Friday, July 27, 2007

Bishop Gene Robinson Interviewed

Andrew Collier, a freelance journalist based in Scotland, interviewed Bishop Gene Robinson in London, and Ruth Gledhill of the Times has the full transcript on her blog. It is worth reading.

Here are some highlights. First, on gays in the Church of England:

'I think the thing that is the most mystifying to me and the most troubling about the Church of England is its refusal to be honest about just how many gay clergy it has – many of them partnered and many of them living in rectories. I have met so many gay partnered clergy here and it is so troubling to hear them tell me that their bishop comes to their house for dinner, knows fully about their relationship, is wonderfully supportive but has also said if this ever becomes public then I’m your worst enemy. It’s a terrible way to live your life and I think it’s a terrible way to be a church. I think integrity is so important. What does it mean for a clergy person to be in a pulpit calling the parishioners to a life of integrity when they can’t even live a life of integrity with their own bishop and their own church? So I would feel better about the Church of England’s stance, its reluctance to support the Episcopal Church in what it has done if it would at least admit that this not an American problem and just an American challenge. If all the gay people stayed away from church on a given Sunday the Church of England would be close to shut down between its organists, its clergy, its just seems less than humble not to admit that.

On his surprsise at the furor his consencration as a Bishop has caused within the Anglican Communion:

Did I think it would be controversial? Of course. Did I have any idea that the furore over my consecration would be as broad or as deep as it was? Absolutely not. We took seriously the voices that were coming our way and we knew this would be a shock in many quarters. On the other hand I think the Episcopal Church is trying to do ministry in its own context and our context. Gay and lesbian people have become active and open members of our congregations and active and open members of the clergy. This was just a next logical step for us. It’s important to remember that the consents to my election were done separately with the laity, the clergy and the bishops and all three of those consent votes were by about a two thirds majority. It was not a narrow margin.
Q. But the sheer scale of the venom you could never have expected...
That’s right. That’s right.
Q ECUSA ordains gay priests but has a problem with bishops...
That’s right. It’s very interesting. As I look back on this – and perhaps it has something to do with the theology of the episcopate – ECUSA has been ordaining gay priests for many, many years. Not every bishop will do that but many do. I will and have. Many make a requirement that the person be celibate, but many do not make such a requirement. It’s interesting that the wider Anglican Communion has either not known that or has not chosen to make an issue of it before now. I understand that a bishop is understood to be ordained for the whole church, although that’s true for the priesthood as well. One is a priest of the church and provided they are a priest of good standing, they can exercise their ministry anywhere in the world. It’s just a surprise to me that this issue did not become an issue until a gay and lesbian person became elected bishop. If it’s wrong for one (bishop and priest) it ought to be wrong for both. Bishops have a certain importance, but it’s just an importance that the church has given them. It’s not an innate importance. So it either ought to be wrong for all orders of ministry, or for none.

His views on the Bishops who oppose him, and his own evolving views on sexuality:

Q. How do you feel when you read some of these comments from other provinces of the church? From your fellow bishops?
The pain comes less from the fact those statements are coming from fellow bishops than that they are coming from fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. That is now how we are meant to treat one another in the body of Christ. Frankly as an act of self protection I pay as little attention to those as possible. I have important and serious work to do in my own diocese and I am so grateful to have those people. I love those people. I love them. If I were to pay overly much attention to all of those comments coming my way I would be so distracted from the real work and ministry I have been given to do. It would paralyse me. I pay as little attention to them as possible. Some of them are so hateful and vile and inaccurate that I get frustrated and angry, but for the most part I feel so close to God...
Q. Can you forgive them?
You know, I can. And here’s why. They only believe what the church has taught them to believe, and I believed those same things myself for a very long time. This is what a gay person has to contend with. We’ve been taught the same things everyone else has. It took me 39 years to claim who I really am as a child of God and as a gay man. How can I expect someone who has never met anyone openly gay who struggled with those themselves to so easily change their minds about this? So while I don’t welcome that kind of hatred coming my way, and while I don’t believe the church teaches us to hate, certainly the church has taught us all to condemn homosexual behaviour. I would argue it has taught that mistakenly, but I can certainly understand why people feel this way so no, I don’t have any trouble forgiving.
Q. Have you ever had a crisis of faith?
Not since I was 20 years old perhaps. I believe it is in God’s plan to include all of God’s children in God’s church. I don’t know if it was in God’s plan for me to somehow play a key role in that for gay and lesbian people. I do believe in free will so if I had not said yes to God’s call someone else would have. Indeed for many years I didn’t know if I would play a role in that, or if I would play a small and insignificant role and someone else would stand on my shoulders and do this thing and I was quite as surprised as anyone else that it seemed to fall to me to be the one elected and to be something of a focus. But we are told over and over in scripture that we will pay a heavy price for doing God’s will. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. I don’t know why it comes as a surprise to Christians that there is always a difficult price to be paid. I can’t imagine Desmond Tutu being surprised that his journey has been difficult at times – that he has had death threats. It certainly was true for Our Lord in his life and it’s all over the scriptures. I think we don’t want to believe it because who could wish for such a thing? But when it comes why should it be a surprise?

Read the entire interview at Ruth's blog here.

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