Church's Anti-Gay Stance Must Break God's Heart, Says Bishop; "Repent!" A Heckler Interrupts Bishop Gene Robinson's Sermon at St Mary's Church in Putney

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Byline: DANNY BRIERLEY

THE Church of England's only openly gay bishop threatened to overshadowthe start of the Lambeth Conference this week.

American Gene Robinson criticised the Anglican hierarchy in a sermon yesterdayat St Mary's church in Putney after being frozen out of the highly influentialconference.

However, in an act of open defiance, he may still turn up at the event inCanterbury.

The clergyman, who is bishop of New Hampshire, told the congregation in Putneythat "it must break God's heart" to see the Church so obsessed over a debate ongay ministers at a time when the world was gripped by fear.

He said: "I do not think there is a more often repeated phrase in all scripturethan 'be not afraid'. How sad that the Church, who has the answer to fear,should be so locked in its grip." Seconds into his sermon Bishop Robinson wasinterrupted by a heckler wearing motorbike leathers who repeatedly shouted"repent" and called him a heretic. The man was eventually persuaded to leaveafter a round of slow clapping drowned his objections.

Today the bishop said he had not been afraid but had felt sadness for the"darkness" in the man's heart. He said: "I was really overcome and got quitetearful afterwards with sadness for this young man. He clearly felt verystrongly about what he believed.

"I thought there is this place in his heart that has been filled up with allthis darkness and it could be filled with love. …