the first openly gay U.S. Episcopal bishop, was barred
from a once-a-decade Anglican meeting so he wouldn't become
a focus of the global event. Anglicans on all sides of
the issue agree: The strategy has backfired.
bishop Gene Robinson has been embraced by sympathetic
Anglicans in England and Scotland who view his exclusion as
an affront to their Christian beliefs.
several appearances on the outskirts of the Lambeth
Conference to be what he called a ''constant and friendly''
reminder of gays in the church.
''I'm just not
willing to let the bishops meet and pretend that we don't
exist,'' Robinson said, in an interview Sunday with the
Associated Press before preaching at St. Mary's Church
Putney. ''They've taken vows to serve all the people
in dioceses, not just certain ones.''
spiritual leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams,
did not include Robinson and a few other bishops in the
conference as he tried to prevent a split in the world
Anglican Communion. The 77 million-member
fellowship -- the third largest in the world behind Roman
Catholics and Orthodox Christians -- has been on the brink
of schism since Robinson was consecrated in 2003. The
Episcopal Church is the Anglican body in the United
Episcopal leaders had tried for years to negotiate a role
for the New Hampshire bishop at Lambeth but were
unsuccessful. He resolved to come to England anyway.
storming the pulpit to wrestle the microphone from the
archbishop,'' Robinson said. ''My agenda is this: What does
the church's treatment of gay and lesbian people say
about God? You've got all these people talking about
gays and lesbians being an abomination before God.
Does that make you want to run out and go to an Anglican
church and sing God's praises?''
Sunday at the 16th-century parish on the Thames River,
despite a request from Williams that he not do so. A
protester briefly interrupted the sermon, waving a
motorcycle helmet and yelling ''Repent!'' and
''Heretic!'' before he was escorted out.
Robinson resumed preaching, asking parishioners to ''pray
for that man'' and urging them repeatedly not to fear change
in the church.
On Monday night,
Robinson will join Sir Ian McKellen at a London literary
festival for the British premiere of For the Bible Tells
Me So, a documentary about gay Christians that
after the Lambeth Conference holds its opening worship in
Canterbury Cathedral, Robinson will join Anglican gays and
lesbians in a separate service nearby. He will then
sit in the public exhibition hall near the assembly
sessions to be available for conversation.
A group of
Episcopal bishops have organized two private receptions
where Anglicans from other parts of the world can meet
him. When the conference ends August 3, he heads to
Scotland where he has been invited to preach at
Robinson was a
target of death threats at his consecration and wore a
bulletproof vest throughout the ceremony. He said the
threats resumed a few months ago when he published a
book about his religious views. He has arranged
personal security in England but said he could not disclose
details. Donors are covering the cost for the extra
protection, he said. His partner of two decades, Mark
Andrew, is traveling with him but declined to be
Minns, a former Episcopal priest who now leads a breakaway
network of U.S. conservatives, said in a recent interview
that although organizers of the Lambeth Conference
intended to move the topic off Robinson, their plan
was bound to fail.
''He will end up
getting all the attention,'' Minns said.
Minns was also
barred from Lambeth. He was consecrated by the
conservative Anglican Church of Nigeria, which created the
U.S. parish network despite an Anglican tradition of
respecting the boundaries of other provinces.
theological conservatives, Robinson's consecration was the
final straw in a long-running debate over how
Anglicans should interpret Scripture. Last month in
Jeruasalem, traditionalists created a worldwide
network of conservatives to separate from liberal Anglicans
without fully breaking away from the communion. More
than 200 conservative bishops are boycotting Lambeth
because Episcopal leaders who consecrated Robinson
will be there.
Robinson said he
felt ''pretty devastated'' when he learned he would not
be allowed to participate in the conference, a key meeting
that affirms membership in the communion.
He said he was
also worried that he would flub his appearances in England
''I so want to be
a good steward of this opportunity. I want to do God
proud,'' he said. ''I have this wonderful opportunity to
bring hope to people who find the church a hopeless
place.'' (Rachel Zoll, AP)