Robinson affirms path to bishopric

by Vivian Chung | 10/23/03 5:00am

"Short of God making known to me that I should not move forward, I intend to be consecrated on November the 2nd," Reverend V. Gene Robinson said yesterday at Rollins Chapel. Robinson is set to become the world's first openly gay bishop and has been in the international media spotlight for the last three months.

Despite the volume of media attention he has been receiving due to his sexual orientation, he says that he is "not just a gay bishop, but a great bishop." He said he would settle for just being a good bishop.

Robinson said he can't wait for November 3, when he is going to be an "old news story," and will "get back to doing what the people of New Hampshire called me to do."

He said he also believes that while his case is historic, it is attracting more attention then it deserves. Robinson said this is because it's "about the end of patriarchy." In the last 40 to 50 years, people of color have come into their own, women have come into their own, and this means that "straight white males aren't going to rule the world anymore."

While Robinson says that it has often been tiresome to deal with so much attention from the media, he decided early on that he would put up with all the talk about being gay. "It's not my greatest interest frankly," but "as long as there's a camera," he can put in a good word for God.

Robinson spoke about the emails and letters he receives each day from people who tell him how important his story has been to them. He said he feels "the weight of those letters" deeply.

Robinson spoke about his life and his journey from childhood to today. He grew up in Kentucky, and his parents were "very religious."

At 12, he was baptized, and by the time he reached high school, he had asked his religious leaders "pretty embarrassing questions" only hear in response that "there are some things you shouldn't ask." Robinson said that while he believes some questions may not have answers, there is nothing you shouldn't ask.

Robinson discussed the attitudes towards homosexuality 30 to 40 years ago, when he was growing up, explaining how nobody would label himself or herself as gay because there was "no good to come out of it."

"The only good homosexuals back then, were those who committed suicide," he said. Robinson explained this led to him pretending to be something he wasn't. It led to "self isolation and self alienation." He said he tried to find help through a therapist and prayers.

He later met a woman who he married and with whom he had two children. Before they married, Robinson explained to her his past feelings for other men. The two of them decided they could face whatever challenges the future posed.

Thirteen years later, Robinson said, "we realized I couldn't sit on who I really was much longer." That was "one of the most healing" events of his life, said Robinson. They went back to church to end their marriage, and to this day, the two continue to be friends.Robinson said he believes keeping secrets is one thing that makes a family dysfunctional. He informed both his two daughters at an early age about his sexual orientation.

Seventeen years later, the bishop of New Hampshire went out on a limb and hired a gay man to be his assistant, Robinson said. He described it as a "big risk in hiring" for that time period.

He had thought his role in the church would be over, due to his separation and coming out as a gay man. Robinson explained that "my integrity was worth that risk."

After the separation, he said that he learned that "if you've got your integrity, and you've got God, then it's just enough."

About 10 years ago, Robinson believes that God called to him to become a bishop. Since then, Robinson has been involved in five election processes before getting nominated. Most of the time, when he made it to the final round, the dioceses would tell him how they "couldn't bear the kind of controversy this is going to bring down on our heads."

Robinson ended his speech with a story from World War I. During the war, a priest was approached for permission by some soldiers to bury their dead comrade. The priest said they could bury their friend just outside the graveyard, because the soldiers were not sure whether their comrade had been baptized or not.

After the war, the soldiers returned to the graveyard to visit the grave, but could not locate it. When they asked the priest what happened, the priest had thought about it and moved the fence outwards to include their friend's grave.

Robinson said he believes that if the ministry intends to follow in Jesus' footsteps, then they also need to be "moving the fence, to include all of God's children."

A question and answer session followed Robinson's speech. One member of the audience asked about what the Bible said about homosexuality. Robinson replied that he didn't believe that the Bible addresses what "we are addressing today," which are faithful monogamous same-sex relationships.