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Since 1st March, 1999
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Priest drags prince into church row

London, Nov. 2: On the eve of his consecration as Anglicanism’s first openly homosexual bishop — an event which threatens to tear the worldwide Church apart — Bishop-elect Gene Robinson drew the Prince of Wales into the controversy.

He said he did not relish the argument over his election and that it was his desire that the Anglican Communion would hold together.

But he told The Daily Telegraph that the Church had to modernise its views on morality or face “odd” situations such as the Prince’s relationship with his companion Camilla Parker Bowles.

He argued that the two were cohabiting rather than marrying because the rules of the Church of England stopped divorcees remarrying in church.

In fact, the Church of England relaxed its absolute prohibition last year, but drew up guidelines which could prevent them being granted a church wedding.

Bishop-elect Robinson, who will be consecrated Bishop of New Hampshire today, said that the Church had been willing to change its understanding of the Bible over the centuries, and it should do so now over sexuality.

“We’ve reinterpreted passages about slavery and the role of women,” he said. “We’ve gone against, absolutely against, the word of Jesus in revising our regard for divorced people who want to remarry.”

“We have this very odd situation in Britain with the heir to the throne cohabiting with a woman without the benefit of marriage because the Church over which Charles is going to be head when he becomes king still does not allow remarriage in church.”

“In this country, we decided it was wrong to deny people Communion at a time when they need it most.”

He said that the Church’s traditional interpretation of homosexuality was based on passages that do not address the possibility of committed relationships.

“Sodom and Gomorrah is about homosexual rape. St Paul is talking about idolators,” he said. “What we’re talking about is faithful, monogamous, lifelong-intentioned relationships between people of the same sex.”

“I maintain that Scripture simply does not address that issue. I’m not saying that Scripture is explicitly for it. But I don’t believe they address that topic.”

While distressed by the approaching schism, Bishop-elect Robinson said he was not responsible if other parts of the 70 million-strong worldwide Church decided to

distance themselves from him and from the American Episcopal Church. Conservative primates, led by Archbishop Peter Akinola, the Primate of Nigeria, have said

they will refuse to recognise the Episcopal Church following the consecration, threatening to plunge the Church into chaos.

"It's very difficult for me to understand how New Hampshire having its own bishop who happens to be gay affects the day-to-day life in a church in Nigeria," said

Bishop-elect Robinson. "I'm sorry this puts Rowan Williams in such a difficult position," he added, referring to the dilemma of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is

struggling to keep the worldwide Church united. "I think he's done a good job getting everyone to talk and hold the Communion together."

Despite the controversy, Bishop-elect Robinson has retained staunch support in New Hampshire where people have known his ministry for decades.

"Gene is a man of character, great spirituality and depth,' said New Hampshire's retiring bishop, Douglas Theuner. "He has the ability to deal effectively with people

and he has demonstrated that in the life of this diocese for 28 years."

More than 6,000 people are expected to attend tomorrow's consecration, when Bishop-elect Robinson will be flanked by his ex-wife, his two daughters and his

boyfriend, Mark Andrews.

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