PETERBOROUGH, N.H. — The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson began his ministry Sunday as the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop by saying he wanted to bring the message of God's love to "those on the margins."
He also said the church should speak out on issues of social justice, including the lack of access to health care for many Americans.
"How dare we in this country spend $87 billion on war when 44 million people have no health insurance?" he said in his sermon. "It's up to the church to lead on some of these moral issues."
After the service at All Saints Church, Robinson said he hoped that people who disagreed with his confirmation would remain within the Episcopal Church, instead of breaking away.
"A church founded on unhappiness and anger is not going to go very far," he said.
New Hampshire's Episcopalians elected Robinson as bishop in June, and his selection was approved at the convention of the Episcopal Church, USA in August. However, his consecration a week ago has threatened to divide the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism.
On Nov. 3, overseas bishops who said they represented 50 million of the world's 77 million Anglicans jointly announced that they were in a "state of impaired communion" with the Episcopal Church -- a step short of declaring a full schism.
In addition, conservatives within the U.S. church have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual head of the Anglican Church, to authorize a separate Anglican province for them in North America.
Elsewhere in the New Hampshire, about half the members of the Episcopal parish in Rochester walked out of Sunday services to protest the dismissal of their interim minister, who opposed Robinson's appointment.
Bishop Douglas E. Theuner of the Diocese of New Hampshire removed the Rev. Donald Wilson on Friday for insubordination when Wilson refused to come to Concord to meet with Theuner on the matter. Robinson will automatically succeed Theuner when the bishop retires next year.
Lisa Ball, a member of the group that left, says the protest has nothing to do with homophobia, and "it has nothing to do with gay bashing."
Theuner "decided to take our priest away from us and didn't even ask us," Ball said.
David Tyler, the junior warden of the church and one of those who remained inside, said the parish "has a disagreement. We are trying to work this out."
The American Anglican Council, a national conservative group opposed to Robinson's elevation, called on Theuner to restore Wilson.
"Bishop Theuner's actions represent an act of war against a small church of 100," the council's president, Canon David Anderson, said in the statement.