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Episcopal Bishop in Conn. Suspends Priest

July 13, 2005

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut Episcopal Bishop Andrew Smith on Wednesday suspended one of six priests accused of refusing to recognize his authority in the wake of Smith’s support for the denomination’s first openly gay bishop.

The six priests asked to be supervised by someone else after Smith announced his support for the 2003 consecration of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson. Smith on Wednesday used his power to ``inhibit″ the Rev. Mark Hansen, and appointed another priest to lead St. John’s Church in Bristol.

The inhibition prevents Hansen from leading any congregation in Connecticut for six months. If the situation is not resolved by then, Smith can officially remove Hansen from his pulpit.

Smith recently learned Hansen had sent a letter to the parish indicating he was leaving the church and would help the congregation find another priest, said Karin Hamilton, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Connecticut.

Hansen did not notify Smith of his plans, she said, adding that Smith does not intend to take immediate action against the other five priests.

``The bishop doesn’t really know where Mark is,″ Hamilton said. ``The bishop, for what he believed was the long-term well-being of the parish, decided to act today.″

A retired priest from Massachusetts had been conducting Sunday services, but there was no one with religious training to deal with the congregation’s day-to-day needs, Hamilton said.

The Rev. Susan J. McCone, an assistant priest at St. John’s Church in Washington, Conn., has been appointed to lead the congregation. Parishioners will be invited to a meeting Sunday night to discuss the situation.

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