Friday, March 16, 2012
The church, widely acknowledged as having been founded in earnest by Elizabeth I (Queen of England and daughter of Henry VIII), was ironically rocked beginning in the 1970s over the role of women who felt called to serve as priests and bishops. Older Anglican Churches in Canada, Australia, South Africa, and the US (where the church is known as the Episcopal Church) have generally been more progressive than their younger, growing, and more Evangelically-flavored Anglican counterparts in central Africa and Latin America.
During Williams’ tenure, disagreements over homosexuality divided the church into liberal and conservative elements, and Williams was often perceived as placating conservative demands (The Archbishop of Canterbury is a spiritual leader, but lacks the ‘authority’ wielded by the Roman Catholic Pope.) Nonetheless, conservative churches remained dissatisfied, and began a process of slow withdrawal from the communion during the last decade, lead by Anglican Churches in Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, and the “Southern Cone” (most of Latin America and the Caribbean) and joined by 10 conservative American dioceses.
Perhaps no greater display of the divide can be shown than by comparing the reactions of Caroline Hall, President of Integrity (an Episcopalian GLBT organization) and David Virtue, an American firebrand who has served as a self-appointed internet communication headquarters for the conservative movement:
"This decade has arguably been the most tumultuous time for Anglicans since the end of the English Civil War. It has been an incredibly difficult time to be Archbishop of Canterbury, officially the ‘Instrument of Unity’ in an Anglican Communion struggling with disunity and at times outright hostility.
When he was elected we had high hopes that Rowan Williams would be willing to take a bold stand on LGBT inclusion. Those hopes were dashed almost immediately when he bowed to conservative pressure and forced Jeffrey John, an English gay man in a celibate relationship, to step down from his nominations as Bishop of Reading. We were also disappointed by his failure to respect Episcopal Church polity and his failure to invite and welcome the Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, to the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops. In his attempts to keep everyone at the table, Williams has proved more willing to listen to conservative than to liberal voices, even though his own theological position is more progressive."
"I certainly admire his ability to stay in this position for a decade. To be called to leadership in the middle of rapid and contentious change is never easy and Williams has been the target for acrimonious letters and emails since he was first elected."
"Integrity wishes him well in his new position and prays that when God calls the next Archbishop he will be a forward-looking person of great courage who understands that to be the Instrument of Unity may not mean keeping everyone together in a unholy alliance. We hope [we]…will not bow to the forces who seek to keep the Church of England, and by example, the rest of the Anglican Communion, in the dark ages where women, gays, lesbians and trans-people are not welcome in the House of Bishops and thus are not welcome at all."
"From the moment he took office, Dr. Rowan Williams' tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury was marked by uncertainty, controversy and unacceptable compromises to global orthodox Anglicans…..For almost a decade it has been a rocky, quarrelsome road for Dr. Williams, culminating in one third of his archbishops and bishops failing to show up at Lambeth 2008 [Ed: a meeting of the world's Anglican Bishops]. A third of his African, Southern Cone and Asian bishops failed to show up in Dublin last year when the world's Anglican Archbishops met. It was billed as a "crisis summit". As the majority of orthodox Anglican Primates failed to show, it was not a summit and a crisis was averted.
In Dromantine in 2005, Williams faced excoriation from both sides. He was accused of being weak and ineffectual by then US Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold for not standing up to Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola over homosexuality, while the Global South Primates continued their distancing from Dr. Williams. Relationships became so estranged that the Primates would not take Eucharist together.
…Williams has warned that the Anglican Communion faces a "piece-by-piece dissolution" if member churches fail to avoid actions that upset others. Many believe that his failure to act or to offer a definitive word on pressing moral issues has contributed to the dissolution.
…Dr. Williams' long struggle to prevent a schism over women and gay bishops and same-sex unions has been a high wire act that has no resolution. Orthodox Anglicans in the West and the vast majority of the Global South are deeply entrenched in Scripture's prohibition of any form of sexual expression outside of marriage between a man and a woman, while Western liberal provinces embrace pansexuality with first a homosexual and then a lesbian bishop [Mary Glasspool, consecrated in the Diocese of Los Angeles on May 15, 2010] consecrated in The Episcopal Church...
[If the new Archbishop] is a liberal, it will only ratchet up the continuing and ongoing realignment now firmly underway. If he is an evangelical, he will need a spine of steel to stand up to the Country's growing and very strident homosexual and Islamist lobby especially in the Church of England...Whichever way it goes one thing is certain, there will be no stopping the rise of the Global South with its millions of evangelical Anglicans and the slow but inevitable death of Western Anglicanism if it does not repent of its sin. And that it would seem, is not going to happen."
