Dissidents Gather for Alternative Service

They couldn't prevent it, but Episcopal traditionalists opposed to the consecration of openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson (search) pledged Sunday to continue opposing it.

As Robinson was being consecrated at a ceremony in front of roughly 4,000 people nearby, about 400 opponents attended an alternative Communion at a borrowed church.

Despite protests and warnings worldwide, the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire (search) "arrogantly and unilaterally said 'We're going to do it anyway,'" the Rev. Kendall Harmon of South Carolina said in his sermon.

Assistant Bishop David Bena (search) of Albany, N.Y., also preached. "Hang tough. ... Stand for the spirit and biblical truth and values," he said.

The American Anglican Council, a network of churches and church officials moving to break with the denomination over Robinson's consecration, issued a statement calling the ceremony "a grievous day in the history of our church."

"Heresy has been held up as holy," the council said. "Blasphemy has been redefined as blessing.

"The arrogance of the leaders of the Diocese of New Hampshire and the Episcopal Church is nothing less than stunning."

The council said it would "work tirelessly to ensure that mainstream Anglicans in America have a safe place to call home. We seek a home free from harassment and persecution where the gospel can again be proclaimed unhindered."

The service was held at the Durham Evangelical Church. Some of that church's members were among 100 to 200 non-Episcopalians who held a candlelight prayer vigil outside during the service.

Those inside included Terry Harwood of Orford, a Marine who said he was just back from Afghanistan. His wife, Meredith, was among three people to formally object during Robinson's consecration during that ceremony.

"We're all sinners. It boils down to whether you fundamentally believe homosexuality is a sin or not. For me, it's a no-brainer," Terry Harwood said. "The only thing I can hold onto is the Bible and 2,000 years of teaching."

Conservatives feel that Scripture specifically prohibits gay sex, while others believe that committed, long-term gay relationships are not addressed in Scripture.

Robinson's name was not even mentioned until well into the service, and there were no personal condemnations of him.

Outside Robinson's consecration, more than 200 pro-gay demonstrators turned out, far outnumbering the roughly 25 anti-gay protesters. Police kept the two sides well apart.