Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bishop Gene Robinson concelebrates Mass with--double horror--a woman priest.

From the London Sunday Times by Rosie Millard--7-27-2008

Interview: The Rev Gene Robinson
The homosexual US bishop causing uproar in the Church of England is unrepentant

The world’s first openly gay bishop greets me in a small park behind the sports hall at Kent University – although I tell the Rev Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, that we should probably have met down the road at Canterbury cathedral – maybe on the spot where Thomas à Becket was martyred.

He roars with laughter: “I don’t feel like a martyr. But by an accident of history I feel I am somewhat of a symbol.”

Indeed, and to some people a very unwelcome one. The only bishop out of 800 Anglican prelates not to be invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Lambeth Conference at Kent University, Robinson decided that he would go anyway.

More than 200 African and Asian bishops are boycotting the conference in protest – not just because they want Robinson to keep away but also because the American bishops who consecrated him are attending. Clearly, even breathing the same air as a bishop who may once have shaken hands with a gay bishop is offensive to some people.

The arrival of Robinson has not so much spoilt the party as driven a noisy pantechnicon right through it. Everything else on the agenda has been kicked into second place: whether or not the Anglican church can tolerate gay clergy is practically the only thing anyone has wanted to talk about since the holy beanfeast – held only once a decade – began last week. And Robinson – small, trim and dapper in a purple ecclesiastical shirt – has been the nonguest that everyone (bar the bishops) has wanted to buttonhole.

“It’s a pity I chose this week to give up smoking,” he says, puffing gratefully on a Marlboro. I don’t think that even he had forecast what it would be like to be the target of venom from a global assortment of prelates (the Archbishop of Nigeria described gays as lower than dogs; the Archbishop of Kenya said “the devil has clearly entered the church”).
{Wow what lovely Christian statements. One wonders who needs the muzzle.}

Was the American bishop right to turn up? Surely arriving uninvited and then holding an open-air service last week for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual Anglicans outside the cathedral – just as the Archbishop of Canterbury was inside, saying, “Unity in diversity is the cherished Anglican tradition” – was a touch provocative? Even childish, some might say.

“I took a vow, as did all bishops, to participate in the councils of the church,” says Robinson. “I am only fulfilling my vow.” What about the vows of the 230 boycotting bishops? Haven’t you ruined the conference for them? “I can’t control their choices,” he says. “They were the ones who demanded I not be included at the table and the Archbishop of Canterbury acceded to their requests – and lo and behold that’s not enough. Even the bishops who consecrated me are found to be offensive.

“And my guess is that if the archbishop had not invited the entire American church, these [protesting] bishops still wouldn’t be here. Bullies never get enough.” {I agree. Maintaining Anglican unity is not their real agenda. Bishop Robinson is just the perfect storm around which to work out their own agenda.}

Is Rowan Williams, leader of the global Anglican community, really being bullied? “I believe so. I think most of the world perceives that as bullying.”
What do you think of Williams’s leader-ship? “He is in an almost impossible job. And I think that in giving in to some of the demands made on him, matters have got worse. Nothing short of total victory will satisfy them and I wonder when he is going to learn that.”

Robinson, 61, says he always knew that he was gay: “From the age of 13 I learnt to censor every word I was going to say – gay people do this all the time.” Yet he was married to a woman for 13 years, trying what he calls the “white-knuckle” method of suppressing his true sexuality.
“I grew up at a time when there were no role models: to be gay or lesbian was to be a failure. Oh, I shared the fact that I was attracted to men within two weeks of meeting [my ex-wife] Isabella. All of my real romantic relations previous to her had been with men. I felt ready for a relationship with her, but I was still unsure about marriage. Isabella assured me we’d deal with it together. And we did, 13 years later.”

