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Last Updated: Monday, 4 August, 2003, 02:41 GMT 03:41 UK
US Church approves gay bishop
Gene Robinson
Robinson has caused controversy within the US Anglican Church
The Anglican Church in America has voted to confirm the appointment of an openly gay bishop.

The Episcopal Church's House of Deputies - composed of clergy and lay people - decided by a substantial majority that the Reverend Canon Gene Robinson of New Hampshire can serve as a bishop.

There will be one final vote in the House of Bishops on Monday, but BBC correspondent Jane Little says it is likely this vote will also be in favour of Mr Robinson.

The selection has brought heavy fire from conservatives at home and religious leaders in the developing world, including parts of Asia and Africa, where Anglicans tend to be more traditionalist.

I can do more for gay and lesbian folk in the Church by being a good bishop than by being the gay bishop
Gene Robinson

Mr Robinson said he was calm but joyous after Sunday's vote, adding that he hoped the decision would lead to growth rather than a split in the church.

A committee at the Church's general convention in Minneapolis - the Committee for the Consecration of Bishops of the American Anglican Church - had already backed the bishop on Friday.

Walk-out threatened

"I think I can do more for gay and lesbian folk in the Church by being a good bishop than by being the gay bishop," Mr Robinson said.

"The people of New Hampshire just want me to be their bishop and I can't wait to exercise that ministry."

We're not going to accept this
Bishop Edward Salmon
South Carolina
Mr Robinson - a divorced father of two - has been in a committed male relationship for 14 years.

Advocates for gay rights say the Church will thrive as it grows more accepting of homosexuals.

But some of the more conservative elements within the church have threatened to walk out should the final vote be in Mr Robinson's favour.

"We're not going to accept this," Bishop Edward Salmon of South Carolina told Reuters news agency.

"We will not accept a change in doctrine. If you're asking whether we're soft on this point, the answer is no."

Gay marriage

There is a movement in the Church pushing for the creation of a formal rite to bless same-sex unions, something that already happens in many American diocese.

The debate over gay unions is a contentious one in American society at large.

Recent advances in the courts for gay rights and a move to legalise gay marriage in the state of Massachusetts has prompted the intervention of the president.

US President George W Bush has said that marriage should be between a man and woman and the administration is considering a proposal to amend the constitution to preclude gay marriage.

The BBC's June Kelly
"These are troubling times for a church confronted with social change"

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