First Openly Gay Episcopal Bishop Announces Retirement

Bishop V. Gene Robinson Is Renown National Figure

In 2009, Bishop Robinson of Concord, New Hampshire gave the invocation for the opening event of  President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Also that year, Robinson ranked #7 on Out Magazine’s Third Annual Power 50 List of  “Most Influential Gay Men and Women in U.S.A.”  For his particularly active work in civil rights for the GLBT population, he has received awards from GLAAD, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Lambda Legal, Equality Forum, and the Human Rights Campaign.

In The Thick of Controversy Though

Bishop Robinson was elected the 9th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese in 2003 and entered office in March 2004, but not without controversy. When Robinson was elected bishop, it was not at all certain that the Episcopal Church would consent to his election.

Divorced in 2008 from Isabella “Boo” McDaniel, with whom he has two children, an openly gay bishop, with a male partner, Mark Andrews, whom he later wed in a civil union ceremony, was not appealing to many oldline Episcopalians.

The Episcopal Schism

After his election was ratified 62 to 45, dissatisfied Episcopalians aligned themselves with bishops outside the Episcopal Church in the United States, “The Anglican Realignment.”  The divide was between theological liberals and conservatives in not only the Episcopal Church but its parent body, “The Angelican Communion,” churches affiliated with the Church of England in more than 160 countries.

Due to the controversy surrounding his consecration, Bishop Robinson was not invited to the  2008 Lambeth Conference by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. However, only one New Hampshire congregation departed under his watch. The church in New Hampshire suffered less fallout during his tenure than the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion. According to”Gene Robinson Isn’t Retiring Quietly”/10/22/2012, the breakaway congregations claim about 100,000 members and the Episcopal Church retains two million.”

Strides in the Episcopal Church

Despite death threats, harassment, and sharp criticism, Robinson felt it has all been worth it. His church has made great strides on LGBT issues since he was elected Bishop. In 2010, the Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool, was consecrated the second gay bishop in Los Angeles as a result of a 2009 moratorium being lifted on further appointments of openly gay bishops. In 2012, the Episcopal Church authorized a provisional liturgy for the blessing of same-sex relationships and authorized its use for the blessing of marriages in those states where it is legal. The Lutheran and Presbyterian Churches have followed suit and are ordaining openly gay, partnered clergy.

Retirement Plans

Although the requirement age for Episcopal bishops is 72, and Bishop Robinson is only 65, his formal retirement is in 2013. His successor is A. Robert Hirschfeld, Bishop in Concord, New Hampshire.

Robinson will be working part-time in Washington, D.C. as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. This is the “think tank” founded by John Podesta, former White House Chief of Staff. Here, he will be writing and speaking, platforms that he is accustomed to, on a variety of issues.

A feature-length documentary “Love Free or Die” about his ministry was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.  It has already had 300 screenings around the U.S. but can be seen on PBS on October 29. It will have a DVD release too.

He has a new book out, “God Believes in Love: Straight Talk About Gay Marriage,” a case for gay marriage which blends personal experience with theological argument. It is published by Knopf, is 196 pages, and costs $24.00.

No doubt Gene Robinson’s new career will pick up where his ecclesiastical one left off: focusing on the progress that still needs to be made for the civil rights of all GLBT citizens.