Gene Robinson

Our Person of the Year for 2003, V. Gene Robinson, the out Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, finally got the one meeting he’s been eager to schedule: face time in England with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the Anglican Communion. Robinson is mum about the details of their talk, but he sees progress in the direction of the church’s inclusion of gay men and lesbians.

BY Advocate.com Editors

December 05 2005 12:00 AM ET

The church took a small step in the direction of inclusion when you and Archbishop Williams had a private meeting. How do you think he’s handling the continuing controversy over your consecration as the church’s only out bishop? I think he’s in an almost impossible position. Here he is, the head of this worldwide communion, which is in this enormous conflict, not just religious but cultural and political. The other side is making this a “choose one or the other” [situation]. I keep saying this need not be a communion breaker. We can all be within the Anglican Communion and totally disagree about this issue without coming apart. The problem is, they are saying that that can’t be. So my heart goes out to Rowan Williams.

Why do you think the church can hold together despite such radical differences in opinion? We’ve been ordaining women here in America for 30 years. That didn’t drive us apart. The other side of it is, in all the basics of the faith, there is no mention of this issue. We’re not arguing over the divinity or the humanity of Christ; we’re not arguing over the Trinity; we’re not arguing over the Resurrection. This is one of those things that we’ve always disagreed about. You would find Anglicans all over the map with respect to abortion or stem cell research or Iraq, but we all go to the communion table together and receive the body and blood of Christ and find our unity there. And then we go back to the pews and argue about all those other things.

Still, some people have already left the church over this issue, and dioceses and parishes both in the States and abroad are threatening to secede. Do you think it will come to that? My great hope is that ultimately it won’t happen. Technically speaking, you can’t take a diocese out of the Episcopal Church. The bishops who object to all of this can leave, but there’s no mechanism for taking their dioceses with them. It sounded as if the dissolution would take place the day after my consecration—that’s been two years now. My prayer is that every day that goes by when we haven’t separated is another day closer to our staying together.

Is full inclusion of gays and lesbians worth the price of having some leave? Justice is always worth those kinds of risks. We faced those risks in the ’60s when we began to include people of color in the church, and lots of people left and took their money with them. And back then there were people still justifying separation of the races on Scripture. We experienced the same thing with women, and now we’ll experience the same thing with this issue. There’ll be people who are opposed and disillusioned and dismayed, and some of them will leave—but ultimately, if the church isn’t about justice, then what’s it about?

Gene Robinson, you said in London that the church will eventually fully include gay men and lesbians. Why are you so confident? It is the just thing, and God is always on the side of justice. So it’s a matter of time. Now, I also think that I won’t live to see the end of this in my lifetime. We’ve been dealing with racism and sexism for a long time, and they have hardly been vanquished. So it’s in that sense that we know what the right thing is, and we know that we are inexorably moving in that direction.

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