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Archive for Saturday, November 1, 2003

Gay priest adjusting to new role in spotlight

Robinson to be consecrated as bishop Sunday

November 1, 2003

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— Before the Episcopal Church confirmed the Rev. V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, a fellow priest gave him a page of calligraphy.

"Sometimes God calms the storm," it read, "and sometimes God lets the storm rage and calms his child."

Robinson, who will be consecrated as the denomination's first openly gay bishop on Sunday, has come back to that saying frequently. In the past few months, sudden celebrity has made him a lightning rod for angry conservatives and a beacon for gays and lesbians.

"There are days, even now, I say: 'Good Lord, what have I done,"' he said in a recent interview. Staying calm and prayerful is the key to surviving the turmoil surrounding his elevation to bishop, he said.

While Robinson said he recognized the pain his election had caused some people, he believes God is calling him to be bishop.

After 17 years working in the diocese, Robinson's sexual orientation and his 14-year relationship with partner Mark Andrew drew little attention from most clergy and parishioners in New Hampshire.

But when the state's Episcopalians elected him bishop in June, the decision was met with objections from Anglicans worldwide. The protests grew stronger when the church's General Convention, its national legislative body, ratified the decision in August.

Retiring Episcopal Bishop Douglas Theuner, right, introduces the
Rev. V. Gene Robinson to church members June 7 in Concord, N.H..
New Hampshire Episcopalians elected Robinson, an openly gay man, as
their next bishop. Thousands are expected to attend Robinson's
consecration Sunday at the University of New Hampshire.

Retiring Episcopal Bishop Douglas Theuner, right, introduces the Rev. V. Gene Robinson to church members June 7 in Concord, N.H.. New Hampshire Episcopalians elected Robinson, an openly gay man, as their next bishop. Thousands are expected to attend Robinson's consecration Sunday at the University of New Hampshire.

Since then, Robinson said, he has received 30 to 50 e-mails a day and hundreds of letters. One postcard of a beautiful stained-glass window addressed him as "you fornicating, lecherous pig."

Taking that kind of anger in stride is not always easy, and Robinson -- who now travels with bodyguards -- said the note wasn't the worst of his hate mail. "I'm not afraid," he said. "I'm not naive either."

A heavier burden comes from gays and lesbians who say they are counting on him to break barriers, he said.

"You get a letter ... from some small town in Georgia and this person pours out their heart to you. They're a closeted person ... and they tell you what this means for them symbolically, and for the church, and it's just astounding," he said.

In the end, Robinson said, he hopes the denomination will live up to the greeting on banners that traditionally hang from its buildings: "The Episcopal Church welcomes you."

"We better start acting like we mean it," he said.

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