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Bishop Robinson to Retire

Timothy Kincaid

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.

Comments

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Ray
November 7th, 2010 | LINK

A better headline:

“God’s Gentle People force gay bishop in retirement amid death threats”

The Bishop has to wear body armor and employ body guards. But my local paper used essentially the same headline as you are using, Timothy. Maybe it’s me, but the more compelling story about Gene Robinson is that he has to have bodyguards and armor.

Today in my local paper in Palm Spring in addition to the above story (it’s Pride Weekend so “gay” is the word in the Sunday paper):

#1:(Picture identified as “transvestite”) Argentina Celebrates Marriage Rights.

Nope. No picture of married people and, of course, the the picture looked like drag queens but I don’t think the Associated Press can tell the difference.

#2: Gay Porn Industry resumes after AIDS scare.

A story that you report on, Tim, and the AP muddled/blurred the understanding of whom they were referring to when they mentioned that the “mulit-billion dollar porn industy” was ramping up after an AIDS scare. Surely people understand that if there is a gay porn industry, it is a trivial dollar earner compared to the straight porn industry, right? I don’t think so and the AP deliberately muddled the distinction.

#3. Marine chief wants DADT rules to remain in effect

Citing a long list of “horrors” the Commandant of the Marines is throwing a hissy fit about the “cloud of uncertainty” over troops having to bunk together.

However, the newspaper strangely neglected to publish yesterdays story in which Secretary Gates called on congress to repeal DADT during the lame duck session.

#4. The executive editor (Rick Green) wrote about the three buddies he talks with at the gym, where they talk politics and, among other thing, decide what to do about “gay marriage.” It was not clear whether his three friends were real or if he was “imagineering” them like a Disney movie to illustrate how diverse his casual friendships are. He called them “Lefty”, (a liberal), Righty (a conservative) and “Slim” (a liberatarian).

In a town that is at *least* 25% gay (the tourist bureau says 40%), you’d think Rick Green would have at least ONE of the group of four as a gym pals and that, gee, the question comes to mind: “Is this how straight people decide the faith of gay equality, while standing around in a gym waiting their turn at the bench press?”

pax58
November 7th, 2010 | LINK

Bishop Robison has represented TEC and the gay community very well over the few years. He has given a face to the GLBT community that are people of faith. I can’t imagine living everday knowing that some nut could gun you down at any minute. He will have completed ten years as bishop when he retires and I think he deserves some peace. TEC has continued on an open path to the GLBT community, paid a deep price for doing so (legal suites from ex-congregations over property and bully from the Archbishop of Canterbury). I cam proud of TEC and Bishop Robison. He will go down as one who opened the way for greater acceptance for all of us.

Soren456
November 7th, 2010 | LINK

Despite having left the church (PECUSA), I’ve felt proud of the elements within it that can (among other positive behaviors) elect and consecrate gay bishops. It is a very strange feeling to hold.

I had no idea of the extent of the strain on Bp. Robinson. Bulletproof vests? Bodyguards? I sputter.

I can watch and discuss religion, but I want nothing to do with it.

AdrianT
November 7th, 2010 | LINK

I think it will be seen as a victory to GAFCON, and Lambeth Palace will feel some kind of relief.

Everett
November 7th, 2010 | LINK

I’m sorry to hear Bishop Robinson will be retiring. I think he has spoken very movingly about gay and lesbian people in relation to spirituality and Christianity. I hope he will continue to do so after he retires. I do not think there is a better person out there, with such a high profile, who can bring the message of inclusiveness to Christian churches.

Frijondi
November 7th, 2010 | LINK

He will be missed. Can’t find a link to confirm this, but I remember hearing that during his consecration, there was an armored car nearby ready to whisk him to an undisclosed location in case of an assassination attempt, bomb scare, or similar. According to what I heard, there were three bishops (the number required to consecrate another bishop) on stand-by at said location. The plan was to complete the ceremony no matter what; once the Church decided to consecrate Gene Robinson, it was not going to allow anti-gay thugs to interfere with its self-governance. (If anyone can confirm this story, I’d be quite interested.) In the videos of the ceremony, you can see all the bishops present (not just the required three) gathering around Robinson very closely; I have no doubt all of them realized they were potentially putting themselves in front of a bullet.

Because the Church stuck to its guns, so to speak, and Bp. Robinson was willing to endure those seven years of constant stress, remarkable things have been happening. Grace Cathedral in San Francisco installed its new Dean, Jane Shaw, last night; she is both the first woman and the first openly gay person to hold this position. But the most heartening thing about this is that her being gay doesn’t seem to have been an issue one way or the other. People have been talking about her qualifications, and how happy they are to have found an outstanding replacement for Alan Jones, who was admired and loved by many.

The service was well-attended; I also noticed quite a few young people in the crowd. Most parishes in the diocese seemed to be represented by at least one member of the clergy. The clergy present were almost evenly divided between men and women, and fairly diverse in age and ethnicity. The choir was in good voice, the sermon contained a couple of good jokes, and there was a long round of applause for the new Dean at the end.

I had some time to kill beforehand, so I took a long walk down Sacramento Street. Tucked away near Divisadero, (just after that gay bar with the banana trees out front), there’s one of those little schismatic 1928 Prayer Book chapels. I’d noticed it before, but had forgotten about it.

These are the people who split off in the seventies over the ordination of women; nowadays, they advertise themselves more as the No Gay Priests brand. They build aesthetically pleasing but tiny churches. This one was, I noticed, not just small, but also an exceptionally narrow building. I like pointy gothic architecture as much as the next person, but this seemed emblematic, somehow. The place also looked strangely lifeless. Not just not in use at the moment, and therefore locked, but absolutely and completely sterile. I’m biased, of course, but it really was striking.

Back at the cathedral, the Church continued to go about its business.

Soren456
November 8th, 2010 | LINK

@Frijondi:

Lovely post, great observations. Thanks.

Richard W. Fitch
November 8th, 2010 | LINK

God has had his hand on the life of this man. Vicky Gene Robinson was not expected to see his first birthday. When he steps down in Jan 2013 he will be approaching his 66th.

swampfox
November 8th, 2010 | LINK

He may be retiring but his influence will remain.

e2c
November 8th, 2010 | LINK

I wish him well!

But in the body of your text… I feel it might be fairer (and more accurate) to say that he was/is the 1st openly gay bishop in TEC.

The Anglican Communion has a substantial number of gay clergy… the dotty vicar and the gay vicar (though not openly so) are staples of a number of mid-late 20th century English novels. (Anglo-Catholics tend to be the most satirized.)

Mihangel apYrs
November 9th, 2010 | LINK

over the decades I have known (gay) CoE priests of all cuts, from the intellectual and learned, to the sex crazed, to the evangelising. The ones who were honest (and exceptionally able) never rose beyond jobbing priest, despite outstanding ability; the dissemblers did.

Anthony Venn-Brown
November 13th, 2010 | LINK

there is always a price to pay on the front lines/fault line of change. Any time someone says its time for me to rest…..i understand. Gene has left an enormous legacy…..things will never be the same again.

thank you Gene.

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