Friday, November 24, 2006

In Defense of Gene Robinson (Again)

Douglas Page’s editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle, “A congregation divided,” is a toxic mix of ignorance and invective. Mr. Page misunderstands the role of the Lambeth Conference of Bishops, whose pronouncements are commendatory and occasionally edifying, serving to deepen conversation and communion among bishops of the Anglican Communion. It does not exercise a binding teaching authority nor does it define church doctrine.

The Episcopal Church, which is an autonomous member church of the Anglican Communion, has included sexual orientation in its non-discrimination canon governing access to church offices. It largely has left decision making regarding the qualifications of candidates for ordination as bishops, priests, and deacons to local dioceses. Most Episcopalians are quite convinced that gay and lesbian clergy make their vows with utter sincerity and in keeping with a faithful, though not always literal, interpretation of Holy Scripture.

Bishop Robinson was elected bishop of New Hampshire by the people of his diocese, who came to know, respect, and love him through his more than twenty years of service with them as a priest. I doubt the good people of New Hampshire, overwhelming heterosexual in their orientation, considered themselves the pawns of a “homosexual agenda.” They elected a good priest to be a good bishop. They chose well.

Bishop Robinson did not refuse his election because it wasn’t his decision to make. It was the decision of the people of New Hampshire and of more than two-thirds of the bishops, clergy, and laity gathered in General Convention in 2003 who voted to confirm his election. Imagine if Jackie Robinson had refused his “elevation” to major league baseball because “now was not the time” to address racism. Bishop Robinson would have been a coward if he had refused to face the heterosexism that infects our church and society.

Bishop Robinson has taken up his cross. The Episcopal Church has taken up its cross. Our Church is now enduring the consequences of bearing with discrimination, disdain, and demonization in solidarity with queer people. The way of the cross is painful, confusing, even frightening at times. But I am confident that new life, Resurrection life, is being offered through the faithfulness and courage of all-too-human disciples of Jesus like Bishop Gene Robinson. Bless you Gene!

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