- Gene Robinson preaching at St. Mary's, Putney
Saw this in the news today ... Episcopalians react with sadness to the retirement of Bishop Gene Robinson. The Boston Globe story cites Gene as giving these reasons for his early retirement ... "The fact is, the last seven years have taken their toll on me, my family, and you," Robinson told the convention. "Death threats, and the now-worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as bishop, have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark, who has faithfully stood with me every minute of the last seven years."
I find this incredibly sad - a good person is bullied from his calling, the bad guys win, and all the rest of us are left poorer.
When I started to really get to know of Gene was during the 2008 Lambeth Conference, when Rowan Williams disallowed him to attend because he was an openly gay bishop in relationship (see my posts from then - More on Lambeth and Gene Robinson's sermon and Garret Keizer's Harper's essay ).
Here below is an essay Gene wrote for The Guardian back in 2008 around the time of the Lambeth Conference ....
Face to faith
I believe in the living God. Now, that may not seem like a surprising statement for a bishop of the church to make - but as we approach the Lambeth conference of bishops, it may be a crucial belief to reaffirm.
The debate raging in the Anglican communion over the place of women and gays in the life and ministry of the church, and the name-calling about who does and does not accept the authority of scripture, belies a much deeper question: did God stop revealing God's self with the closing of the canon of scripture at the end of the first century, or has God continued to be self-revelatory through history, and right into the present?
My conservative brothers and sisters seem to argue that God revealed everything to us in scripture. Ever since, it has simply been our difficult but straightforward task to conform ourselves to God's will revealed there and to repent when we are unable or unwilling to do so.
For me, there is something static and lifeless in such a view of God. Could it be that even the Bible is too small a box in which to enclose God?
In my life, God seems infinitely more engaged with humankind than that, desiring a relationship with each one of us, continually attempting to lead us closer and closer to God's will. So too with the church. Isn't God - the living God - constantly making God's self and God's will more perfectly known to the church over time?
Jesus says a remarkable thing to his disciples at his last supper with them: "There is more that I would teach you, but you cannot bear it right now. So I will send the Holy Spirit who will lead you into all truth." Could it be that God revealed in Jesus Christ everything possible in a first-century Palestine setting to a ragtag band of fishermen and working men? Could it have been God's plan all along to reveal more and more of himself and his will as the church grew and matured?
God, of course, was not and is not changing - but our ability to apprehend and comprehend God's will for us is. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, the church was led to permit eating things proscribed by Leviticus, to oppose slavery (after centuries of using scripture to defend it), and to permit and bless remarriage after divorce (despite Jesus' calling it adultery).
And now, by the leading of that same Spirit, we are beginning to welcome those who have heretofore been marginalised or excluded altogether: people of colour, women, the physically challenged, and God's children who happen to be gay.
This is the God I know in my life - who loves me, interacts with me, teaches and summons me closer and closer to God's truth. This God is alive and well and active in the church - not locked up in scripture 2,000 years ago, having said everything that needed to be said, but rather still interacting with us, calling us to love one another as he loves us. It is the brilliance of Anglicanism that we first and foremost read scripture, and then interpret it in light of church tradition and human reason. No one of us alone can be trusted to such a process because, left to our own devices, we recast God's will in our own image. But in the community of the church, together we are able to discern God's will for us - and sometimes that may mean reinterpreting and even changing old understandings of things thought settled long ago.
In the midst of all the wrangling about who should be "in" and who should be "out", who is fit to lead and what relationships are worthy of blessing, can we find the grace to thank God for loving us enough to be engaged with us? Can we find the leading of the Holy Spirit - even into painful and, for the moment, divisive places - a blessing and not a curse? Can we discern God's hand in Anglicanism's current struggles? Can we rejoice that we worship not only a God of scripture and history, but a living God, who is leading us forward toward the truth at this very moment?
· The Rt Rev Gene Robinson is the Bishop of New Hampshire