UTAH: New Hampshire bishop upbeat about Anglican Communion's future

August 21, 2009

"At the end of the day the Anglican Communion is going to be fine," New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson told a large audience at St. Mark's Cathedral, Salt Lake City, Utah, on August 20 at an address and book signing. "These last few years have been another chapter in God's people trying to find out how broad and merciful is God and God's love. We can be proud of our response." Robinson is the first openly gay man in the Episcopal Church to be elected as a bishop. Noting that the Episcopal Church struggled with questions of race in the 1960s and gender in the 1970s, Robinson said, "There will be another and another brouhaha until there is no more us vs. them, until there is just us. By then we'll be in heaven." Robinson said that recent attempts to redefine the Anglican Communion as a centralized body are the product "of a small minority that have lost votes here and are now turning to the Anglican Communion, trying to reassert their power elsewhere." He drew on Archbishop Desmond Tutu's definition of Anglicanism. "We meet," he said, adding "we try to live out our traditions faithfully, live the gospel in our lives ... and from time to time we meet." "We absolutely need our partners," Robinson continued. "They are the ones that have been the victims of poverty, racism, and American hegemony. We desperately need the Anglican Communion more than they need us. We need their truth told in love, and I work day and night for that." The New Hampshire church leader said that the proposed Anglican covenant is the work of those who "long for a mechanism so that any church can be kept from going too far. Those people call themselves traditionalists but I would argue they are trying to take us to a place we have never been before." "I don't think it's going to happen," Robinson said of the covenant. "We are not alone in resisting this idea. Some people may say 'If it happens, so be it, we are still called to mission.'" Recalling his time spent at the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops last summer, Robinson said that, although he was not invited, many world bishops said to him, "We want you to know that we need to be in relationship with you. The issues go far beyond sexuality, to medical issues like HIV/AIDS, malaria, and clean water for our villages." Robinson noted with irony that the conference's closing hymn was "All are Welcome." "At the end of the day the Anglican Communion is going to be fine," he said. "It's going to be messy. There are some churches that are not messy, but there is great value and treasure in our messiness, once you just get used to it." Referring to the pending election of bishops in the dioceses of Minneapolis and Los Angeles, both of which have nominated gay or lesbian candidates, Robinson said, "Maybe I will have a special friend in the House of Bishops. It would be nice to have someone like me who has had these experiences as a special friend. It will happen -- it is a question of when." Of his life as bishop of New Hampshire, Robinson said, "We spend no time on these issues. We're growing. We have people coming who want to be part of the church. I'm doing well, in part because I love my diocese. I'm just the bishop. God has been so palpably close during these six years."