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On the night before an open hearing about his election as the ninth Bishop of New Hampshire, the Rev. Canon Gene Robinson took his case directly to deputies of the Episcopal Church's General Convention.

"A Conversation With Gene Robinson," which competed with a Convention-sponsored event on global reconciliation, attracted fewer than 100 people to the Episcopal Church of Gethsemane.

Robinson was relaxed, talkative, and energetic. A public radio reporter had set up her recording gear near Gethsemane's pulpit, but Robinson was adamant about not taking the pulpit. "I don't want to be that far away from these people," he said, so the reporter moved to a nearby pew and Robinson stayed near her as he paced the aisle and answered questions for nearly two hours.

Robinson asked reporters to leave all questions to deputies, but he encouraged deputies to ask whatever tough questions they might have.

"Believe me, I have heard things you wouldn't dare say," he said. "Have at me."

Participants in the conversation mostly pitched him softballs, but his answers engaged many of the objections being expressed by conservative Episcopalians.

Robinson expressed frustration that some media accounts have said he left his wife, Isabella "Boo" McDaniel, for his male lover.

"Over a period of years, my wife and I came to believe that I needed to claim who I was as a gay man," Robinson said. "I didn't meet Mark [Andrew] until two months after my ex-wife remarried."

One of Robinson's two daughters attended the evening, and she distributed a statement from her mother in support of Robinson.

"It is my most sincere hope that my former husband, Gene Robinson, receives the Consent of the people of this General Convention," McDaniel wrote. "He is strong and smart. ...

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