By this time they had two daughters: Jamie, then 8, and Ella, 4. After Robinson read Jamie a gay children’s book about two men living together, she said: “I hope you find a boyfriend, daddy.” After the divorce, Isabella remarried and Robinson met his companion, Mark Andrew. There appear to have been few problems, if any: his daughters have loved having “three dads”, according to the bishop, and they happily spent every weekend with him and Andrew.

It seems, too, that even the most strait-laced of New England matrons in his New Hampshire diocese have taken him to their generous bosoms. He and Andrew celebrated their civil union in his own church just six weeks ago before an approving congregation. With that sort of grassroots assurance, it’s not difficult to see why Robinson feels that he can walk the Kent campus with confidence. Young people, particularly, seem to warm to him. “I have rarely met a person under 30 who can understand what all of this is about,” he says. “They all have gay and lesbian friends. It’s no big deal – and the fuss makes the church look hopelessly irrelevant.”

It certainly makes the Church of England’s famous reputation for tolerance seem rather weedy. While New Hampshire Anglicans have apparently celebrated their bishop’s civil union without turning a hair, the Church of England is still nervous of appearing to support the ordination of any homosexual. Robinson has been allowed to meet Williams only once – about three years ago. By comparison, he has had three one-on-one meetings with Barack Obama, the US presidential candidate.

“I had long wanted a meeting with the archbishop, but he was very unwilling to meet me,” says Robinson. In the end the meeting was so cloaked in secrecy that he was not even told the venue until almost the last minute.

Are we more prejudiced over here? “I would say you are just as far along this issue as we are, only you won’t admit it,” he says. “You have so many gay clergy, gay partnered clergy, gay couples who are both clergy. The bishops know it. Their congregations know it. But can you get anyone to talk about it? Oh no. I think it’s a hold-over from Victorian times.”

Irrelevant, out of touch with society, blinkered . . . no description could be more damaging for a church with a falling roll call that is signally failing to attract new generations. Robinson says Williams knows this. It’s also one of the reasons why he is happy to be a thorn in the side of Anglicanism: “I am simply not willing to let these guys meet without being reminded that in every single one of their churches, no matter what country it is in, they all have gay and lesbian people.”

Perhaps this is just what the Anglican church needs: a natural self-publicist who is equally comfortable hobnobbing with the likes of Sir Ian McKellan, the gay actor, as he is talking about the scriptures. Robinson seems happy to accept the mantle of missionary: “I think the American compulsion to talk about everything openly is a great strength – and a weakness. We appear unnecessarily brash, but I love that about us. I feel called to be as open as I can be about my life so that young lesbians and gay men will understand that they can have wonderful relationships, be mothers and fathers and [achieve] real distinction for themselves in their careers.

“Does anyone think that if I were hit by one of your marvellous double-decker buses this issue is going to go away? That’s what’s so remarkable about the Archbishop of Sudan’s statement this week that, if I resigned, the church would go back to being the way it was.”

He laughs: “There are faithful gay and lesbian people all over this church who are ready to serve as bishops. And if I dropped off the face of this earth tomorrow, that isn’t going to stop.”

Conforming somewhat to a certain archetype, Robinson loves cooking, keeps an immaculate house with Andrew, talks openly about having been tested for HIV and has masses of female friends who talk to him about their problems. But he is also a man of the church, who speaks about having his life saved by the Bible. He clearly has a profound faith: at dawn each day this week he has gone to a Canterbury monastery to pray with Franciscan monks.

Okay. So, if you believe the Bible is God’s word, what about all that stuff in the scriptures that forbids same-sex unions? “The scriptures were written in patriachal times,” he says, “times of slavery, times of polygamy. And when you go for a literalist reading you run into trouble. Women wear hats in church, for example, because St Paul said you should keep your head covered. And your mouth shut, by the way.
“We are arguing about scripture itself and not the God to whom it points. I have to wonder, as young men are knifing each other all over London and when more than a billion people try to exist on less than $1 a day, why the church is tearing itself apart over the issue of sexuality. It is such a waste of our time and energy.”
{You aren't the only one Bishop. Maybe it's because arguing about sex is a whole lot cheaper than trying to do something about unequal distribution of wealth.}

Doesn’t he worry that his presence could goad the boycotting bishops into doing something permanently destructive? There have already been murmurings about a “wounded” church. Isn’t he simply rubbing salt into the schism? “If someone chooses to feel wounded, that’s their responsibility,” he says. “I’m not attempting to storm into the pulpit and rip the microphone from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s hands.”

