Skip to comments.Eye of the storm [Gay Bishop Alert]
Posted on 08/14/2008 5:39:17 PM PDT by kaehurowing
Eye of the storm
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
By his very existence, the Reverend Gene Robinson the openly gay Anglican bishop of New Hampshire is an agent for change in his church, and society at large. He spoke with Peter Hackney.
He is friendly, mild-mannered and avuncular.
He doesnt seem like someone whod tear an entire church apart.
Yet Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the history of the Anglican Church, has been accused of doing just that.
So controversial is he that at the recent Lambeth Conference, the decennial conference of Anglican bishops from across the globe, more than 200 of the 800 invited bishops refused to attend. They didnt boycott the event because Gene Robinson was invited he wasnt.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the Anglican Church, didnt invite him.
They shunned Lambeth because some of the bishops who consecrated Robinson would be there. Apparently, it was bad enough to even be in close proximity to Robinsons supporters.
But the worlds first openly gay Anglican bishop (indeed, the first in all of mainstream Christendom) wont let recalcitrant reverends curb his lifes work.
Despite the lack of a welcome mat at Lambeth, Robinson fronted up anyway.
I took a vow, as did all bishops, to participate in the councils of my church to the best of my abilities, he tells SX by phone from Canterbury, shortly after Lambeths conclusion.
And thats what I came here to do.
So, while the ecclesiastical talkfest was underway, Robinson could be found on the margins in Canterbury, holding discussion forums of his own, preaching a message of inclusiveness for queer people in the Anglican church.
I shifted my focus from being a part of the conference to other work, around LGBT issues instead, he says. And Im not happy about that. I mean, Im not unhappy working around those issues, but I dont like being cast into the role of a single issue person.
For, like all gay people (and indeed all heterosexuals) there is much more to Gene Robinson than his sexuality. His recent book, In the Eye of the Storm: Swept to the Centre by God, is the work of a man concerned with social justice generally. His ministry seems especially concerned with those traditionally on the margins of his church: women, young people, prisoners, and yes gay and lesbian people too.
Yet the world at large has reduced his life to the glib tag of the gay bishop.
But Robinson has come to an understanding: Ive made peace with the fact that this just happens to be an accident of history. In earlier times, an openly gay man could not have been a bishop. In the future, I believe, there will be many openly gay bishops. So rather than bemoaning my lot, I just want to be a good steward of this opportunity, at this juncture in history.
First and foremost, that stewardship involves reaching out to gay and lesbian people who have been damaged by the church, and inviting them back into the fold.
Gay people have been abused, really, by the church, and just mindlessly suggesting that they go back is like telling an abused spouse to go back to her husband, he contends. But what I say is that God and the church arent the same thing. The church has gotten this and many other things wrong. God hasnt gotten it wrong.
Moreover, the church that you left may not be the church thats there now. There has been a lot of change. It doesnt mean that every church is safe, but there are enough safe places that gay and lesbian people can find a place that will really welcome them.
A case in point is Robinsons own experience in the Diocese of New Hampshire.
Robinson, who was ordained a priest in 1973, came out in the mid 1980s, after his first marriage ended. (He is still close friends with ex-wife Isabella Boo McDaniel, and has two daughters with her.)
In 1987, he met his male partner, Mark Andrew, while holidaying on the Caribbean island of St Croix; they moved in together eighteen months later.
In 2003, Robinson was elected Bishop of New Hampshire, and in June this year Robinson and Andrew tied the knot in a civil ceremony, followed by a religious ceremony at a church within the diocese.
The one place where I am not the gay bishop is in my own diocese, Robinson reports. I tell people that if you want to see what the church is going to be like when we finish obsessing about sex, come to New Hampshire. There Im just the bishop. I spend ninety per cent of my time in the diocese doing the things that a bishop does, and my sexuality is rarely mentioned. [Its only] when I leave the diocese that I become this other thing.
He becomes this other thing because, at this point, New Hampshire is still an aberration. More typical of the Anglican Communion is the Diocese of Sydney, which is not so affirming of gay people.
The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, was one of the bishops who refused to attend Lambeth this year. Instead, Jensen attended an alternative event in Jerusalem called the Global Anglican Future Conference.
SX was unable to arrange an audience with Jensen, however his senior media advisor, Russell Powell, agreed to relay several questions to the archbishop, which were answered by email.
Asked why he did not attend Lambeth this year, Jensen replied: The reasons for not attending Lambeth involved matters of conscience and pastoral concern, matters which the Archbishop of Canterbury said he fully understood and appreciated. In a sense, the attendance or non-attendance of Gene Robinson was beside the point. The problem was the attendance of those who had consecrated him.
He added: The consecration of an actively homosexual bishop was a presenting issue, but the reasons for the current crisis go much deeper The fabric of the communion has been torn by the actions of the North American church.
