The Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, who has drawn both admiration and opposition because of his homosexuality, urged gays, lesbians, and transgendered people to return to the church. Bishop V. Gene Robinson delivered a sermon on Saturday at St. Paul's Cathedral in Burlington, Vt., as part of the gay pride celebration. Robinson told some 300 worshippers at the service that many churches have
become more accepting of gay men and lesbians. "You and I have spent a lot of time with folks that don't know a God," Robinson told the congregation, many of whom sported gay pride buttons, stickers,
and T-shirts worn earlier at a downtown parade. "You and I have to come out to our homosexual brothers and sisters as well about God."
Robinson blames the church for those who turned away from it. Religious traditions have told gays and lesbians that being who they are is a sin. Because the church is responsible for turning so many away, it is now responsible for bringing even more back to God, he said. "An awful lot of people left their churches for very good reasons," Robinson said earlier Saturday in an interview. "Not leaving would have been like staying with an abusive spouse. Some of the churches, including the Episcopal Church,
Opinion in the worldwide 77-million-member Anglican Communion, of which the American Episcopal Church is a part, was divided last year over Robinson's consecration as bishop. Many worried it would push members out of the church. Some Anglican congregations had threatened to break away, but the controversy seems to have abated. Robinson officially took over as bishop in March. Robinson said he has not seen throngs of churchgoers leave his parishes in New Hampshire; in fact, he said, the opposite has occurred. New members have joined the church, including gays, lesbians, former Catholics, and Episcopalians who had left the church. The politics in the Episcopal Church over accepting homosexuality have spread outside the church as well. Robinson said Republicans are using the issue of same-sex marriage to divert attention from the economy and the war in Iraq. Robinson said he supports marriage for same-sex couples but believes churches should get out of "the marriage business." Instead, he said, legal marriage should be a government function, and churches should bless marriages.