Beliefnet
The Episcopal Church General Convention collapsed in chaos on Monday, after leaders learned that an openly gay priest who was a candidate for bishop faced a charge of sexual harassment and a connection with a youth website with a link to pornography.

Late Sunday night-less than 24 hours before the Rev. V. Gene Robinson was set to be confirmed as the denomination's first openly gay bishop--a man named David Lewis sent an email (read it) to Bishop Thomas Ely of Vermont, and asked Ely not to consent to Robinson's election. In the email, Lewis wrote that Robinson "does not maintain appropriate boundaries with men." Lewis wrote that he met Robinson at a church event ``a couple of years ago'' and ``he put his hands on me inappropriately every time I engaged him in conversation.''

Mike Barwell, a spokesman for Robinson, did not respond to requests for comment. Robinson, a 56-year-old divorced father of two, has been attending the convention with his daughter and partner of 13 years, Mark Andrew.

Hours before, a conservative Episcopal caucus had alerted church leaders that Robinson was affiliated with an organization whose website, www.outright.org, had links to pornography. Outright removed at least one link but has kept some controversial links on its site.

On Monday afternoon, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold announced he would delay the vote on Robinson's election as the Bishop of New Hampshire. Griswold said Robinson, with current New Hampshire Bishop Douglas Theuner and representatives of his diocese, decided together ``that a thorough investigation be undertaken before we proceed.''

Church members were shocked, even disoriented, by the chain of events. "It feels like there's a touch of evil in the air here," said Episcopal Church spokesman James Solheim.

Members of a conservative caucus, the American Anglican Council, said they were bewildered by the email and did not know David Lewis. "I have no idea who this person is," Bishop Daniel Herzog of Albany, a member of the AAC, told Beliefnet. "It certainly was something nobody expected. None of us."

Canon David Anderson, president of the AAC, said conservatives were aware of the pornography charges, however. "There were a lot of our folks checking out the website," he said. "It gained traction in a number of places. Then it was brought to the attention of the Presiding Bishop last night after supper, but they were already aware of it."

Diane Knippers, a member of the AAC and president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, said the email accusation "muddies the waters."

"From our point of view, we don't want him to be bishop whether he's guilty of sexual harassment or not," she told Beliefnet. "It's irrelevant to our basic concern. We still believe he is unsuitable to be a bishop. He's not a godly example because he is in an open partnership with another man. That's a violation of biblical teaching on human sexuality."

Church liberals, too, were stunned by the day's events. Robyn Cotton, an Episcopalian in Concord, N.H., and a supporter of Robinson, called the allegations ``preposterous.''

``This is horrible. It's character assassination,'' Cotton told the Associated Press.

In addition, the Associated Press reported:

[Seth Bongarth, a lawyer in Manchester, said he knew David Lewis ``fairly well'' and said he is married with two children and apparently training to become an Episcopal minister. State Rep. Judy Livingston said she also knew Lewis and his wife, and described him as ``very intelligent,'' adding: ``He is not the person who would made make wild accusations.''

[Theuner said in a statement that the church's investigation would also include scrutiny of separate concerns raised about Robinson's ``relationship to a Web site of outright.org,'' a secular outreach program for gay and bisexual youth that Robinson helped found.

[Bishops learned of the porn link claim from David Virtue, a conservative Anglican activist and writer who has been among the harshest critics of Robinson and of Episcopal gay activists. Virtue said a bishop whom he would not identify alerted him to the link.

[Outright issued a statement Monday saying the organization was not aware of the link and objected to it.

[Mo Baxley, a member of Concord, N.H., Outright's board of directors, said Robinson hasn't been involved with the group for several years and had no role in developing its Web page. The link is on an unaffiliated site that had resources for gay youth, Baxley said. That page provided resources for bisexuals that, a few links away, provided access to porn.

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