Bishops respond to Robinson election

August 6, 2003

Still reeling from the momentous decision to confirm the election of the Rev. Canon Gene Robinson, the House of Bishops spent most of Wednesday morning in conversation.

More than two dozen bishops asked to speak on the floor about the house’s decision Tuesday night to confirm Robinson, an openly gay man, as bishop-elect of the Diocese of New Hampshire. Despite their positions, nearly all the bishops talked about the difficulty of the decision and the challenges for the future of the church and for the unity of the body.

“The vote yesterday was not about winners or losers, about conservatives versus liberals or about who is right and who is wrong,” said the Rt. Rev. Victor Scantlebury, assisting bishop of Chicago. “For me, it was an indication about God’s people, the people of the Episcopal church, attempting to discern God’s will.”

Each bishop has the responsibility to work toward unity in God’s church and educate members of his or her diocese about how decisions are made. “In our sinfulness, we will always discern God’s will differently. But our love in Christ should keep us together,” Scantlebury said.

Bishop Duncan Gray of Mississippi asked his colleagues for patience and compassion as he and others who opposed Robinson’s election struggle with the feeling of brokenness.

“I am acutely aware that in what we have done, we have been broken, at least in my part of the world. I pray, and it is my hope, that we have been broken in that Eucharistic image, in order to be more fully shared,” said Gray. “But please, make no mistake: We have been broken. It is my deepest hope, that in that brokenness, God might use us in ways unknown and not yet understood.”

The Mississippi bishop also said that he and others live in communities that, through “much of our history, have been absolutely sure about certain moral and cultural matters. And history has proven we were wrong.”

Bishop Catherine Roskam, suffragan of New York, said many places in the Anglican Communion also are struggling with issues of sexuality. “Someone is always first. I believe we were called by the Spirit to do what we did,” Roskam said. “I hope we would not respond to the fear but to the love of God.”

Bishop Frank Gray, assistant in Virginia, countered that his opposition was not rooted in fear but out of conviction. “When Canon Robinson is introduced to this house, it’s going to be a difficult time,’’ he said. “I cannot welcome him into this house, yet I do not want to be discourteous.”

Added Bishop James Curry, suffragan of Connecticut: “May God bless us as we move ahead into what indeed is a different church than we were yesterday. I believe that God’s blessing, God’s love, embraces us.”