CHICAGO (Reuters) - Leaders of the U.S. Episcopal Church were told once and for all on Monday that the gay man they elevated to bishop will not be allowed to attend a top, once-a-decade worldwide Anglican church meeting this summer.
"It feels as if, instead of leaving the 99 sheep in search of the one, my chief pastor and shepherd, the Archbishop of Canterbury (Rowan Williams), has cut me out of the herd," said Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, after receiving the definitive word that he will be excluded from the Anglican Communion's Lambeth Conference in England.
It was the U.S. church's consecration of Robinson in 2003 as the first bishop known to be in an openly gay relationship in more than four centuries of Anglican church history that jolted the 77 million-member global church, already divided over biblical interpretation, the ordination of women and the blessing of same-sex unions.
Robinson's exclusion from the Lambeth Conference had previously been announced. But the 2.4 million-member Episcopal Church, Anglicanism's U.S. branch, had been negotiating the issue, hoping to change the situation.
Word that no change would be possible came from the Episcopal Church House of Bishops meeting in Texas.
Robinson said he had been offered instead a chance to appear for media interviews at an exhibition that accompanies the Lambeth Conference.
"One workshop on one afternoon and being interviewed by the secular press was not anything I was seeking. I wasn't going to Lambeth to have another interview with the secular press. If interviewed at all, I want to talk with a theologian. I want to talk about the love of Christ. I want to talk about the God who saved me and redeemed me and continues to live in my life," he said.
Robinson said he would nonetheless attend the meeting as an outside observer.
A team of bishops assigned to negotiate the issue with the Archbishop of Canterbury's office told the meeting it had been informed that a full invitation was not possible; that a retreat planned during the meeting in July at Canterbury Cathedral was closed to uninvited guests and media; and that there was no room for an "observer" at the Lambeth sessions.
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)