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The nation’s first openly gay governor has become an Episcopalian and been accepted into a seminary, according to a published report.

Former Gov. James E. McGreevey, who was raised as a Roman Catholic, was officially received into the Episcopal religion on Sunday at St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York, said the Rev. Kevin Bean, vicar at the church.

McGreevey has entered the church’s “discernment” phase, which usually precedes seminary work, Bean told The Star-Ledger of Newark in a report posted Wednesday on its Web site.

It’s unclear whether McGreevey hopes to become a priest. He did not return several messages left Wednesday by The Associated Press.

McGreevey, 49, shocked the nation in August 2004 by proclaiming himself “a gay American” who had an extramarital affair with a male aide, and said 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 in the Episcopal Church, school spokesman Bruce Parker said Wednesday.

“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 was 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.

Religion has become an issue in 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.

The Episcopal Church does not require its priests to be celibate. The issue of gay clergy has exposed divides in the worldwide Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church in the United States. Anglican leaders this year 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 All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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