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Anti-Gay Clerics Take Episcopal Bishop To Court


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Anti-Gay Clerics Take Episcopal Bishop To Court

by The Associated Press

Posted: July 28, 2005 5:00 pm ET

(Hartford, Connecticut) Nine Conservative Episcopal bishops said Thursday they will take Connecticut's bishop to religious court over the suspension of a priest and his threat to remove five others.

The conflict stems from Connecticut Bishop Andrew Smith's support for the Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the church's first openly gay bishop. Smith's 2003 appointment and the elevation of gay clergy have divided the U.S. Episcopal Church.

The priests, dubbed the "Connecticut Six," had asked to be supervised by a different bishop because they disagreed with Smith's support for Robinson.

Earlier this month, Smith used his power to "inhibit" one of the six, the Rev. Mark Hansen, and appointed another priest to lead St. John's Church in Bristol.

The inhibition prevents Hansen from leading any congregation in Connecticut for up to six months. If the situation is not resolved by then, Smith can remove Hansen from the priesthood. The other five priests have been under the threat of inhibition since April.

Diocese officials said Hansen was suspended because he took an unauthorized sabbatical and St. John's had stopped making payments on a loan for its building. Hansen maintains he notified Smith about his plans.

In a letter to Smith dated Wednesday, the bishops, most from the South and Midwest, said they have determined to intervene in the case of St. John's and are prepared to do the same if the five other priests are inhibited.

"We would prefer to find some way other than this deepening battle, but we refuse to allow this recent aggression to go unchecked or unchallenged," they wrote.

The bishops said they are preparing a "presentment," a formal charge filed in ecclesiastical court, charging Smith with "conduct unbecoming" a bishop.

They also plan to raise money for any civil suits the six may file or face, provide care to St. John's and other parishes, and license Hansen for functions in their dioceses.

Messages seeking comment were left with spokeswomen for the Diocese of Connecticut and for the six priests.

©Associated Press 2005

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