Saturday, November 06, 2010
Sad news that brought me to tears this evening.
It is not hyperbole to say that the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson will go down in history alongside Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Cesar Chavez, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And I have been blessed to have lived and worshipped during this time, in the state of New Hampshire, in the Episcopal Church while he has been our shepherd.
Bishop Robinson has stood in the face of criticism and hate and death threats in order to proclaim a greater truth, and to offer a gospel message of hope and love and humanity for all at a time when many have confused the Gospel of Jesus with an ignorant, fundamentalist "churchianity." He has sacrificed his personal privacy and safety in a never-compromising outreach to Gay and Lesbian men and women...and at a time when the Ugandan Church is calling for the execution of gays and conservatives in the Anglican Communion threaten to tear the church apart over the acceptance of gay and lesbian parishioners - - Bishop Robinson has stood and spoken with a blinding truth and honesty that is painful.
Indeed, he has been"...a stone to make men stumble..." (1 Peter 2:8)
My husband-to-be and I were with him in the gallery of the New Hampshire Statehouse when Marriage Equality was finally approved. And he personally gave his blessing to clear the way for our wedding, and promised us personally that he would provide clergy to perform our ceremony.
Coming less than a week after a political tidal wave of change in our nation and in our state legislature, rendering all of our marriages "at risk," this is doubly distressing. But we take heart, knowing that
"...the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice." - Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Time for the rest of us to step up our vigilence.
I have included his the Bishop's entire statement, released today the Episcopal Diocesean Convention.
Bishop of New Hampshire Calls for Election of Successor
Convention of the Diocese of New Hampshire
November 6, 2010
I am using this time for closing remarks to announce to you an important decision I have made regarding our common life. On January 5, 2013, I will retire as your Bishop. To that end, I am hereby calling for the election of a Bishop Coadjutor for the Diocese of New Hampshire, who will succeed me in 2013. While this is an excruciatingly long period of time – two years and two months – from now, this period of time is essential for a smooth and unhurried process of transition, for the diocese and for me.
Let me share with you the reasons for announcing my retirement at this time:
I wanted to make this announcement to you in person. While I might have delayed this announcement a few more months, I could not imagine doing so by letter. I have been in the Diocese of New Hampshire 35 years, the last 24 of which have been in a diocesan position. Our time together has always focused on “relationship,” and I could not imagine changing this relationship without telling you so personally.
By January, 2013, I will be approaching my 66th birthday. (This is where you say, “But bishop, you look so young!”) I will have been a bishop over nine years, a reasonable and typical tenure for a bishop my age in the Episcopal Church, in what I consider to be one of the great and healthy dioceses of The Episcopal Church. Since the very beginning, I have attempted to discern God’s will for me and for you, and this decision comes after much prayer and discernment about what God wants for us at this time. I received the diocese under my pastoral care in good shape, thanks to Bishops Phil Smith and Doug Theuner, and believe that I will be passing it along to my successor ALSO in good shape. I have tried to be a faithful steward of the trust and responsibility you placed in me. Only you can be the judge of that.
The fact is, the last seven years have taken their toll on me, my family, and YOU. Death threats, and the now-worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as Bishop, have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark, who has faithfully stood with me every minute of the last seven years, and in some ways, YOU. While I believe that these attitudes, mostly outside the Diocese, have not distracted me from my service to you, I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that they have certainly added a burden and certain anxiety to my episcopate. While my resignation may not stop such pressures completely, it does seem to be the right time for me to initiate the nearly-two-year process for your election of a new bishop. A three-month overlap will allow for a smooth and appropriate transition.
There are still things left for me to do. First and foremost, there is continuing to be a good bishop for you during the next two years. I don’t intend to be a “lame duck,” as you deserve a bishop during this interim that is “on all burners” for the remaining two years. I intend to continue to be fully engaged as your Bishop in the remaining time we lead the diocese together. You can do YOUR part by not sweeping me aside, either literally or emotionally, over the next two years, while I lead as your Bishop Diocesan.
Let me assure you that I am in good health – having lost 25 pounds put on over the last seven years in part by eating all your good food!! Especially that coconut cream pie in Colebrook! I continue in my fifth year of sobriety, which has been a total blessing to me. I continue to treasure my work and ministry with you, and it is a total joy and privilege to serve you and to serve God in this holy collaboration with you. After two more final, vigorous years with you, there are other things that I hope to do, in a new chapter in my life and ministry.
