Gene Robinson Isn't Retiring Quietly — But No One Thought He Would

Bishop Gene Robinson delivers a message of acceptance in a new documentary, a book, and via a job with a Washington think tank — and he takes on Paul Ryan's budget as "immoral."

BY Trudy Ring

October 22 2012 5:00 AM ET

Robinson is consecrated as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire on November 2, 2003.

 

The situation overseas is much different, with great hostility to LGBT people from Anglican and other religious leaders in certain countries. “We’re dealing with a much more complex set of issues internationally,” says Robinson, noting that some nations still have laws criminalizing homosexuality. He thinks, however, that acceptance of gay people will increase as they assist these nations in addressing poverty and other problems. “We know that knowing someone gay or lesbian makes all the difference,” he says.

He hopes the film and the book will empower audiences to speak out for equality. “I think the message of the film is that each one of us can make a difference in the fight around LGBT equality,” he says. The movie features many people who have supported him, including his husband, Mark Andrew, and Robinson’s parents and daughters (he was married to a woman for several years before coming out as gay). It also documents the Episcopal Church’s internal battle over full inclusion of gays, with both advocates and opponents getting time on camera.

With his book, which counters religious and other arguments against equal marriage rights, Robinson says, “in many ways I’m trying to give a script to those who are supportive of marriage equality — ways to win someone over, especially in an election year.” Not only are there four states voting on marriage-related measures, there are presidential candidates with starkly different views on the issue, and Robinson is outspoken about his preference.

“I’ve been quite public about my support of Barack Obama,” he says, noting that he gave the invocation that opened the president’s inaugural events in 2009. He supports Obama because of other issues in addition to LGBT rights, he adds. For instance, Congressman Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate, has proposed a federal budget that would cut deeply into programs that aid the poor. “There’s not any word to describe it but immoral,” says Robinson.

What about the arguments made by some conservatives that biblical morality, or morality in general, mandates individual charity, not government spending? “That would be a fine attitude to take if it were true,” Robinson says. The Bible’s call to assist the needy, he says, makes clear that this is a societal responsibility. “I find it hard to believe that one could read Scripture and come away with the idea that it applies only to private charitable giving.”

His concern about a broad range of social matters will be reflected in his work for the Center for American Progress. Podesta, he says, “wanted to bring a moral voice to the issues of the day.”

As Robinson looks ahead to this effort, he does look back with a sense of accomplishment on his tenure as New Hampshire’s bishop. “My greatest satisfaction comes from leading a healthy and holy diocese,” he says. “We have been devoting ourselves to preaching the good news and making the church relevant in the 21st century.”

 

Love Free or Die, directed by Macky Alston, will be shown at 10 p.m. Eastern/Pacific on PBS stations as part of theIndependent Lens series; check local listings.God Believes in Love (Alfred A. Knopf, $24) is available in bookstores now.

Tags: Religion

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