'God is Doing a New Thing in the World'

A conversation with the man poised to be confirmed as the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop

Last month, the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, 56, was elected Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire. Robinson is openly gay and in a long-standing relationship. If his election is confirmed by the national church's General Convention, which starts July 30, he will become the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop. The event will be a watershed not only for Episcopalians, but also for the Worldwide Anglican Communion, whose governing body in 1998 called gay sex "incompatible with Scripture."

The vote will occur about a month after a gay Anglican minister in England, the Rev. Jeffrey John, turned down an appointment as a bishop. Two U.S. prelates who hailed John's decision as "one of deep courage and grace" now are focusing on Robinson. "Approval of this (Robinson's) election will be a vote to rupture the Anglican Communion," bishops Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh and Edward Salmon Jr. of South Carolina said in a joint statement on July 8.

This week, Robinson spoke with Beliefnet about the tempest swirling around him.

So much news about gay rights has happened this summer -the Canadian marriage decision, the Texas sodomy case, and your election. At the same time, Pat Robertson is praying for changes on the Supreme Court because of the Texas case, and other conservative Christians are predicting the downfall of civilization because they believe traditional marriage is now threatened. What's your take on all of it?

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The famous test pilot Chuck Yeager, after breaking the sound barrier for the first time, in a speech said something like: "The plane shakes the hardest just before you break through." And I believe what we're experiencing from conservatives right now is that shaking, and maybe the whole culture is shaking before we break through this next barrier for gay and lesbian folks.

I believe God is doing a new thing in the world. God is always moving us to include more people in the kingdom. God has taught us that about people of color, about women, and now I think God is teaching that about gay and lesbian folk. And I am humbled and privileged that I might be playing a very small part in that grand and wonderful plan of God's.

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