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Some plan protest over consecration of N.H. gay bishop

CONCORD, N.H. -- Conservative Episcopalians plan to protest the consecration of New Hampshire's openly gay bishop next month by holding an alternative service.

In addition, someone is expected to speak in protest at the Rev. V. Gene Robinson's consecration service Nov. 2 at the University of New Hampshire.

And at least one church is getting advice from a conservative group on how to split from the New Hampshire Diocese if Robinson is elected, the Concord Monitor reported yesterday.

"The diocese has not provided a chance for people to be open and honest about their grief and discouragement," said Andrew Pearson, of the American Anglican Council, which is helping plan the alternative service.

Although a time and place for the alternative service have not been set, Pearson said it would be held in Durham.

"This is not meant to derail the consecration or be a political protest," he said. "It's not even about Gene Robinson. It's about those folks who feel shut out and have no place to call home in New Hampshire."

Robinson was elected by New Hampshire clergy and lay church members in June, and his selection was approved by the national Episcopal church in August.

But conservatives in the United States and the worldwide Anglican Communion have threatened a schism over his consecration and the practice in some dioceses of blessing same-sex unions.

Diocesan officials have acknowledged that some New Hampshire congregations are struggling with Robinson's election.

Robert Newton, senior warden of St. Mark's Parish in Ashland, which has about 80 members, said his church recently signed on with the American Anglican Council.

The parish also sent Newton to the council's meeting earlier this month in Dallas, where conservatives met to strategize a response to Robinson's election.

"It's a lot easier for a parish such as ours to say, `No, stop,' if you have the support of 70 million Anglicans from around the world," Newton said. "And now we do."

Kathy Lewis, a parishioner of Redeemer Church in Newton, also has met with Pearson and said her church will withhold money from the diocese if Robinson is consecrated. Members of her church also have told the council they will not receive Robinson at their church or allow him to confirm their children.

Robinson has encouraged his opponents to find a way to disagree about his sexuality while remaining in the church. He has often said they are welcome in his church, and he hopes he is welcome in theirs.

The Rev. David Jones, of St. Paul's Church in Concord, said Robinson's selection was driven by the holy spirit, not a political agenda.

"I feel badly for anyone who felt excluded," he said. "But if being included means you having an outcome that you like, then that was going to be impossible."

Rich Kalich, of Keene, said he initially opposed Robinson, but changed his mind after meeting him. He said it's a shame that Robinson's sexuality has become a central issue, but called the debate "a healthy dialogue" within the church.

"My hope and prayer is that at some point in time, hopefully not too long from now, it will be behind us," he said.

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