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Gay priest is Episcopal bishop candidate

April 30, 2012 at 8:15 PM

CONCORD, N.H., April 30 (UPI) -- A gay man is one of three priests nominated to succeed Diocese of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church.

The Rev. William W. Rich, a senior associate pastor at Trinity Church in Boston, is a married gay man nominated by a search committee to replace the retiring Robinson, The Boston Globe reported.

Rich and the other candidates -- the Rev. Penelope Maud Bridges, rector of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Great Falls, Va., and the Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld, rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Amherst, Mass. -- will visit New Hampshire this week. About 200 clergy and lay elected leaders will vote for the new bishop by secret ballot in Concord May 19.

The Rev. Adrian Robbins-Cole, president of the Standing Committee, a diocesan advisory board, said most delegates will view the nominees' sexuality as irrelevant.

"I think electors in New Hampshire are interested in getting the best bishop for New Hampshire," he said. "People are very parochial in the end.''

Robinson's selection in 2003 put the diocese, where about 4,100 people attend churches most Sundays, in the middle of a global controversy, the Globe said.

Liberals in the United States and abroad praised the decision, calling it a triumph for gay rights, while theological conservatives worried it could hurt links with the worldwide church.

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