N.H. Reverend to Become 1st Gay Bishop

CONCORD, N.H. – Before the Episcopal Church confirmed the Rev. V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, a fellow priest gave him a page of calligraphy.

“Sometimes God calms the storm,” it read, “and sometimes God lets the storm rage and calms his child.”

The Church and Homosexuality
If Scripture is to be circumvented in the matter of homosexuality and not disqualify one who seeks the office of bishop, what about divorce? The newly approved bishop, V. Gene Robinson left his wife and two children to take up with a man.

In what is regarded by most Christians as the job description for high church office, Paul the Apostle wrote to his young protege Timothy that an ”overseer” (or minister) must be ”above reproach, the husband of one wife,” and ”must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.” Paul then asks an important question: ”If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:2-5)

Members of the Episcopal Church are being asked to accept a bishop who is not qualified for the office (nor even for the priestly one he holds). Does the Episcopal leadership (and the leadership of the parent Anglican Church) want to send the message that the Bible says only what some people want it to say? Some of Robinson’s supporters call him a ”holy man.” What could that possibly mean since ”all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23)?

People who regard Scripture as having passed from God to man error-free have warned for years what happens when these texts are treated as something less than accurate. Once compromises are made, all things become not only possible but probable.
Source: Is gay bishop a fit religious leader?

Robinson, who will be consecrated as the denomination’s first openly gay bishop on Sunday, has come back to that saying frequently. In the past few months, sudden celebrity has made him a lightning rod for angry conservatives and a beacon for gays and lesbians.

“There are days, even now, I say: ‘Good Lord, what have I done,'” he said in a recent interview. Staying calm and prayerful is the key to surviving the turmoil surrounding his elevation to bishop, he said.

Leaders of the Anglican Communion called an emergency meeting last month and warned that their international association would be in jeopardy if Robinson was consecrated. Conservatives in the United States have moved toward a break with the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism, over the issue.

While Robinson said he recognizes the pain his election has caused some people, he believes God is calling him to be bishop.

After 17 years working in the diocese, Robinson’s sexual orientation and his 14-year relationship with partner Mark Andrew drew little attention from most clergy and parishioners in New Hampshire.

But when the state’s Episcopalians elected him bishop in June, the decision was met with objections from Anglicans worldwide. The protests grew stronger when the church’s General Convention, its national legislative body, ratified the decision in August.

Since then, Robinson said he has received 30 to 50 e-mails a day and hundreds of letters. One postcard of a beautiful stained-glass window addressed him as, “you fornicating, lecherous pig.”

Taking that kind of anger in stride is not always easy, and Robinson – who now travels with bodyguards – said the note wasn’t the worst of his hate mail. “I’m not afraid,” he said. “I’m not naive either.”

A heavier burden comes from gays and lesbians who say they are counting on him to break barriers, he said.

“You get a letter … from some small town in Georgia and this person pours out their heart to you. They’re a closeted person … and they tell you what this means for them symbolically, and for the church, and it’s just astounding,” he said.

Robinson can relate to those feelings of isolation. Aware as a boy that he was not attracted to girls, he spent two years in therapy as a young adult seeking a “cure” for his homosexual urgings.

He told his girlfriend about his sexual struggles, but they married anyway, moved to New Hampshire and had two daughters. Robinson eventually realized he would not change and the two divorced.

“The hardest thing is coming out to yourself,” Robinson said in an interview this summer.

Robinson said his primary goal these days is to be a good bishop for New Hampshire, following the example of the church’s first female bishop, the now-retired Barbara Harris of Massachusetts.

“She was consecrated the first woman bishop ever in Christendom. … She was this historic figure. And she has always kept that in perspective and always kept the role of bishop … as the primary role. And I really want to do that.

“I’m not shying away from this other role that’s been thrust on me because I happen to be first. And God willing, very soon, there will be others of us in the House of Bishops – gay and lesbian folk.”

Robinson said he first sensed a calling to the role of bishop 10 years ago. “It starts out like an itch in your heart,” he said. “So you pray about it a lot. You think about it, roll it over in your mind.”

Committees evaluated him as a potential candidate, but rejected him. “They felt I should be nominated but they were afraid of all the controversy,” he said.

Over time, the climate changed. He narrowly missed being elected bishop in Newark, N.J., in 1998 and in Rochester, N.Y., in 1999.

Throughout, Robinson said he has tried to discern God’s will, going on retreat as recently as this week and meeting with a spiritual adviser. “It’s not easy and you can’t do it alone – I think that’s the most important thing. Because it’s too easy to trick yourself into thinking that it’s God’s voice when it’s actually only your ego,” he said.

In the end, Robinson said, he hopes the denomination will live up to the greeting on banners that traditionally hang from its buildings: “The Episcopal Church welcomes you.”

“We better start acting like we mean it,” he said.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Associated Press, USA
Oct. 31, 0023
Anne Saunders

Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday November 1, 2003.
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