No, but neither is he going to go quietly. Robinson has been making the most of his outsider status in Canterbury, holding “open nights” in which he hopes to convert waverers. The next “Conversation with Bishop Gene Robinson” is on Wednesday night. It’s a fringe event and on the fringe is precisely where he wants to be, subtly indicating that his camp is where true Christianity lies.

“Jesus spent the majority of his time with people on the margins and might well have been more interested in those on the fringes, those who have been excluded,” he says. So he’s even got Jesus backing him.
The only thing which differentiates Gene Robinson from the thousands of other gay Roman Catholic and Anglican clergy is he is TRUTHFUL, HONEST and OPEN about it. Apparently to be accepted as a true Christian he is supposed to DECEPTIVE, DISHONEST, and CLOSETED.
The USCCB even gives this as pastoral advice to their gay members. They more or less state you are welcome to be with us at the table if you are celibate and in the closet. Celibate is not enough, you must also be 'discrete' which I read as deceptive. SWhould fellow parishioners ask you about your single dating status be very deceptive, don't make an issue of your orientation.
Where in the Gospels does Jesus tell us we must be deceptive, dishonest, and closeted about the truth of ourselves in order to follow Him? I've looked and failed to find it. However, with the issue of homosexuality that has been the long standing traditional advice. I have never understood what makes homosexuality the sins of sins. It's obviously not that big a deal to the younger generations, who don't seem to be able to fathom it's unique sinfulness anymore than I do.
They, just like me, read the doom and gloom message given by the righteous right about the drawbacks of this 'disordered lifestyle' and see right beyond the message to the fact that most of the drawbacks are the result of attempting to live your truth in a culture that refuses to deal with the existence of that truth. This is the cultural world espoused by Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola who considers gays worse than dogs and the spawn of Satan, and Benedict XVI who has decided the gay 'lifestyle' is the biggest threat to world peace. These are pretty stressful descriptors for a young gay person to hear. Stressors which will most certainly impact the length of their lives, and in too many cases lead them to deal with their orientation by ending their lives---their celibate lives.
Even using the term 'lifestyle' implies homosexuality is willfully chosen rather than an ontological fact of life which must be accepted as a personal truth. Like heterosexuality, only when gayness is accepted as a fact of one's life, can any meaningful decision be made about how to express that truth. Unfortunately the major religious institutions do everything they can to make that acceptance as difficult as possible. Is Bishop Gene correct when he says it's the last vestiges of Victorian sexual sensibilities? That it's a sort of game we all play with ourselves, knowing full well the truth is far different from the deception we choose to participate in?
The problem is it's the will full participation in the deception which undercuts the message of Christ and the credibility of ecclesiastical teaching, not homosexuality itself. In other words the real sin is the games played around homosexuality, especially the games played by closeted gay clergy. Bishop Gene Robinson must be especially threatening to them. It's too bad, because his real message is exactly the opposite. If you live openly and honestly your people will accept you for who you are and get on with their lives. They can't, if you won't.
I treasure the courage of Bishop Gene Robinson and his choice to be present at Lambeth. If his walking honestly around the edges of this conference inspires just one more bishop to come out with their truth, it's one more light shining in the trumped up wilderness surrounding homosexuality and Christianity.
When I look at Bishop Gene, I see Fr. Mykal Judge, and I hope Fr. Mykal is giving Bishop Gene an additional boost of courage. It grieves me that a man like Fr. Judge, who was very much Christ personified to his diverse flock, has become something of a conundrum because it's now common knowledge he was gay. It doesn't even seem to matter that he was celibate. Somehow the very fact he refused to live his gay truth deceptively has cast stain on his candidacy for sainthood.
This is happening at the same time the Church has decided to dig up Cardinal Newman and separate him from the love of his life---the man Cardinal Newman stated unequivocally he wished to be buried with. Cardinal Newman was also celibate, but also capable of loving a man very deeply. Deeply enough that he compared his grief at the death of Fr. St. John, to that of husband who loses his spouse.
The deception being played out here is that Cardinal Newman's love for Fr. St John is being spun as the love between two friends. In this scenario the Church isn't really separating two people who really profoundly loved each other like a husband and a wife. The married metaphor, which Cardinal Newman used himself for their love, implies sexual expression. Can't have that kind of association with a candidate for sainthood whose candidacy is seemingly being used as an invitation to invite Anglicans who have issues with women clergy. I wonder what Cardinal Newman would have to say about being separated from Fr. St. John so he can be used to entice Anglicans who don't like the idea of women clergy.
It all gets so complicated it makes my head spin. It could all change with one simple understanding. Homosexuality is about the same exact kind of love that heterosexuality is about. It's not about the sexual activity anymore than heterosexuality. It's about the love one has for another person. Cardinal Newman thought of the love he had for Fr. St John in the only way he could have, that of a deeply married couple, because that's exactly what it was. It doesn't mean their love had to have a sexual expression even though they lived together in the same house for years. Why is it so difficult to accept that two people of the same sex can love each other exactly as two people of the opposite sex?---or for that matter, as irresponsibly and selfishly.
Do heterosexual Christians really need to single out gays as scapegoats for their own sexual hangups and their own sexual sins? If so, they've never accepted their own sexual truth and maybe this is the real issue.


