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Utah Delegates Affirm Episcopal Church's Election of Gay Bishop

Utah Delegates Affirm Episcopal Church's Election of Gay Bishop

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Delegates representing Utah's nearly 6,000 Episcopalians have supported their national church's confirmation of the church's first openly gay bishop-elect.

The Rev. V. Gene Robinson was elected by New Hampshire clergy and parishioners in June and confirmed by the national Episcopal Church in August. His election and confirmation angered some conservatives, who threatened to divide the Episcopal Church in the United States and the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The national convention also acknowledged that same-sex unions were being blessed by some members of the clergy and it allowed for the development of such blessings on the local level by individual bishops.

The more than 200 delegates meeting in St. George over the weekend in the 98th Convention of the Diocese of Utah approved a resolution supporting the national's convention's actions and affirming the votes of the Utah deputation at that convention.

The Utah convention voted down a resolution that would have supported actions of the presiding bishops of 37 provinces of the Anglican Communion at their Oct. 15-16 meeting at Lambeth Palace in London. The primates said Robinson's scheduled consecration Nov. 2 as bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire would "tear the fabric" of their association of churches.

The Utah Diocese convention did pass a resolution Sunday that acknowledged that not all members of the diocese supported the actions of the national convention.

Episcopalians have a long history of disagreeing with each other, "but being very sensitive to those not in the majority," said the Rev. Dan Webster, the diocese's director of communications. "We try not to paint winners and losers."

The votes on the resolution were by show of hands. The votes were not tabulated, but were by clear majorities, he said.

Webster believes the conservative members, the ones who are opposed the Robinson election and the blessing of same-sex union, are probably in about the same proportion in Utah as they are nationally. Some leaders of the conservatives put their numbers at about 10 or 12 percent of the church membership nationally.

The bishop of the Utah Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Carolyn Tanner Irish, earlier this month endorsed the election and confirmation of Robinson, while acknowledging that, "Clearly, there is much pain and anger among those dissenting to his consecration."

Speaking to the diocese convention at the Dixie Center, she said that issues of justice were not optional for Christians.

"They include our active commitment to human rights -- most immediately for gay and lesbian persons, for people in the criminal system and for anti-racism training was well," she said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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