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A twist of faith: McGreevey as future priest?

NEWARK, N.J. - Jim McGreevey, the nation's first openly gay governor, has become an Episcopalian and wants to be a priest in that faith, a newspaper has reported.

NEWARK, N.J. - Jim McGreevey, the nation's first openly gay governor, has become an Episcopalian and wants to be a priest in that faith, a newspaper has reported.

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

McGreevey has entered the church's "discernment" phase, which usually precedes any seminary work, Bean said in an article posted yesterday on the Newark Star-Ledger's 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."

St. Bartholomew's spokesman Bob Johnson confirmed that McGreevey had been received into the faith, a step for those already baptized and confirmed in another Christian denomination. Johnson declined, however, to say whether McGreevey was considering the priesthood.

The Associated Press could not reach McGreevey for comment.

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

In the fall, McGreevey will enter the master of divinity program at the General Theological Seminary in New York, the oldest seminary in the Episcopal Church, school spokesman Bruce Parker said yesterday.

"Where Mr. McGreevey goes with this is up to him," Parker said. "We have a lot of people studying here who are not interested in ordination at all."

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

Religion has become an issue is his contentious divorce. 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.

On The Oprah Winfrey Show last year, McGreevey recounted looking up homosexual in a dictionary when he was a boy. When he read terms such as perverse and psychiatric disorder in the definition, he realized he didn't want to be that and quickly learned to repress his feelings, he said.

In his 2006 book, The Confession, McGreevey wrote that he had resorted to anonymous homosexual trysts at highway rest stops as he wrestled with desires frowned on by his faith and family.

The issue of gay clergy has divided 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. 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.