Church Splits Apart Over Gay Bishop

ROCHESTER, N.H. -- Hymns were sung from two parts of town Sunday after a church split apart over the election of the first openly gay bishop to head an Episcopal diocese.

Bishop V. Gene Robinson assumed leadership of the Diocese of New Hampshire last year, shocking many conservative Episcopalians and Anglicans worldwide.

Since then, many members of the Church of the Redeemer threatened to leave the congregation unless Robinson relinquished authority over the church in Rochester, about 30 miles east of Concord. Thirty-six members voted to leave; three voted to stay.

In response, nearby Grace Baptist Church invited Episcopalians fleeing from Redeemer to attend a joint service. At the same time, Redeemer held services for a few remaining members, who were joined by dozens of supporters from other Episcopal churches and by Robinson and his partner, Mark Andrew.

Parishioners on both sides described the day as a new beginning.

"Today, your resurrection begins," preached the Rev. Tim Rich at Redeemer. "You begin a new journey in the Holy Spirit."

Robinson did not speak at the service but said he was touched that so many attended. He had offered to let parishioners at Redeemer work with a bishop and a priest who share their view that homosexuality is a sin, as long as church members meet with him every three years, as church law requires.

Most members declined and plan to launch a church outside the control of Robinson's diocese.

* LOS ANGELES -- A woman was attacked by a mountain lion while hiking Saturday in central California but was rescued when her friends stabbed the animal with a knife and threw rocks at it, officials said. Shannon Parker, 27, of Santa Monica, lost her right eye, was injured in her left eye and had deep lacerations to her right thigh.

* BARNESVILLE, Ga. -- Three people were killed in a helicopter crash south of Atlanta early Sunday, and two others died after another helicopter crashed in an Oklahoma river, authorities said. Three people survived the crash in Oklahoma's Cimarron River late Saturday and were hospitalized.

-- From News Services

A policeman views the shoes of a marcher in New York's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride March.