The man at the center of the controversy had no interest in pursuing the issue.

MANCHESTER, Vt. (AP) – The man who accused the Rev. V. Gene Robinson of inappropriately touching him during an Episcopal church meeting regrets using the word “harassment” in his e-mail, according to a church report released Tuesday.

David Lewis described how Robinson had touched him on the arm and back twice in conversation, which made him uncomfortable, according to a report by a bishop who looked into Lewis’ complaint.

Robinson was formally elected bishop of New Hampshire late Tuesday, making him the first openly gay man to hold such a post.

Lewis said he was thankful the church took his request seriously, but he had no desire to pursue a formal, written complaint, said the report by Bishop Gordon Scruton, who conducted the investigation.

“(Scruton) asked him whether he wanted to bring a formal charge of harassment,” the report said. “He said very clearly, no. He regretted having used the word ‘harassment’ in his e-mail.”

In an e-mail Sunday to the bishop of Vermont, Lewis wrote that Robinson “put his hands on me inappropriately every time I engaged him in conversation” at a church event in 1999.

The allegation was made public in Minneapolis on Monday as delegates to the Episcopal Church’s General Convention met to vote on whether Robinson should be confirmed as the next bishop of New Hampshire. The allegations delayed voting until Tuesday.

Robinson drew intense opposition from conservatives, who said they would consider breaking away from the church if he was confirmed.

A Lewis family friend said Tuesday at a news conference outside of the Zion Episcopal Church in Manchester that Lewis never meant for the e-mail to go public.

The allegation “was meant to be privately conveyed to the governing body of the Episcopal Church and was not an issue to be debated in the secular press,” said Lou Midura.

Midura is senior warden at the Zion Episcopal Church, where he said Lewis and his family have been parishioners for 12 years.

His wife is administrator of the church, which has about 400 members.

“I know him to be a man of strong faith, integrity, thoughtfulness and intelligence,” Midura said of Lewis. “I know him to be a devoted member of this parish, the Episcopal church and the community at large.

He is active in the ministries of Zion as a lay Eucharistic minister, chalice bearer, teacher, and occasional member of the choir.”

Lewis declined to speak with reporters Monday night after giving a lecture at the church. No one answered the door at his home Tuesday.

The allegations of improper touching stem from a meeting in November of 1999, according to the report.

Lewis and Robinson had two exchanges, both of them initiated by Lewis, the report said.

In the first, Robinson placed his left hand on Lewis’ arm and his right on Lewis’ upper back. This was in full view of the public, and Lewis acknowledged that many who saw it would not have judged it inappropriate. He said Robinson answered his question and didn’t say anything offensive.

In the second exchange, Robinson placed his hands on Lewis’ forearm and back and responded to a comment Lewis made with a comment of his own.

Lewis said the exchanges made him feel that Robinson “presumed a far greater familiarity or intimacy than was the case” between the two men.

According to the report, Lewis said he was surprised that the House of Deputies gave consent to Robinson, and he wanted to tell someone about his experience late Sunday night. The final decision on Robinson’s nomination was made by the House of Bishops.

Lewis said he wrote the e-mail because he was feeling upset and didn’t want his concerns to be ignored. He thought the church would close ranks and not listen to him.

A second allegation revealed at the convention, apparently unrelated, was that the Web site of a gay youth outreach group that Robinson helped found years ago had Internet links to “hard core pornography.” Spokesmen for the group said Robinson has not been involved with it since about 1998.

AP-ES-08-05-03 2057EDT



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