While some New Hampshire Episcopalians quit over gay bishop, others enlist

Posted: Friday, July 30, 2004

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) Though some Episcopal Church members in New Hampshire have quit because Bishop V. Gene Robinson is openly gay, his pioneering status has acted as a small but a powerful magnet to the church for others.

One of the newcomers, Martha McCabe of Bow, had quit Roman Catholicism over the clergy sex abuse scandals. Robinson's elevation ''was a very strong symbol to us of the inclusiveness of the Episcopal Church, and that is important'' to her and her husband, she said.

Maria Easton of Hillsboro was a church dropout who said she was drawn by Robinson's consecration. Her sister is lesbian, she said, and ''it was really a reminder of one of the things I like so much about the church: its inclusiveness.''

At Rochester's Church of the Redeemer, most members cut ties to the diocese and began worshipping at a nearby Baptist church, but a small group remained in the old congregation.

Among those who then joined them to show support for Robinson was April Pirsig of Dover, who had attended Unitarian churches for years.

''It makes me angry that people would leave the church over something like this,'' Pirsig said. ''It's the kind of attitude that goes back to the Civil War, when blacks weren't considered real people.''

No official figures on how many people have left the church in New Hampshire and how many have joined since Robinson started to lead the diocese earlier this year. He is the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop.

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