Queens Episcopalians support homosexual bishop

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Leaders of several Queens Episcopal churches said Tuesday that they supported the decision of bishops at the recent national Episcopal General Convention to confirm Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the nation’s first openly gay bishop.

“I think it’s a grace-filled moment for the church,” said Charles McCarron, the priest in charge of the Church of Resurrection at 85-01 118th St. in Richmond Hill. “It was an opportunity for the church to have inclusion, and I was very proud of how our church handled itself in the debates.”

McCarron, who attended the nine-day, triennial Episcopalian convention in Minneapolis that ended last week, said Episcopalians had debated the issue openly and honestly and had come to differing conclusions, with 64 bishops voting to approve Robinson, and about 40 voting against approval.

“There was a lot of open, honest struggle with the issue,” said McCarron. “I think it’s a good thing. In the past, we have managed to hold together within the church many different points of view. This is so far another example of that.”

Robinson, a divorced father of two, returned to his home in Concord, N.H. Sunday, where he lives with Mark Andrew, who has been his gay partner for over 13 years. After his approval by the Episcopal General Convention, he will serve as the bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire.

McCarron said he supports the confirmation of Robinson, and hopes that it will help gays and lesbians feel welcome within the Episcopalian community.

“Here in Richmond Hill and Kew Gardens there are large gay and lesbian populations,” said McCarron. “I would hope this will help create a sense of welcome to our congregati­ons.”

Brother Thomas Carey SSF, the assistant priest at the Redeemer Episcopal Church at 30-14 Crescent St. in Astoria, said that according to Christian theology, all sins require free will. Being gay is an inclination that most homosexuals believe they are born with, said Carey, so it cannot be a sin.

“In terms of whether or not his being gay would affect his being a good or bad pastor, it would have no more effect than his having light or dark hair,” said Carey.

Carey pointed out that in 1974, the Episcopalian church struggled over a decision to ordain 10 women as priests in Philadelphia. The decision was shocking at first, but was eventually accepted by the mainstream Episcopalian society, he said.

“At that time, people said it was totally against the tradition of the church and the Bible to have women in positions of clergy,” said Father Tom Reese, the leader of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church at 85 Greenway South in Forest Hills. “Both sides cited scripture passages.”

Reese said the strength of the Episcopalian church was that it had a “live and learn” attitude that tended to calm things down.

“The next few months will be a tenuous time, but the atmosphere in the Episcopalian church is much more ‘Let’s see how we can make our way through this’ rather than anybody taking their marbles and going home,” said Reese.

Reese said Episcopalian leaders began talks about what the place of gay people in the church is in 1976, after women were accepted as clergy. One of the first things that was decided is that a person is baptized Christian, and being male, female, straight or gay is not an issue that affects their Christianity.

Rubbing elbows with diverse people on a daily people helps to create acceptance and understanding, said Reese.

“Queens is demographically the most diverse piece of land in the U.S.,” said Reese. “As a result, I think it translates into more open views about issues of sexuality.”

Reese said he plans on hosting a forum at his church on Aug. 24 at 10:30 a.m. to address what was said at the national Episcopalian convention and where the church is headed in the future.

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

Updated 7:24 pm, October 10, 2011
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