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New Episcopal diocese bishop vows he'll never ordain gays

North Florida's new Episcopal bishop told church members Friday he will never ordain anyone "in an active homosexual relationship _ or any other sexual relationship outside marriage" _ and will never bless same-sex unions.

Bishop John Howard spoke to delegates at the 161st annual convention of the Diocese of Florida, which covers the state from Gainesville north.

However, the convention voted Friday not to consider a measure that could have seen the diocese join a group opposed to the national Episcopal church's sanctioning the ordination of a gay New Hampshire bishop, V. Gene Robinson, last fall. The Network of the Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes characterizes its new group as a "church within a church."

"As bishop of this diocese, I will support and lift up the institution of marriage," Howard told the 500 delegates and clergy representing the 35,000-member diocese, the nation's fastest-growing.

"And as long as I am bishop of this diocese, no one in an active homosexual relationship _ or any other sexual relationship outside marriage _ will be ordained or admitted into the process of ordination. Nor will I approve of any rite for the blessing of same-sex unions."

The convention approved a resolution allowing local churches to decide individually whether to send money to the national Episcopal organization.

Thomas Mantz, executive director of the Episcopal Foundation, said no one publicly expressed an opinion at the convention in favor of the ordination of gay clergy.