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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 October, 2003, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Hate mail 'astounds' gay canon
Bishop-elect Gene Robinson
Gene Robinson thanked his British supporters
The first openly gay man to be elected an Anglican bishop has spoken of the hate mail he has received, some of it coming from the UK.

But Canon Gene Robinson, bishop elect of New Hampshire, in the United States, said he had also received many letters of support - and had stopped counting his e-mails when they passed 8,000 messages.

The bishop-elect was addressing the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement's (LGCM) Halfway to Lambeth conference at Manchester University via video link from his diocese.

He also revealed the diocese, where he will be consecrated on 2 November, has been forced to spend thousands of dollars to protect him.

Mr Robinson said he had been genuinely touched by the letters of support he had received, which went some way to make up for the amount of hate mail.

"I'm getting lots of hate mail - and lots of love letters of incredible passion and depth," he told the 250 delegates.

Soon it's going to be time to get over all this pain and difficulty and get on with the Gospel
Canon Gene Robinson

"There have been all kinds of wonderful messages from this country and around the world about what this means to them, especially from people not yet in cities or churches where it is safe to be who they are."

But he singled out one particularly upsetting postcard he had received from the UK.

On the front it had a picture of the rose window at Durham Cathedral.

On the other it had an abusive message calling him a "fornicating, lecherous pig".

He said: "The juxtaposition of that beautiful picture on one side and the hate message on the other was astounding."

He also dealt with the potential schism the church faces if he is consecrated.

Rebuilding

Canon Robinson said: "We all can hardly wait for 3 November, when hopefully I will be an old news story and we can get on with what I've been called to do.

"We're going to rebuild a diocese here which is congregation-focused and spirit-led."

He added: "The fact of the matter is that I am neither the devil one side would take me to be, nor the saint that others would have me to be. I am trying to hold on to who I am, as a human being and as a Christian on his own journey toward God."

Church leaders of the Anglican community have warned his status as a homosexual bishop could split the Church.

The conference is also due to hear from Michael Ingham, Bishop of New Westminster, Canada, whose diocese has authorised the blessing of same sex relationships in its churches, and Mario Ribas, a gay priest in the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has been criticised for cancelling his own appearance at the conference.

The Archbishop's presence here would have helped his oft-repeated claim to listen to lesbian and gay people
LGCM general secretary Richard Kirker

LGCM general secretary Richard Kirker said the archbishop had been "quite clearly put under pressure" not to attend.

But he had made clear the date was still free in his diary, "which made it all the more despicable that he felt unable to attend".

"The archbishop's presence here would have helped his oft-repeated claim to listen to lesbian and gay people."

Mr Kirker also refuted suggestions the LGCM should split from the rest of the Anglican Communion over its views on homosexuality.

The LGCM had planned to hold a service at Manchester Cathedral on Sunday as part of its Halfway to Lambeth conference.

But the cathedral withdrew the invitation on the orders of the Bishop of Manchester.

The banned service will now be held at St Chrysostom's Church, near the University of Manchester.

Two of the Bishop of Manchester's staff resigned in protest at the ban.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Canon Gene Robinson
"There have been all kinds of wonderful messages from this country"



SEE ALSO:
Gay group rejects cathedral deal
02 Oct 03  |  Manchester


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