Thursday, June 19, 2008


Yesterday I had an opportunity to meet Bishop Gene Robinson, the openly gay church leader who’s become such a lightning rod in the Episcopal Church. If you’ve been following his story at all, you know his election as bishop of New Hampshire has prompted a call for schism in the church, from a handful of conservative churches in the U.S. and from some church leaders overseas.

Robinson is a smooth, relaxed speaker, and he’s fascinating to hear -- which I guess shouldn’t be a surprise, given that he’s a bishop. He believes that what’s happened to him only mirrors what’s happening in the greater society -- essentially an end to the patriarchal structure, which threatens those who have traditionally held all the power. He said homophobia is closely tied to misogyny, because homosexuality is seen as a weakening, a feminizing, of traditional male roles.

He also said he believes the Bible is the word of God, but not the “words of God,” thus drawing a line between Biblical literalists and a more interpretive stance on scripture. He doesn’t think God dictated the Bible and then went on vacation; he’s still speaking to us. We just have to listen.

I thought it was a fascinating talk. I always wondered why Robinson didn’t resign and save the church all this trouble -- as inherently wrong as that would be -- but now I see he believes this odyssey is all part of God’s plan. More power to him.

(Photo: Theater district, May 2008)


  1. More power to him, indeed. The link between homophobia and misogyny is an excellent insight.

  2. Yes! More power to free thinkers everywhere.

    Very cool. The bible is the word, not the words of God. I love that! Sounds like a great experience.

  3. I was raised Episcopal, and still have the service basically memorized. I fully appreciate what the bishop did. More power to him, and yes, the link between homophobia and misogyny is very apt. I have a nephew (all of 21 yrs) who has gotten deep into the Episcopal church recently and also agrees with the Bishop - at least in the idea of free thinking.

  4. thanks for the synopsis - great opportunity!

    I've heard robinson on npr a couple times - fresh air and diane rehm - and thought he sounded like a very wise person!

    the hegemony of patriarchy is insidious and he's right on to make the connect of misogyny and homophobia - albeit not the first to do so.... but hey, that's cool we have to keep on keeping on!!

  5. Cool - and definitely more power to him!

    I'm friendly with the very Reverend Robert Taylor (the first openly gay dean chosen to lead an American Episcopal church) here in Seattle - who is likewise gay (partnered for years) and quite controversial (outspoken and long involved with the likes of Archbishop Desmond TuTu and others) - he spoke at a leadership conference I organized last year. Just an amazing man.

  6. Religion has always been the way that the powerful have kept the masses down. They won't relinquish power without a fight.

  7. I love people who really believe in what they have to say. More power to him!

  8. absolutely why should he resign? the church has to face the issues sooner or later.

    i don't know if the appointment of Jeffrey John as dean of St. Albans got any media attention in the US but he ended up resigning. That was a bad day for the C of E in England i think.

  9. Lucky you, Steve! I would love to have the chance to hear Bishop Gene speak.

    And yes, I've read about the connection between misogyny & homophobia. Makes sense.
    (The connection - not the attitudes!!)

  10. Thank you for writing this post. I am a lay woman working in the Catholic Church. It is often a struggle to stay with many in the Church pushing patriarchy and misogynistic rules that try to keep women like me in "our place" I too also believe that I am called to be in the struggle in this time and place as the Church continues on the road to accepting that the Spirit is calling all believers to the fullness of service in the Church. Thank you for the bit of hope with your story of Bishop Robinson.


  11. Yes, the Episcopal Church must face all this; we've got a truly great Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, who I think will lead with a fair and strong hand to guide us away from divisive hatefulness. It's troublesome (at the very least!) to think that still religion can't get over itself to focus on what's supposed to happen: be kind and helpful and loving. Gene Robinson, by the way, had to, and maybe still does, wear bulletproof gear under his vestments.