Tellingly, Jensen did not reply to the question: Do you believe that gay and lesbian people have any place in the Anglican Church and if so, can you describe what that place might be?
For his part, Robinson says: It is ironic that the Sydney Diocese, taking in one of the great gay cities of the world, is also among the most bigoted.
While the Diocese of Sydney is not atypical, it would be a mistake to see Robinson as a pigeon among the cats to invert a cliché whenever he steps outside his New Hampshire safety zone.
Influential figures within the church, such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, the former Archbishop of Cape Town, strongly support Robinson. Tutu even penned the foreword in Robinsons book.
Apartheid, crassly racist, sought to penalise people for something about which they could do nothing, he wrote. I could not stand by while people were being penalised again for something about which they could do nothing their sexual orientation Gene Robinson is a wonderful person and I am proud to belong to the same church as he.
Robinson also enjoys powerful support in the wider community. While the Archbishop of Canterbury has only acceded to one meeting with him and then under such secrecy that he was told the venue at the last possible moment Robinson has already had three one-on-one meetings with US presidential candidate Barack Obama, the man many believe will be the next President of the United States.
What people like Obama and Tutu realise, says Robinson, is that far from being dependent on texts from thousands of years ago for Gods word, the human relationship with God is a living, breathing, ever-evolving one.
The beauty of Anglicanism is that we are not a church that believes God stopped revealing himself at the end of the first century, when the canon of scripture was closed, Robinson says.
God did not reveal everything about himself with the end of the life of Jesus, but promised that the Holy Spirit would lead us all into the truth.
I believe thats what happened with slavery, and the churchs treatment of people of colour, and its happening with the treatment of women, and now its happening again with sexual minorities.
For a long time, weve had a church thats believed you cant put gay and Christian in the same sentence. I believe those days are coming to an end.
He is friendly, mild-mannered and avuncular.
He doesnt seem like someone whod tear an entire church apart.
The same could have been said about Ted Bundy or Danny Rolling. They also liked to tear things apart.
“... I spend ninety per cent of my time in the diocese doing the things that a bishop does,”
It’s the other 10% you don’t want to know about!
I knew of a very good and contributing man who must have been gay, but he had a good wife, a happy son, and a good life. I like to think he did the right, brave, and difficult thing.
Homosexuality will always be with us. It's a part of being human, and indulged it leads or certainly contributes to emasculated vision and dying civilizations. Judeo-Christianity tells us how to deal with it: reject it with dignity and disgression in how we treat each other, a two-way street.
Today you risk legal prosecution if you choose to discriminate against someone in your private or business life for being openly homosexual. Both presidential candidates have indicated embrace of that. So if you want to kick the openly gay troop leader out of your kids' club for being the wrong guy in the wrong place, you're WRONGO, and can't do it.
Each person has a rightful dignity of making personal choices as he or she sees fit, and facing the consequences as are. If that means being discreet and respectful about your sexual perversions in order to get along, that's the way it is. There is no government purview here, short of enforcing standard laws against violence. People should have the full support of the clergy in civic decisions to exclude openly homosexual people, businesses or causes in their business and private choices.
Whaddaya think o' them apples? ;^)
“I made a vow.” Sure you did: “to love, honor and cherish, till death do you part.” You chose not to honor your wedding vow. To keep your vow, you would have had to exercize self-control instead of undulging lust.
Are you 99% honest, like certain lustful politicians who shamelessly betray their wives with other women?
Do you think betraying your wife with another man makes it OK?
Coo coo cachoo, Mr. Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know. You would have loved His love, but forgiveness is on the far side of repentance, so as long as you cling to your lust you reject the Lord.
Anne Boleyn would have been a surprise choice to destroy a church and plunge a realm into chaos.
GAG!! What does it matter what man thinks, Mr. Rob. It’s what GOD thinks and He thinks homosexuality is sin and an abomination to Him. But keep going, and on judgement day I hope you’re wearing your flame suit. Repent and come out of her...
I think the use of the phrase "by his very existence" in this context is an attempt by the author of this piece to make what he/she is pleased to consider an intellectually "cute" little dig at the G-d Almighty.
Yes, you ARE the Gay Bishop.
I live in New Hampshire, and I have not been in an Episcopal church in 5 years.
You and your ilk stole my church! I cannot no longer enter the church I have attented since my birth!
YOU, GENE ROBINSON, HAVE ROBBED ME OF MY SPIRITUAL HOME, JUST SO YOU CAN SIN! DAMN YOU!!!
Agent of change? Egads... sounds like spiritual warfare to me. Prayers up for my Anglican cousins in Christ.
I was personally wondering if linking to that footage of “friendly, avuncular” Germans circa 1940 would invoke Godwin’s law.