But they did, because Robinson’s election by the House of Deputies set the stage at the church’s General Convention in Minneapolis, Minn., for a final decision by the church’s House of Bishops, one of the two ecclesiastical governing bodies in the Episcopal Church that preside over all major church issues.
In an email sent by David Lewis, the 50-year-old Vermonter accused Robinson of being an “ass-grabbing skirt chaser” who fondled him two years ago.
“My personal experience with him is he does not maintain appropriate boundaries with men… NO GAY MAN HAS EVER BEHAVED TOWARDS ME THIS WAY… I believe this is an alarming weakness of character that alone makes Gene unsuitable for the office of bishop,” Lewis wrote in his email obtained by Reuters news service.
“Gene Robinson has a bodyguard with him at all times and has to wear a bulletproof vest and has to be moved to undisclosed locations. And, there is a new church being born here and that gives me glory attacks.”
With the allegation brought to the House of Bishops, the prelates had to stop Robinson’s election process and had to table a resolution that would approve the church’s blessing of same-sex unions. Also at this time came allegations that the website of an LGBT teen support outreach program he has supported, Outright.org, contained hyperlinks to pornography sites.
Warned of a schism that could result in a split or realignment within the denomination that has a membership of two million in the U.S. and 70 million worldwide, opponents of Robinson said they would work overnight to sway the House of Bishops. A declaration that was approved at the historic 1998 Lambeth Conference, a meeting of bishops in the worldwide Anglican Communion that included the Episcopal Church of the U.S., explicitly stated that homosexual relations are incompatible with Scripture. And the conservative faction of the church is vehemently upholding this resolution.
“I plan to be a good bishop, not a gay bishop. I’m so much more than my orientation,” Robinson told the Associated Press. Once married, and now with two grown daughters, Robinson currently lives with his partner, Mark Andrew.
With these spurious allegations of Robinson’s record, his followers knew what had seemed to be a clear-cut election was hanging in the balance, and the removal of these allegations in time to move forward would take nothing short of a miracle.
But God writes straight with crooked lines. In less than 24 hours all the allegations against Robinson were expunged.
Elated by the news, Ed Bacon, who was also at the convention, wrote in an email to me, “So, honey, the Church is rolling on. The investigation about Gene has been concluded, I just heard, and the Bishops will vote on Gene this afternoon at 2:30 and then the resolution on blessings comes forward. So, please, please, keep praying for us and for everyone here. The deputies here from conservative climes are receiving hate mail and hate phone calls. Gene Robinson has a bodyguard with him at all times and has to wear a bulletproof vest and has to be moved to undisclosed locations. And, there is a new church being born here and that gives me glory attacks.”
However, for Robinson winning has been bittersweet. Episcopalian conservatives denounced the election as a “cancer on the body of Christ.” But the conservatives fail to realize that the cancer on the body of Christ was not having elected Robinson, but instead having allowed the cancerous growth of homophobia to metastasize.
The Episcopal Church… has challenged the church’s theological underpinnings upon which homophobia and heterosexism have rested and the ecclesiastical power to which they were clamped.
With the weapon of homophobia, conservatives have evoked fear among LGBT allies and have reinforced homophobia’s viscous cycle that keeps our churches perpetually trapped in their own sin, and LGBT people constantly questioning their relationship with the church as well as with God. With the cancerous growth of homophobia, the church has held us hostage to its recalcitrant doctrines about homosexuality, and has failed at upholding the Christian mission to welcome in all of God’s children. As it says in Isaiah 56:7, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (RSV).
By removing this cancer we now have people as the foundational center of the church, and as such we can then come to accept all people’s lives as sacred. By acknowledging all people’s lives as sacred, it not only reveals how Christ sees and know our various faces, but it also reveals how we come to see and to know Christ and the various faces of Christ in each other.
In winning the majority vote in June from clerics and lay representatives from around New Hampshire, Robinson — in his closing remarks about that controversial election — said as he looked out to his congregation, “Look for God as we travel this road together. It is going to be a wild, wonderful, spirit-led ride. So buckle up. Amen.”
In closing their ecclesiastical business for the church year, members of the Episcopal Church can look back at this historic movement and say they have indeed taken their cue from God by ratifying the election of the Rev. Gene Robinson as bishop.
The Episcopal Church, I am proud to say, has not failed at its calling to serve Christ in the world, because it has looked at reality from an involved committed stance in light of a faith that does justice. And in so doing, it has challenged the church’s theological underpinnings upon which homophobia and heterosexism have rested and the ecclesiastical power to which they were clamped. Knowing that homophobia isolates the LGBT population from the body of Christ and denies us our full humanity, the Episcopal Church has not failed Christ nor has it failed at showing the world, by example, how to be an inclusive Christian community.
So today we as LGBT people worldwide can rejoice in the consecration of the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Church. Amen.