three months after my election and consecration I would be
old news," says the Reverend V. Gene Robinson,
the Episcopal Church's New Hampshire
bishop--and the first openly gay person to hold such a
post in the worldwide Anglican Communion.
But four years
after his election, Robinson--and the issue of
homosexuality in the Anglican world--is more in the
news than ever. The new convocation headed by Peter
Akinola is just one development. By September 30,
Episcopal leaders have been asked by their colleagues
around the world to repudiate the blessing of same-sex
unions and to promise not to ordain more openly gay
controversy has taken its toll on Robinson: In February
2006 he spent a month in a Pennsylvania rehabilitation
center for treatment of alcoholism. He spoke to The
Advocate by phone from his home in Concord, N.H.
The Advocate: Are you tired of being the poster boy for this
whole discussion of gays in the church?
Robinson: [Laughs] It gets a little
tiring sometimes, but most of all it's been a
blessing. I love being the bishop of New Hampshire, and I
love having taken my place in the house of bishops.
I'm receiving so much support from so many
places in the United States and around the world that
the blessings far outweigh the burdens.
What has surprised you most since becoming bishop?
I guess how much I love being out in congregations.
It's what really keeps me grounded and sane
amid all the turmoil. It's such a privilege to
sit with a congregation that's really trying to
figure out how to live out the gospel in
today's world, to be with them in that process.
You seem so free of anger, unlike your opponents.
You're all praying to the same God. Why are
they hearing a different message?
You know, you'd have to ask them that. What I can
tell you is that every time I take this to God, I get
this amazing sense of calm. The message is
"Just keep putting one foot in front of the other,
and I'll show you the way." I know in my
heart that this is going to end up with the full
inclusion of all of God's children in God's
Have you noticed a greater gay and lesbian presence in
Absolutely. We have so many people coming back
to church that had left it because it fell so far
short of their vision for what the church ought to be.
Frankly, we are getting a lot of people from other
denominations--mostly, I would say, young
families--who are coming to us [saying],
"This is the kind of inclusive community we want to
raise our kids in."
It's been reported that you're planning to
enter into a civil union with your partner once
the new law in New Hampshire takes effect January
What is true is that Mark [Andrew,
Robinson's partner of 17 years] and I are
planning to take advantage of the new law. What is not true,
but I've seen reported, is that I've
said we want to be the first. We've never said
that. We are planning a service probably for next June.
Two ceremonies, actually--a religious one and a
civil one. Is that right?
I have been very vocal in the public debate about
separating civil rights from religious rites, saying
that religious people can set aside their particular
religious views about whether or not to bless such
unions and fight for full civil rights for all American
citizens. At the moment, our plan is to have the civil
ceremony presided over by a justice of the peace and
then move into the church for a religious service--a
Eucharist, a Holy Communion service--that will give
thanks to God for showing up in our relationship and
that will bless our union.
Is that the way to reach consensus on the issue of the
blessing of same-sex unions? To separate the civil
right from the religious rite?
Exactly. And frankly, I would say that most
clergy would like to disentangle those two processes
for heterosexual marriages as well. Every clergyperson
I know can tell you more than one horror story about people
who come to the church to be married and have no religious
belief or sensibility at all. They're just
there because it makes a beautiful backdrop for the