Divisions in the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican community over homosexual clergy were emphasised at the weekend when church members in New Hampshire in the United States elected an openly gay man to be their next bishop.
New Hampshire Episcopalians - the name taken by Anglicans in America - chose the Rev Gene Robinson in Concord on Saturday. Beating three other contenders, he becomes the first openly gay man to be elected as bishop in the Anglican Church worldwide.
Mr Robinson must be confirmed by a general convention of Episcopalians in Minnesota next month He pleaded with supporters to show tolerance for those distressed by his sexuality, and said he intended to "show the world how to be a Christian community", adding: "I plan to be a good bishop, not a gay bishop."
At the election were his two adult daughters His marriage broke up in the Eighties when he admitted his sexuality. The bishop-elect now lives with his male partner, who works for the state of New Hampshire.
There is no precedent for the election, although a former Episcopalian bishop in Utah admitted he was gay in a letter to church leaders written in 1993 after his retirement.
There are 2.9 million Episcopalians in the United States, in a world community of 79 million, including members of the Church of England. Last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, expressed dismay that a bishop in western Canada had allowed his clergy to bless gay unions.
The Rev David Jones, rector of St Paul's in Concord, said he was delighted with the result, and agreed the Bible taught against homosexuality. "The Spirit works through that man, so who am I to say God's not supposed to do that," he said.