The Revd Canon Gene V Robinson was elected bishop coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire on 7th June on the 2nd ballot, the first openly gay man in the Episcopal Church to be elected as a bishop. The leadership of the national Episcopal Church must ratify Canon Robinson’s election during the General Convention, meeting in Minneapolis in late July. Both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies need to approve his election by a two-thirds majority. After his election, Gene Robinson was cheered by the delegates and joined on the convention stage by his two adult daughters and his partner of 13 years, Mark Andrew.
Later, Gene Robinson said he would “weep and grieve if the Anglican Communion should split over this issue, but there was no reason in the world why it should. One of the great gifts of Anglicanism is that within our unity, based on our love for and service in Jesus Christ, we have a wide variety of opinions on various issues, from abortion to war and peace and homosexuality.” “Predictions of schism and wholesale departure from the Church over the ordination and consecration of women, and the remarriage of divorcees, had not been fulfilled, he said. “I suspect that, while this is a painful thing for many, when push comes to shove, there will not be people leaving the Church, because they will see it will continue on, just as it always has.”
Liberals in the US Church welcomed Robinson’s election. Bishop Charles Bennison Jr, of Pennsylvania, stated that the election of Robinson was the breakthrough supporters of the “full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church” were seeking. Bishop John Chane of Washington stated the election was, “a process guided and directed by the action of the Holy Spirit. Not to affirm the New Hampshire election would be … a challenge to the revelation of the Holy Spirit.” The Episcopal Church’s first openly gay cathedral dean, the Very Rev Robert Taylor of Seattle, also characterised Robinson’s election as a “Holy Spirit moment”. “The people of New Hampshire were led by the spirit of God and were not afraid.”
Integrity, the organization of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Episcopalians and their friends and families, immediately welcomed the election of Canon Robinson commending him as a fine priest and, prospectively, a fine bishop. “We do not believe [the election] was primarily about sexuality. Nevertheless, we rejoice that this threshold—the election of an honest and open gay person living in a committed relationship—has been crossed. The emphasis should be on the words “honest and open.” Canon Robinson will certainly not be the Church’s first gay bishop. We regret that this election is the source of pain and controversy to some in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.”
The Church of England Newspaper wrote an editorial about Gene Robinson’s election on 12th June. “Gene Robinson exemplifies the worst of the gay culture of over-wealthy, bored, liberal America. He was clearly quite capable of a marital sexual relationship, until he fell for a gay lover. We all know the rhetoric of discovering the ‘real self’ hidden for years like a Gnostic secret awaiting discovery, rhetoric used as justification for switching to a mode of life centred on male bonding. No doubt Mr Robinson utilises this line of self-justification for parting company with the massive weight of Judaeo-Christian teaching about the right and wrong use of our sexual potential.”
The Rt Revd Robert Moody, Bishop of Oklahoma issued a very supportive statement, saying people of the Diocese of New Hampshire did a bold thing in electing the Revd Gene Robinson. Homosexuals are modern outcasts, like lepers in Jesus’ day. In many people, they engender fear and loathing. In my ministry I have seen good people become filled with hate and disgust when the subject was homosexuality. At a vestry meeting I once attended, one man said, “If my son said he was gay, I would disown him.” The Episcopal Church in New Hampshire has obviously moved beyond that stage of fear and prejudice. They have seen the humanity in a gay man and they have decided that his humanity is more important than his gayness.
The Church has spent a great deal of time studying and debating the place of homosexual men and women in its life. It is a subject that elicits great passion and it has the potential to split apart the Body of Christ. So did the inclusion of Gentiles in the first century! So did the breaking down of slavery in the nineteenth century! So did Civil Rights! So did the ordination of women! I follow Christ as my Lord and Saviour and Christ keeps breaking down barriers that religious people once thought were sacred. I think that our Lord is doing the same thing today with our attitudes towards homosexual men and women, gays and lesbians. Thus, I will vote to support the election in New Hampshire and welcome Bishop-elect Robinson as a brother bishop in the Episcopal Church.”