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Robinson investigation to proceed
Conservative group says bishop-elect deserves fair treatment

By David Skidmore
8/4/2003
[Episcopal News Service] 

The head of the American Anglican Council is giving the bishop coadjutor-elect of New Hampshire the benefit of the doubt, as investigations proceed into claims by a Vermont man that Canon Gene Robinson acted inappropriately toward him at a province meeting several years ago and reports that an organization connected to Robinson published pornographic images on its Web site.

On Sunday night, David Lewis of Manchester, Vt., sent an e-mail to a number of bishops, including Vermont’s Bishop Thomas Ely, with his complaints regarding Robinson, stating that at a Province I convocation several years ago Robinson “put his hands on me inappropriately every time I engaged him in conversation.” 

Lewis, who lectures and writes theatrical reviews for the Manchester Journal, urged the bishops to deny consent to Robinson’s election as bishop coadjutor of New Hampshire, alleging Robinson “does not maintain appropriate boundaries with men.”

In statements read on the floors of both houses Monday, New Hampshire’s Bishop Douglas Theuner and Standing Committee President the Rev. Randy Dales said they had “full confidence in the Presiding Bishop’s commitment  to fully investigate these matters” and expressed “continued confidence” in their bishop-elect. In remarks to a reporter after the bishop’s session this afternoon, Theuner said he had not been aware of Lewis’ allegations before Sunday’s e-mail letter.

Bishop Gordon Scruton of Western Massachusetts has been appointed by the Presiding Bishop to lead the investigation. Scruton, who met with the presiding bishop and Vermont’s Bishop Ely after the House of Bishop’s afternoon session, was not available to speak with reporters.

Robinson deserves chance to clear matter, conservatives say

Stating his organization had no connection with Lewis or the complaint, AAC President the Rev. David Anderson said he would not “wish that letter on anybody,” given people’s tendency to believe an allegation even if proven unfounded.

“I don’t want to see Gene elected,” admitted Anderson “but he deserves a chance to defend himself and be heard and get the truth out.” If the charges are proven false, “then he deserves his chance to have an honest, fair vote on the house floor.”

The impact of the allegations on confirmation could work both ways, said Anderson. Those with “lingering doubts” might vote against concurrence, while others might vote for Robinson “out of sympathy.”

Anderson said he learned of the Lewis allegation around 9 a.m. Monday when an AAC-affiliated bishop shared the e-mail sent to various bishops by Lewis. “It left me speechless,” said Anderson.

On the Web site issue — disclosed by a reporter at the Monday morning news briefing — Anderson said he and other AAC officials discovered the link to pornographic images while visiting the site of the Concord, N.H., branch of Seacoast Outright, an organization supporting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth.

On the site they discovered a link to a site called bisexuality.com and there found a window with pornographic images.

A check of the Outright.org site for its New Hampshire branches found no such links Monday afternoon.

Anderson said they were also concerned about the Outright site’s mission statement — which in part states its purpose is to “create safe, positive, and affirming environments for young gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, and questioning people ages 22 and under.”

Said Anderson: “It raised some questions in our mind about how appropriate it was for a church leader to be advocating [this organization]."

Web site charge debunked

In a statement released late Monday, Cathy Kidman, interim director of the Portland branch of Outright, said they had removed a link from their site to allthingsbi.com because that organization’s site had a link to an adult-content Web site. Thanking the media for alerting them to the situation, Kidman said, “We do not believe the link in question is appropriate on our Web site for the population we serve.”

Kidman stressed that Robinson was not involved “at any time” in the Portland Outright organization or its Web site. “This is clearly an attempt to discredit his important nomination,” said Kidman.

In a separate statement, Mim Eastron, executive director of the parent organization — Seacoast Outright — said Robinson, to the best of their knowledge, had not been involved with the Concord Outright organization for some time. Robinson had helped found the Concord branch, said Eastron, but has not been active for a number of years.

Eastron said a link to an adult-content Web site had been discovered on the Concord branch’s site and had been removed. “The adult site is not something that we consider appropriate for any youth,” said Eastron.

Episcopal News Service writer Richelle Thompson and Convention Daily writer Mary Frances Schjonberg contributed to this report.