Reuters, August 05, 2003

Episcopal Church Ends Probe of Gay Bishop-Elect

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - U.S. Episcopal leaders have ended an investigation of sexual misconduct allegations against the church's first openly gay bishop-elect, and will vote on his ratification later on Tuesday, the church's presiding bishop said. The allegations surfaced at the last minute on Monday as the bishops were set to ratify the Rev. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire and forced a delay in the vote.

The vote will now take place following a report on the investigation at 3:30 p.m. EDT, presiding Bishop Frank Griswold told the assembled bishops.

Bishops had delayed the vote to investigate accusations by Vermont parishioner David Lewis that Robinson sexual harassed him, and to look into questions about a Web site for a group Robinson founded that contained links to pornography.

Lewis had sent an e-mail to bishops that called Robinson a "grab-assing skirt-chaser" and was asked to follow it up with a signed, formal complaint, church officials said.

The convention was scheduled to end on Friday.

Rev. David Anderson, head of the conservative American Anglican Council, denied any conspiracy to undermine Robinson's candidacy.

"It's most important that the investigation be thorough," New York Bishop Mark Sisk said earlier. "We take things seriously, we take the process seriously, we respect (fellow Anglicans). In a kind of perverse way, this has been a wonderful opportunity" to show the depth and breadth of the church's diversity, he said.

Conservatives in the 2.3-million-member U.S. church have threatened a schism over either Robinson's installation or another proposal to allow clergy to bless same-sex marriages.

The rift also extends to divisions within the 77-million-member Anglican Communion, which led to last month's withdrawal in Britain of gay Canon Jeffrey John as bishop.