  1. Colleen, the depths of your perception, insight and wisdom are amazing.

    As I was reading the article and your comments, it occurred to me that what we are seeing here is the true heart of each of these people and their congregations. --Lower than dogs -- speaks volumes. The actions of those at the conference testify to the hatred that boils within their hearts. Not confusion about how to resolve the the difficult issues, but hate toward and for the congregants God entrusted into their care.

    I just finished an excellent book by Bishop Spong titled "Sins of the Scripture". The syncronicity of the way the conference is unfolding, the rhetoric we are hearing and the premises made in the book are amazing.

    Equally amazing is how anyone who spends the amount of time that the clergy spends with scriptures, any one who claims to be guided by the Holy Spirit could trumpet hate so loudly and not see it. Absolutely amazing.

  2. Colleen, I love your observation, "It all gets so complicated it makes my head spin. It could all change with one simple understanding."

    I remember learning in a science course in high school that the theory which explains the behavior of a natural phenomenon in the simplest terms possible is likely to be the right theory. The more you have to spin provisos and add props to your theory, the less compelling it is.

    And that's how it seems to me with the churches' homophobia: it requires ever more elaboration, ever more props, to keep it going. Once the tiny handful of murky text that supposedly condemn "homosexuality" were shown to be extremely problematic, the basis of argumentation shifted, until now we have this whole elaborate system of the theology of the body, with high-flown mystical symbolism about male and female complementarity.

    I enjoy reading some of the mystical meanderings erected on that theological basis, because they become so tortured and labored, and have to overlook all evidence (and there's lots of it) that doesn't fit into their system. And the whole system is based on one simple, crude concept about how the plumbing parts fit together naturally! At least, they do in the dreams of celibate male priests.

  3. Many people unfortunately equate homosexuality with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. It goes way, way, back, and unfortunately they do not understand why God was so angry with those people in those places, so people wrongly say it was because of homosexuality. In the story of Lot with his wife and his daughters as related to us in ancient scriptures several men knock on the door and want to have sex with their guest. The issue of hospitality towards male guest as being more important than his own daughters, Lot suggested they take his daughters and do with them as they pleased.

