Episcopal Church’s First Openly Gay Bishop Receiving Treatment for Alcoholism
“I am writing to you from an alcohol treatment center where on Feb. 1, with the encouragement and support of my partner, daughters and colleagues, I checked myself in to deal with my increasing dependence on alcohol,” Robinson wrote in an e-mail to clergy on Monday that was released Tuesday by the Diocese of New Hampshire.
Robinson’s assistant, the Rev. Tim Rich, said Tuesday there was no crisis that led to Robinson’s decision to seek treatment but rather a growing awareness of his problem.
In his letter, Robinson said he had been dealing with alcoholism for years and had considered it “as a failure of will or discipline on my part, rather than a disease over which my particular body simply has no control, except to stop drinking altogether.”
Rich said the news surprised him and many other clergy.
“We did not see it in any way impact his ministry in the diocese,” Rich said.
The Rev. David Jones, rector of Robinson’s home church, St. Paul’s in Concord, said he had never seen any sign that Robinson had a problem with alcohol.
Robinson was elected bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 and confirmed by the national church, causing an upheaval not only in the Episcopal Church, but the worldwide Anglican Communion of which it is part.
He will spend four weeks in rehabilitation. Spokesman Mike Barwell said the diocese would not disclose the location.
In the Episcopal Church system, such matters are handled within the diocese. Between sessions of the diocesan convention, the “standing committee,” an elected panel of priests and lay parishioners, normally decides supervision of the diocese during a bishop’s absence and other questions regarding his administration. The national church gets involved only in rare cases of formal charges involving misconduct.
The diocese’s standing committee said its members support Robinson “and we commend him for his courageous example to us all, as we pray daily for him and for his ministry among us.”
In addition to touching off protests and struggles for control and property in the Episcopal and other Anglican churches, Robinson has found himself a celebrity.
At New York’s gay pride parade last spring, marchers and spectators crowded around him for more than three hours, reaching out to touch his hand, crying and thanking him.
“It sounds soap-operaish to say, but I’m the son of a tobacco sharecropper who didn’t live in a house with running water until I was 10 years old. I can’t believe I’m here, you know. So I find it very difficult to be anything but grateful,” he told The Associated Press in an interview later last year.
Feb. 14, 2006