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Groups express support for Robinson
Bishop-elect accused of misconduct

By David Skidmore
8/4/2003
[Episcopal News Service]  Leaders of two prominent Episcopal gay advocacy organizations are expressing support for the Rev. Gene Robinson after allegations of misconduct surfaced Monday.

In an impromptu press conference Monday afternoon, the Rev. Michael Hopkins, president of Integrity, the advocacy group for Episcopal gays and lesbians, said he had “absolute confidence” in the Rev. Gene Robinson as New Hampshire’s bishop coadjutor-elect and in the church’s process for investigating charges of sexual misconduct. Asked whether Robinson should step down as bishop-elect until he is cleared by the investigation, Hopkins responded, “Absolutely not.”

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold appointed Bishop Gorton Scruton of Western Massachusetts to investigate allegations that Robinson has “inappropriately touched” a man from the Diocese of Vermont during a provincial meeting some years ago.

Scruton will also investigate an allegation that Robinson is affiliated with a Web site — Outright.org — that offers links to pornographic sites. According to convention officials, these allegations appear unfounded.

Under the church’s Title IV disciplinary canons, the victim's “credibility is assumed as soon as an allegation is made,” said Hopkins. “That is how we do things because we take these things seriously.”

Hopkins said he was not angry about the allegations but found them “frustrating, disappointing.” Asked whether he thought the misconduct allegations might have been engineered to coincide with the convention’s vote on consent, Hopkins said it seemed unlikely since such allegations set off  “automatic processes at all levels.”

He admitted the timing seemed suspicious, but given what he knows of the experience of sexual misconduct victims, “it is not infrequent that victims don’t come forward until the last minute.”

The Rev. Susan Russell, director of the Claiming the Blessing organization, said she had full confidence in the Diocese of New Hampshire’s search process for bishop. Given the “rigors” of the process, any charges or anomalies would have surfaced well ahead of his selection as a finalist for bishop, she said.

“By all reports, they did an exemplary job of background checking and following up on all their candidates,” she said. The Claiming the Blessing group supports development of rites for committed lifelong relationships and the ongoing reconciliation conversations between conservative and progressive wings of the church.