Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire Prepares for May 19th Vote
Prayers for the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, for its three bishop candidates, and for its current Bishop Gene Robinson, as the diocese prepares to elect its next bishop on May 19th. This article by Lisa Wangsness, excerpted below, appeared on the front page of the Boston Globe today, April 30th. You can read it in its entirety here.
New Hampshire Episcopalians may elect 2nd gay bishop
Vote less charged than in 2003
The Rev. William W. Rich, a senior associate rector at Trinity Church in Boston and a married gay man, is one of three priests nominated by a Diocese of New Hampshire search committee to succeed Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who is retiring.
About 200 clergy and elected lay delegates will vote by secret ballot in Concord on May 19. The Rev. Adrian Robbins-Cole, president of the Standing Committee, a diocesan advisory board, declined to handicap the vote but speculated most delegates will see the nominees’ sexuality as irrelevant.
“I think electors in New Hampshire are interested in getting the best bishop for New Hampshire,’’ he said. “People are very parochial in the end.’’
Some US church leaders remain optimistic about the future of the Anglican Communion. Bishop M. Thomas Shaw of the Diocese of Massachusetts said he believes it will survive - not because conservative and liberal dioceses will reach agreement on hot-button issues like sexuality, but because he believes they will be willing to grant one another greater autonomy.
“I think there is definitely a change, a movement in much of the African church not to recognize the blessing of same-sex unions, or to encourage gay partnerships, but a real acknowledgment that our cultures and pastoral situations are different,’’ he said.
New Hampshire’s next bishop, with the consent of the national church’s general convention in July, will be consecrated in August and installed in January 2013.
Porter said that after months of work, the group’s consensus around the three nominees was “immediate and powerfully strong.’’
Rich, who spent much of his early life in Baltimore, holds a doctoral degree in psychology and religion. He oversees educational programs at Trinity and until last year was a lecturer at Union Theological Seminary in New York.
In answers to the search committee’s questions, posted on the committee’s website, he wrote that as a young priest in 1992, he presided at the “holy union’’ of a lesbian couple in Baltimore. Though he had obtained permission from his superiors, a media storm ensued, and he was tried, and exonerated, in both informal and formal church trials.
Like the other two nominees, he declined to be interviewed, citing the period of prayerful discernment prior to the vote.
Bridges grew up in Ireland and England and immigrated to the United States in 1985. She attended church as a layperson in Manchester, N.H., for nine years before attending seminary.
In her application, she wrote that New Hampshire had “set a standard for radical inclusion,’’ epitomizing “the broad umbrella of Anglicanism.’’
In his answers to the committee’s queries, Hirschfeld, who grew up in Connecticut, praised the Diocese of New Hampshire for its courage in elevating Robinson and said he was confident the divisions within the church would be healed.
He also noted that in 2006 he embarked on a “wedding fast,’’ refraining from presiding at weddings in response to a call from the wider church to refrain from blessing gay couples.
Many New Hampshire Episcopalians are proud of the role they have played in church history, but their focus now - as in 2003, they say - is on supporting the best person for the job, whoever that may be.
One member of the search committee, the Rev. Jason Wells, now a priest in Concord, was just months away from completing seminary when Robinson was elected. After Wells publicly declared his support for Robinson, theDiocese of Dallas turned him down for ordination. The Diocese of New Hampshire eventually sponsored him instead.
Wells declined to say which nominee he prefers, but he said he, like most of his fellow electors, would pick the candidate he thinks can best help parishes serve their communities, and thrive.
“I don’t get the sense that anybody here is going to cast a vote to make a statement one way or another, because there is really too much at stake,’’ he said. “We have churches that need good leadership.’’