Gay pastor employs bodyguards after threats

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The Independent US

The Episcopalian pastor in the United States who is to become first openly gay man to serve as a bishop in the worldwide Anglican Church next Sunday is receiving round-the-clock protection from bodyguards because of fears that his life might be in danger.

"The only thing that will stop this happening is if I am not around any more," Canon Gene Robinson, who is to become the Episcopalian Bishop of New Hampshire, told The Independent in an interview published today. "We have to take that seriously."

Security concerns were one of the reasons Canon Robinson cancelled plans to attend a gay Christian conference to be held in Manchester over the weekend. But in an address to the British meeting via satellite from the United States, he said that the Church should try to "get over" its concerns with homosexuality.

"Pretty soon it is going to be time for us to get over all of this pain and difficulty and get on with the gospel," he said. "That is what God would have us do and that is what we need to do here in the diocese of New Hampshire."

The announcement of his consecration has provoked a worldwide debate, including an emergency meeting of 37 Anglican primates in London, after which Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said that he thought he should not accept the position.

But despite his critics, Canon Robinson has remained as steadfastly determined as he is undeterred. "If the Archbishop of Canterbury calls me, I am going to take his call," he said. "If he asks me to stand down, I will listen to what he has to say and think about it very seriously. But I don't think there is much that would change my mind."

Canon Robinson, who will be in retreat all this week to prepare for his consecration, said that he had received messages of support to counter the voices of his critics.

"There have been all kinds of wonderful messages from this country and around the world about what this means to them, especially from people not yet in cities or churches where it is safe to be who they are," he said.