First gay Episcopal bishop hopes conservative split from church will be averted

The Associated Press, Aug. 6,2003

MINNEAPOLIS — The Rev. V. Gene Robinson said Wednesday that he hopes his confirmation as the first openly gay Episcopal bishop will not divide the church, but added that his harshest critics would “come to know that they are wrong in this life or the next one.”

Robinson said in an interview a day after his confirmation that he was more hurt by friends in the church who did not support him than by opponents who said approving him would shatter the denomination.

Having lived openly as a gay man for 17 years, Robinson said he was accustomed to hearing condemnations of homosexuality.

“Nobody is going to say something to me that I haven’t heard before,” he said.

But he said he was pained by fellow Episcopalians who told him they respected and loved him but would vote to reject him as bishop of New Hampshire at this week’s Episcopal General Convention.

Robinson said he learned on a Web posting that one friend would oppose him. “It really pierced my heart. I was really undefended against it,” he said.

Robinson’s election was ratified Tuesday after several days of intense debate. Conservatives called his election “a pastoral emergency” and called on Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to intervene.

The Episcopal Church, with 2.3 million members, is the U.S. branch of the 77 million-member global Anglican Communion, which Williams leads.

American conservatives and like-minded overseas bishops say confirming Robinson has forced them to consider breaking away from the denomination.

But Robinson argued his election would strengthen the church.

After Tuesday night’s vote, Robinson attended a gathering of gay Episcopalians where some were in tears, saying their gay children had called to tell them they would now return to the church, he said.

“I was blown away for what this meant to those who were gathered there,” Robinson said.

On the threat of a conservative walkout, Robinson said the church would not be better off without his opponents. He said he valued the diversity within Anglicanism and hoped that they would also.

“I think they’re wrong about this,” Robinson said, of their view that gay sex violates Scripture. “I think they’ll come to know that they are wrong in this life or the next one.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday August 7, 2003.
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