Church's first openly gay bishop-elect is under 24-hour
protection by the FBI as his consecration as the bishop of
New Hampshire approaches. The Reverend V. Gene Robinson, who
will be consecrated next Sunday, told a conference for gay
priests in Manchester, England, this weekend that he has
received death threats from Christian fundamentalists and
that there are grave concerns for his safety.
Conference organizers said that the FBI advised the
bishop-elect to cancel his plans to speak in person at the
event because his safety could not be guaranteed, The
[London] Daily Telegraph reports. Addressing the
delegates via a satellite link from Concord, N.H., Robinson
said that the extra precautions are costing "unbelievable
amounts of money--money we don't have. The standing
committee of the diocese is taking this very seriously, as
is the bishop. We are doing what we need to do to keep me
safe so that I can try to keep making the witness that I am
trying to make."
Robinson said he is surprised by the volume of hate
mail he has received, including a postcard from England
describing him as a "fornicating lecherous pig." But the
negative messages have been easily outweighed by letters and
e-mails of support, he said. "There have been all kinds of
wonderful messages from around the world about what this
means to people, especially from those not in cities or
churches where it is safe to be who they are. The fact of
the matter is that I am neither the devil one side would
take me to be, nor the saint that others would have me to
be. I am trying to hold on to who I am, as a human being and
as a Christian on his own journey toward God."
Despite numerous calls by church conservatives for
him to step aside, Robinson said he is determined that his
consecration will proceed while acknowledging the dilemma
faced by the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who
has been grappling with a potentially major split in the
worldwide Anglican Communion over Robinson's election.
Williams was scheduled to attend the consecration but
reportedly has pulled out under pressure from conservatives.
"I have told him in a letter that I am praying for him and
that I am so very aware of the difficulties that he is in,"
Robinson said of Williams. "He is only doing what he said he
would do, which was to sacrifice his personal views and seek
to hold the church together while upholding the official
policy of the church." Robinson added that despite his
disagreements with many church leaders over homosexuality,
it should not mean that they have to split over the issue.