HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The openly gay bishop, whose election spurred a schism in the Episcopal Church that has played out in Connecticut and elsewhere, said the scope of the rift has been exaggerated in the media.
Gene Robinson, bishop of New Hampshire, said there are a small minority of parishes at odds with the national church's liberal stance on homosexuality.
The parishes are "seeking to get themselves recognized as the true expression of Anglicanism in this country and not inconsequentially get the Episcopal Church - I don't know what the word is - unrecognized as that legitimate expression. And I think they are using more conservative churches around the globe to support that claim," he said.
Robinson, leader of a 15,000-member diocese, was in Hartford Monday to speak at a luncheon attended local church leaders.
"In a world facing 40 million people dying of AIDS and an increasing gap between rich and poor, this seems like a waste of our time and energy, debating the rightness and wrongness of gay and lesbian people and their relationships," he said.
Six conservative parishes in Connecticut had sued Connecticut Bishop Andrew Smith in 2005 seeking several million dollars in damages. They say he violated their civil and property rights after they tried to break away from his authority because he supported the election of Robinson. A federal judge dismissed the case last year and the parishes are appealing. Some parishes in Virginia have align themselves with the Anglican Church of Nigeria.
Robinson, 59, said he received 500 to 600 e-mails a day, both angry and supportive, after he was elected Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.
"The thing that has sustained me through all this is God has seemed so very close that prayer has seemed almost redundant. Sometimes God calms the storm and sometimes God lets the storm rage, and calms the child."
The current division over homosexuality in the church is not much different from an earlier split over ordaining women priests, he said.
"I think it breaks God's heart that we would be focusing on such an internal issue, instead of focusing upon the world which, as I understand it, Jesus called us to," Robinson said.
Robinson said after his stop in Hartford he was headed to the Sundance Film Festival, where a documentary, featuring his story and those of four other gay families, titled "For the Bible Tells Me So," has been nominated for a grand jury prize.
Copyright 2007 by the Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.