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Two virtues Episcopalians focus on are the unity of the Anglican Communion and a sense of justice. How do they come together in this situation?
Balancing a desire for unity and desire to meet the justice demands of the Gospel are two things that are often in conflict. We certainly saw that in the cvil rights movement of the 60's. There were lots of people who threatened to leave and take their money with them, who proclaimed profound pain over what the church was about to do. And at some point we turned the corner and stopped worrying pastorally about offending people and decided that we would do the right thing and fully include people of color in the life of our country and the life of our church and then deal as pastorally as we could with those who did not understand why we had done such a thing.
I think we are called to that kind of moment now, which is to say it is time to do the right thing and then to do all that we can to preserve the highest level of unity that we can accomplish. If, indeed, it calls for some kind of sacrifice, we would be in very good company, wouldn’t we, since we follow a man who made considerable sacrifice for doing the right and good thing.
How has the controversy affected your day-to-day work?
To be honest, it doesn’t affect my work much at all in New Hampshire. It is a little hard for people to believe, but I am just Gene Robinson, the bishop in New Hampshire. I said to folks in England when I was there in November, if you want to see what the church is like after we finish obsessing about sex, come to New Hampshire, because we spend little or no time on this. We are just setting about the work of the Gospel. Now, I do have this other ministry, which is to the wider church and the wider world, and hence my work with the Human Rights Campaign, and that is a very important ministry and the people of New Hampshire understand they have to share me a bit with the rest of the world. But in terms of my work in New Hampshire, I am so thankful that I am able to be about the work of a bishop and to do those things every bishop does every day being a pastor to my flock.
How did you decide to take this other ministry [the fight for the inclusion of the LGBT community within the Episcopal Church] public?
When I was elected I said I wanted to be the bishop of New Hampshire, not the gay bishop, and I think to be honest I was a bit naïve about that. The world has not fully permitted me to do that. My own diocese has permitted me to do that, but one gets called on and drafted to do things that one has not necessarily seen in the future.
I don’t think any of us thought this would have the breadth and depth in the life of the communion that it has. And because that is important and because mine is the only voice who can speak from experience in the House of Bishops, it has seemed an important calling for me to do the best I can to represent people who otherwise are not welcome in certain places. Even to this day there are lots of councils of the church I am not a part of because of who I am. I begged to give testimony to the Windsor Commission
and was not allowed to address them. So there are still places that I am not welcome, even as a bishop of the church. But in those places that I am welcome it is imperative I give voice to those who are not yet welcome there and while it is something that I hoped wouldn’t be necessary, it has become clear to me that for this day and this time it is necessary and it’s a responsibility that I take very seriously and I am humbled and honored to be in this place.
You use the name of Jesus in connection with the gay and lesbian agenda in the Episcopal church. Are you convinced that those who oppose you on this issue are following a false Jesus?
First of all, let me say that Jesus is the agenda, the homosexual agenda in the Episcopal Church. I believe that with my whole heart. Second of all, I would in no way issue such a judgment against anyone who disagrees with me. Let me just use the Most Reverent Peter Akinola, the Archbishop of Nigeria, as a name, a representative. I believe that Peter Akinola is following his journey back home to God as faithfully, as prayerfully and as thoughtfully as he can. I am, too.
I am following my journey back to God faithfully and prayerfully. And I think this wonderful Anglican Communion of ours is large enough to hold us together at the same communion table while we continue to figure this out. God is going to sort it out in God’s time, and in the meantime, what Peter and I can do is continue to receive sustenance from God through the body and blood of Christ, respect the dignity of each other and treat each other as the brothers in Christ that we are. And then over time we will figure this out.
Perhaps we are wrong, I don’t know. Perhaps Peter Akinola is wrong, I don’t know. But the last thing I would accuse him of or judge him to be is faithless. I believe that we are having a faithful conversation about this. The question is whether some of us are going to leave the conversation. We are not going to leave the conversation.
Can you elaborate on your statement that Jesus is the homosexual agenda in the Episcopal Church?
I am standing here before you believing that I am the beloved child of God because of God’s action in my own life. When I took Jesus Christ to be my lord and savior, I was speaking about a God who is not locked up in scripture 2,000 years ago, but is alive and well and working in my life as we speak. And my agenda is to speak the witness that I know of this living, loving God who loves me for all I am and all that I was created to be, wants the best for me, wants to forgive me of all my sins and raise me up from all my foibles . . . Jesus rarely pointed to himself in the synoptic gospels, he was always pointing to God and that is what homosexuals in the church want to do, to keep pointing to God and saying this God saved me from what the world and the church was telling me about myself.
While the church said I was an abomination, God somehow, miraculously, gracefully got through to me and said, “Wrong. You are my son, my beloved, in who I am well pleased.” I want to tell the world about that kind of God because the world tells people all kinds of reasons why God doesn’t love and accept them and they are all wrong. Because God loves all of God’s children. That’s the homosexual agenda in the Episcopal Church.