Bishop Gene Robinson reflects on ever present threats
Sitting in the sun-kissed grounds of a London church, U.S.Bishop Gene Robinson reflected in sombre mood on what it meant to be the first openly gay bishop in the 450-year history of the Anglican church.
Robinson, a divorced father of two, has received death threats and wore a bulletproof vest at his consecration back in 2003. Two uniformed police officers stood guard last month as he entered into a civil partnership with his longtime partner. He was heckled when preaching in London over the weekend.
“I take the threats very seriously, I have to,” he said. “But I am not interested in being a martyr, I just want to be a bishop.”
Robinson’s visit to Britain concides with the Lambeth Conference, the ten-yearly meeting of bishops from the worldwide Anglican Communion, but he has not been invited to attend. So he has several speaking engagements outside of the conference, including a sermon at Saint Mary’s Church in the Putney section of London on Sunday where he urged Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to show firmer leadership and get conservative foes to tone down homophobic taunts.
In an interview with Reuters, there was no hiding the disappointment in his voice when talking about Williams’ decision not to invite him. And he repeated that he felt it was high time Williams took a stand against Conservative opponents who taunted him with homophobic mockery.
“There is no place in the Christian Church for someone to say Satan has entered the church with my consecration or that gay people are lower than dogs,” the 61-year-old bishop said.
Clearly exasperated with a navel-gazing church obsessed with its own internal problems, he said human sexuality was an important issue but added “I would agree with many Africans that there are so many more important things to be dealing with.”
But he was clearly proud of what he had achieved in trying to sweep hypocrisy away, saying: “I would like to think I have raised the issue of how destructive ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ can be.”