Monday, October 31, 2005

Bishop Gene Robinson speaks at St. John the Evangelist

Yesterday Bishop Eugene V. Robinson of New Hampshire presided over the Eucharist at my little no-count Episcopal parish in San Francisco's Mission District. Bishop Robinson is the "gay bishop," the person whose election and confirmation is the proclaimed casus belli that is exposing strains within the worldwide Anglican Communion. (I think there is a lot more to this conflict; the best primer on the issues I know of appears here.)

After the service, Bishop Robinson talked for nearly an hour with members and friends gathered to meet him. Some points:
  • by supporting gay inclusion, the Episcopal Church is putting its life on the line for the first time since the Civil Rights movement. [Though I know plenty of Black and Brown people who would question whether more than a tiny handful of white religious folks put lives on the line then, I believe Robinson is right that our homophobic conservatives take the decision of the ECUSA to fully include gays as a life and death issue. And what are churches for if not life and death issues?]
  • the intense homophobia of some parts of the Church is a form of misogyny, of a piece with opposition to women's priestly leadership;
  • if Episcopalians really care about being in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Global South, we can work to ensure that the ECUSA honors its verbal commitment to the U.N. Millenium Goals by committing at least .07 percent of all budgets to this work;
  • churches ultimately need to get out of the business of marrying people for the state -- they should stick to blessing people's relationships before God. We need new language which separates the form of relationship that legally regulates childcare responsibilities and inheritance ("marriage"?) from a relationship blessed by a religious community ("matrimony"?) The confusion of the two makes the question of "gay marriage" that much more volatile and impedes achievement of full gay civil rights.
Bishop Robinson was warm, wise, sometimes funny, and tough at the same time. If we get a new Bishop here in the Diocese of California (we're in a search and election process now) anywhere near as inspiring, we'll be very fortunate indeed.

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