Bishop Robinson to Retire
November 7th, 2010
There are few people whose lives have a global impact. Gene Robinson is one of them.
In 2003, when the Episcopal Church elevated Robinson, an openly gay man, to Bishop of New Hampshire, a shift in global religion, politics and power occurred.
While other factors had been leading to such a change for a long time, Robinson became a symbol, a rallying point, for those who were unhappy with the influence that England had over Christendom and the related political power she wielded.
The Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion, the largest body of Christians outside the Roman Catholic Church. And while the Episcopal Church in the US is smaller and perhaps a bit elite, the Anglican faith dominates vast portions of Africa and is the voice of Christianity in many nations.
As the Church of England – and her Western sisters – have become increasingly liberal and increasingly the faith of modern industrious secular nations, ideological differences were bound to build in third world nations where there is a different perspective on life. And as there are far far more Anglicans in Africa than in The West, the deference given to the Church of England and the West became galling to local religious leaders.
Robinson’s appointment became a point of contention and an ultimatum arose. Either punish the Episcopal Church for daring to raise a gay man to Bishop, or the Global South (Africa and Asia) would be in schism.
Much negotiation and positioning has gone on since that time. The Episcopal Church has been slapped down (but refused to back down), a “solution” that appeased no one and resolved nothing. And while the current fragile relationship of the Anglican Communion is one of uncertainty, it seems to me that a break-up of the communion is inevitable.
This shift has also empowered African politicians to take up anti-gay causes, knowing that this is – within the church – an item of pride of identity and a symbol not only of African independence but African superiority.
And during all of this, Robinson has been a figure of international scorn and one of the most hated men on the planet. it hasn’t been easy. And now he has decided to retire. (Guardian)
The Rt Rev Gene Robinson, of New Hampshire, revealed his plans yesterday, at an annual diocesan meeting. He will be 65 when he steps down, seven years below the retirement age.
He told the convention that being in the eye of the storm had proved too much. He said: “Death threats, and the now-worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as bishop, have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark, who has faithfully stood with me every minute of the last seven years, and in some ways, you.
“While I believe that these attitudes, mostly outside the diocese, have not distracted me from my service to you, I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that they have certainly added a burden and certain anxiety to my episcopate.”
However, this will not be much of a point of celebration for any Anglicans or a symbol of conservative victory. In May of this year, lesbian Mary Glasspool was consecrated bishop in Los Angeles. The Episcopal Church is not walking away from its gay members and the division will continue.
I wish Robinson well.