    Most attribute that to mean God was against and angry with homosexuality. God was against and angry at how the men were treating Lot's guests and their lustfulness towards strangers to dominate sexually against their will. This is highlighted in a book by Thomas Cahill, an historian, entitled The Gifts of the Jews.

    Some people are not educated in the historical accounts but in someone else's false-truths, so they believe lies. Rather than look into it, they are prevented by their own prejudice and ignorance and they remain ignorant and say ignorant things like "lower than dogs." Such a mentality could be equated to "lower than dogs" because

    it doesn't say anything other than a bark & a howl from an ignorant one's jowls.
    Garbage in, garbage out
    They inhale it in & exhale it out
    Hate is what they mostly spout.

    Interestingly, the Semites thought any kind of sex from behind was considered "like dogs." The Semites were repulsed by the thought as it was foreign to them to do it that way with their many wives. It was one of many cultural difference that set the Semites apart from others. So, the tradition to twist the true meaning of Sodom & Gomorrah and what God was repulsed and angry about goes on in our Churches and world to this day.

    I just love Rev Gene Robinson for being truthful, honest and open about himself. The world doesn't appreciate the Saints that are among us or those they should be grateful for and that it is very inhospitable and selfish to not accept him as a Christian brother and then to heap cheap ignorant words at him. But these are Pharisees that we are dealing with here. Rev Robinson knows this and we know this. May Christ light the path and walk beside us always as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, as sometimes it feels as if it is getting very dark, as before the sun comes up.

    I am very inspired by Rev Robinson. Thanks Colleen. Love. Peace.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. .
    (Reposted, slightly edited):

    Colleen said…
    ”When I look at Bishop Gene, I see Fr. Mychal Judge, and I hope Fr. Mychal is giving Bishop Gene an additional boost of courage. It grieves me that a man like Fr. Judge, who was very much Christ personified to his diverse flock, has become something of a conundrum because it's now common knowledge he was gay. It doesn't even seem to matter that he was celibate. Somehow the very fact he refused to live his gay truth deceptively has cast stain on his candidacy for sainthood.”

    Bishop Gene does indeed pray to and draw courage from Mychal Judge. I attended the 2004 interfaith Gay Pride service in Boston where +Gene was the guest homilist. After the service, I gave +Gene some Mychal prayer cards. His face lit up and he said, “Mychal Judge is one of my favorite people, and I pray to him often !”.

    While Mychal is something of a conundrum to the institutional church, I assure you that among the laity, the ecclesia, his sainthood is widely acclaimed. His face smiles down from virtually every firehouse wall in NYC as a constant blessing. The macho world of firefighters doesn’t care that he was gay, for they have experienced “… our hearts burning within us as he walked with us along the way…”

    (If Mychal’s aura had such a profound affect on so many unlikely people, we can only imagine what it must have been like to be in the human presence, the aura, of Jesus!)

    Here in my own mostly Irish-Catholic neighborhood in Boston, my parish is packed at every 9/11 anniversary Mass where Mychal’s NYPD hat is on the altar. I can’t tell you how many little old Rosary ladies and other mainstream Catholics pray for his intercession with all kinds of requests. They couldn’t care less that he was gay; these people recognize true holiness/wholeness when they see it.

    (Mychal Judge has done more to change the hearts and minds of everyday Catholics than hundreds of screaming, angry Act Up disrupters at St. Patrick’s cathedral.)

    Mychal Judge is indeed a Saint -- first by God’s grace, then by the widespread acclamation of the faithful (such as was the tradition until Rome took over canonization in the 14th century). God makes saints, not Rome.

