whether accepting gays and lesbians is the right thing to do, he said.

''Does anyone believe that our full compliance with the primates' demands, our complete denunciation of our gay and lesbian members, or my removal as bishop would make all this go away?'' he asked. ''For the first time in its history and at the hands of the larger communion, the Episcopal Church may be experiencing a little taste of the irrational discrimination and exclusion that is an everyday experience of its gay and lesbian members.''

In a companion statement to gay and lesbian Christians, Robinson said they should not be ''intimidated into doubting our own vision of God's will for the church.''

Canon Bob Williams, a spokesman for Jefferts Schori, said she ''is unwavering'' in her commitment to a church open to all. ''Her call to Lenten reflection provides space for individuals and for the church corporately to contemplate next steps forward,'' he said. (Rachel Zoll, AP)

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