Let’s be clear here: The church has been the primary source of the oppressions that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people have experienced through out their lives. Just as Scripture was used to justify slavery as recently as 150 years ago, just as Scripture was used to keep women out of leadership positions in the church . . . Scripture was used to fight both of those movements of the spirit. And so, indeed, the Church has been the source of most of the pain that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people have experienced. And what we try to say to the Human Rights Campaign and others is, if the church is the cause of this oppression it needs to be church people who undo this oppression, and that is what we are trying to do here.
It is very clear to us in the religious community that God is alive and well and working in the culture in organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, and so we sought to become allies with them. They and other so-called secular organizations were cautious about our seeking them out, as well they should be.
Let’s also be clear that the religious right, both within our church and in other churches, are still proclaiming those kinds of oppressive things that are causing our children to grow up doubting whether indeed they are beloved by God or are an abomination. . . . Only religious people can undo that oppression and that is indeed what we along with the Human Rights Campaign are trying to do in this day and time.
I agree with the conservatives on one point. The conservative voices in our church are saying that at this very moment in the life of our church we are fighting for the soul of the church. I think that is absolutely right. The question is whether this will be a church about rules, about walls, about division, about schism, about threats, about violent language, or will this be a church about the all-inclusive love of God in which every, every baptized person will hear in his or her own heart what Jesus heard at his baptism – you are my beloved, in you I am well pleased.
The reason we are at this moment in the life of the Episcopal Church is that there are enough of us gay and lesbian folk that have laid claim to that promise, to that blessing, if you will, that we are God’s beloved children also along with all other baptized members of the church, and we will not let go of that blessing. And the reason we are at this moment is that there are other people, many people in our church who recognize Christ in the faces and lives of its gay and lesbian members. And so we are fighting over the soul of this church, about whether this will be a church about God’s love for all of God’s children or something else, something from the past, something from which we should repent. It is a great moment to be here . . .
After his statement, Robinson and others took questions from the assembled press, who represented the secular and religious media. Following are Bishop Robinson's answers.
What evidence do you have against the likelihood of schism?
I think we are at a place in our church where we want to listen very carefully to what is being said to us from our partners in mission around the world, and at the same time not be dictated to. We are a confederation of 38 autonomous provinces of the Anglican Communion and I am not aware of other times when the Communion has tried to tell one of its constituent autonomous provinces what will and will not be done. What I think the call of this convention is, is for us to discern the mind and will of God as humbly and as best as we can and to stand up and say that. It is not our job to decide what the Anglican Communion will or will not do in response to our actions. What we are called to do is to as faithfully as we can discern God’s will and act on it in our context.
Let me remind you that no one, not in this church, is asking anyone else in the Anglican Communion to raise up gay and lesbian people to affirm them, to ordain them, to consecrate them bishops. This is not some kind of ecclesiastical colonialism here . . . We are only asking to be allowed to do this in our own context.
It is not a surprise to me that the Archbishop of Nigeria is opposed to this issue. The Archbishop of Nigeria is supportive of legislation in that country that imprisons gay and lesbian people and he is supporting currently proposed legislation that will even criminalize a heterosexual person for speaking out for gay and lesbian rights. It is not a surprise to me that he does not know any faithful Christian gay and lesbian folk. No one is asking that church in the Anglican Communion to change its policies or its beliefs.
However, we do know those people in our church who are faithful and monogamous and have lifelong intention in their relationships. We know them because they are sitting here, they are deputies to this convention, they preside at our altars at Holy Communion and they now have one of us as a bishop. We do know those people and we are only seeking to do what God seems to be calling us to do in our context. We are not trying to export that anywhere. We are just trying to say this is what God is calling us to do at this moment . . .
What do you think will happen when there is a vote on this [the Windsor Commission report]?
I have made a commitment not to do a lot of conjecture about what will or won’t happen. They don’t give you a crystal ball when they consecrate you a bishop. I could have used that. What I will say is that we are not going away. We have been a part of this church since its inception. We will continue to be a part of this church. We are not threatening to leave. The last thing we will do is leave the table. And you see, I think that is what communion is about. It is some kind of commitment to stay at the table, no matter what.
It is our great gift as Anglicans to offer to the worldwide church of every denomination, which is to say that we can disagree about lots of things, and Lord knows Episcopalians do. We are all over the map on virtually every issue you can name. But we all go up to the altar rail and receive the body and the blood of Christ as humbly as we can, and then we go back to the pews and fight about all those things. That is our great gift to the worldwide church.
And we are going to stay at the table. That is the table of the Lord’s Last Supper, the table around which we can discuss all these issues. That I am absolutely sure will continue no matter what happens at this convention.