Former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey
Mike Derer  /  AP file
Former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, who resigned as governor more than two years ago, after saying he was gay, talks with reporters after a divorce hearing in Superior Court in Elizabeth, N.J., Friday, April 27, 2007.
updated 5/2/2007 5:48:45 PM ET 2007-05-02T21:48:45

James E. McGreevey, the nation's first openly gay governor, has become an Episcopalian and wants to become a priest in that faith, according to a published report.

The former governor, who was raised as a Roman Catholic, was officially received into the Episcopal religion on Sunday at St. Bartholomew's Church in Manhattan, said the Rev. Kevin Bean, vicar at St. Bartholomew.

McGreevey has entered the church's "discernment" phase that usually precedes any seminary work, Bean told The Star-Ledger of Newark in a report posted Wednesday on its Web site.

"This process that he's in right now, is not going to be some snap of the finger, overnight process. That will not happen. That's not how it works. He knows that," Bean said. "And so at the parish level, and at the diocesan level, everyone knows that this is a process that ... intentionally is deliberate. You don't enter into it unadviseably."

St. Bartholomew's spokesman Bob Johnson said he could confirm that McGreevey was received into the faith because the former governor's name was listed on a program for the service. The step is for those who have already been baptized and confirmed in another Christian denomination, but wish to become Espiscopals, he said.

However, Johnson declined to speak about whether McGreevey was considering the priesthood, since that involved an individual parishioner.

The Associated Press could not reach McGreevey for comment on Wednesday.

'A gay American'
McGreevey, 49, shocked the nation in August 2004 by proclaiming himself "a gay American" who had an extramarital affair with a male aide, and that he would resign that November. The aide denies having an affair and claims he was sexually harassed by the former governor.

McGreevey has been accepted to study at the General Theological Seminary in New York, the oldest of the Episcopal church, school spokesman Bruce Parker said Wednesday. Parker, however, did not know if the former governor wanted to become a priest.

"Mr. McGreevey has been admitted to the master of divinity program and he will be starting in the fall," Parker said. "Where Mr. McGreevey goes with this is up to him. We have a lot of people studying here who are not interested in ordination at all."

Growing up in Middlesex County, McGreevey served as an altar boy and attended Catholic schools. While in office, he continued to practice the religion, but differed from church teachings in several areas, including his support of abortion rights.

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Religion has become an issue is his contentious divorce proceedings. His estranged wife, Dina Matos McGreevey, has demanded that their 5-year-old daughter not be allowed to receive communion in the Episcopal Church because she is being raised a Roman Catholic.

In his appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" last year, McGreevey recounted going to the library as a boy to look up the word 'homosexual' in a dictionary. When he read terms like 'perverse' and 'psychiatric disorder' were in the definition, the Irish-Catholic said he realized he didn't want to be that, and he quickly learned to repress the feelings he knew the church and his community would abhor.

In his book published last year, "The Confession," the former governor said he resorted to anonymous homosexual trysts at highway rest stops as he wrestled with desires frowned on by his faith and his family.

The issue of gay clergy has exposed divides in the worldwide Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church in the United States. The Rev. V. Gene Robinson became the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop when elected four years ago to lead the church in New Hampshire. Earlier this year, Anglican leaders demanded the U.S. denomination step back from its support of gays or risk losing its full membership in the Anglican fellowship.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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