    I frankly don’t expect to see Mychal’s formal canonization in my lifetime, but we shouldn’t be grieved. God is using Mychal from the other side according to His plan and Mychal’s very active cooperation. This is evidenced by at least three medically-documented miraculous healings through Mychal’s intercession. The institutional church cannot possibly “stain” or nullify his very real Sainthood.

    The Holy Spirit is moving through honest, courageous people like Gene Robinson, Mychal Judge and many others, in ways we don’t yet fully understand. She may surprise us all by a dramatic move within the official church (another Pope John Paul the First ?), though it seems She is acting largely outside of the hierarchy these days.

    Whatever direction the Holy Spirit takes, here are three bits of advice from Mychal about how we should approach things --

    * “Thou shalt not bullshit.”

    * “Just trust in God; He will let you know what to do next,” and

    * “No matter how big the call, no matter how small, you have no idea of what God is calling you to do, but God needs you. He needs me. He needs all of us.”
    (MJ's last homily: 9/10/2001).

    -- John K

  6. Butterfly, I never got the anal sex reference in the 'worse than dogs' quote. I am stunned with my own naivete. Love the poem.

    John, I have the Mykal Judge website linked to this blog.

    You're insight about Mykal's influence on attitudes vs ACT UP is well made. It's another reason I wish more Gene Robinson's and Mykal Judge's would find the courage to live honestly. They make a huge difference.

    We can theologize all we want, but it is the real lives of real people which make the real difference. I truly think the fact my daughter's generation is gay affirming is because they all know open and out gay kids and have them as friends.

    I find that very hopeful in that it means the institution has a very limited time frame in which to spout the 'traditional' garbage. Thank God. Maybe when the gay thing gets them no where the institution will seriously start to look at the concepts of sexuality they teach.

  7. Bill, I meant to tell you how much I appreciated your post on the Cardinal Newman situation. http://bilgrimage.blogspot.com/2008/07/flying-saints-and-anglicans-crossing.html

    Two things in the last month have really gotten under my skin, the first is the Newman situation and the second is leaving out the Resurrection at WYD. I guess we no longer have any respect for one's wishes or acts after death. It's all about death--or sex

  8. Colleen, from Cahill's book:

    "It is only somewhat mollifying to realize that the sin of Sodom was not homosexuality but inhospitality. You can't tell from this episode whether God is against buggery, but you can be sure he takes a dim view of raping perfectly nice strangers who come to visit. Also, we know from widespread Mesopotamian evidence that Sumerians and other ancient peoples of the Middle East preferred rear entry, both vaginal and anal, for their sexual encounters. To the descendants of Avraham, who viewed such posture as subhuman ("like a dog"), the whole sexual repertoire of their neighbors may have come to seem suspect - bestial and unnatural."

    So, there we have it down from ages past a view of "posture as subhuman" ("like a dog"). This is really what people base their traditional view on, not on what God has to say about it, because God doesn't say anything about it.

    If people really understood what God was really angry about and His reasons for destroying Sodom & Gomorrah, I think we would have an inclusive Church by now. Also, those who hid pedophiles or moved them around or priests who were silent or lawyers who gave victims a hard time, and the one's whose policies or codes allowed rape of the young to continue better look out for the wrath of God!

  9. What's your opinion of GOD TO SAME-SEXERS: HURRY UP on Yahoo and Google? Just wondering, Humberto

  10. Humberto, that's quite a website which originally published the article "God to same sexers-hurry up".

    It's pretty much the same stuff that Fred Phelps spouts. I have to look past the rhetoric and try to see the person behind it.

    Speaking from a clinical perspective, the motivation is usually some form of personal insecurity which is kept under control by attacking another group of people as 'less than'. Goebel's was the master of this kind of motivation and he had his 'personal insecurity' issues.

    For Goebel's German generation the Jews were the easy target, especially because they had acheived a certain high profile under the Weimar Republic, and that profile punched a lot of personal buttons. The same is true of gays and immigrants in the West. These two groups are punching some serious insecurity buttons and paying the price.