In the meantime, there is mission and ministry to be done. I have been on retreat with the senior staff, and we have set priorities for the next two years. My first priority during these two years will be to continue to support, nurture and pastor our clergy, lay leaders and congregations. Our School for Vestries, under the able leadership of our new Canon for Lay Leadership, Judith Esmay, is the fulfillment of one of my dreams for us. We will continue our focus on stewardship, vitality and leadership development in congregations. We will continue to be responsible stewards of our finances. We will continue to work with congregations in finding the best clergy available for ministry here in New Hampshire. Our fantastic diocesan staff will continue to see, as their primary mission, serving you, the people of the diocese. The Diocesan Council will shepherd us through a new and exciting accountability process for Fair Share giving. Our Mission Resources Committee, under the leadership of Benge Ambrogi, will be freed to focus on new and creative ministry projects in small and large congregations alike. It is such an exciting time in the life of our diocese, and I intend to jump into it with both feet!
For my own ministry as your bishop, both within and beyond the diocese, I will continue my work of evangelizing the unchurched and the “de-churched.” I get to talk to probably more unchurched people than any other bishop in The Episcopal Church. On college campuses, speaking to various public forums, and also in my work with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, I get the opportunity to make the case for God and for God’s Church – either to those who have never known God’s unimaginable love, or to those who have been ill-treated, in the name of a judgmental God, and who have left the Church. Recent news brings us the tragic stories of teenagers who have taken their own lives because religion tells them they are an abomination before God and who believe that their lives are doomed to despair and unhappiness. I get to tell them a different story. By all accounts, I have had the privilege of bringing many people into the Church for the first time, or convincing them that the Church is becoming a safe place to which they can return with a reasonable expectation of welcome. This is EVANGELISM, for me, pure and simple. This is my attempt at fulfilling “the Great Commission” to go forth into the world, baptizing in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – a calling not just for a bishop, but for each one of us.
I must admit to some anxiety about this change, but I’ve got plenty of time to deal with that. Since I was ordained at the ripe old age of 26, the Church has been my whole life. I love getting up at 4:30 in the morning to pray and to begin work answering your emails and questions and to respond to the needs of our clergy and congregations. Sundays continue with my weekly, official visitations in congregations which have enlivened, nourished and excited me for much of the last decade. I look forward to continuing in being intimately connected with you and your ministries. But as we are told in Ecclesiastes: “to everything there is a season.” And now it seems to be the season to continue that ministry among you over the next two years, as you carefully choose your next bishop. He or she has no idea what a joy and what a privilege it will be to serve you, the people of the Diocese of New Hampshire
I have talked with the Standing Committee about my decision and they will meet on December 9th with Bishop Matthews of the House of Bishops Pastoral Development Office. The Standing Committee will begin the process of choosing both an Episcopal Search Committee and an Episcopal Transition Committee, which will begin their work in the new year. About a year later, in early 2012, nominees will be announced, with an election in the late spring of 2012. Allowing for the necessary consent process at General Convention, we will consecrate our new Bishop on (tentatively, subject to consent) Saturday, September 15, 2012. As with my own election, there will be a few months of overlap for the new bishop to get acclimated and for a smooth transition to occur. On Saturday, January 5, 2013, I will pass over my authority, and the Bishop’s Staff which symbolizes it, to our new bishop, with joy and thanksgiving for what has gone before and for what is to come under new leadership.
I make this announcement with nothing but praise and thanksgiving to God for having the privilege of serving you. While I know that I have not been God’s perfect servant during this time, I will leave in early 2013 knowing that I have given this ministry my best efforts. YOU are, and will continue to be, the reason I have not only survived, but thrived, during this tumultuous time in the wider Church. New Hampshire is always the place I remain, simply, “the Bishop.” This is the one place on earth where I am not “the gay Bishop.” I believe that you elected me because you believed me to be the right person to lead you at this time. The world has sometimes questioned that, but I hope you never did. You always treat me as a human being, a beloved child of God, and an eager servant of Our Lord. That is what I have tried to be, all along the way – and with every ounce of my being, I will continue. And God willing, I will leave this office in 2013 with even more love, more affection and more gratitude for you than when I assumed this role.
I know that this will have come as a shock to many of you, especially given how much I love being your Bishop and love the work we have undertaken together. I even hope that my energy and enthusiasm for being your Bishop has caused you to forget that I am approaching retirement age. But there it is!
There will be plenty of time in the future for remembrances, thanksgivings and reflection on our time together. For now, though, there is important work to be done. We need to let our fine Standing Committee and the future Search Committee do their jobs, and in the meantime, get on with being the Church and preaching the Gospel in this part of God’s vineyard. New Hampshire has made a name for itself in the last few years, and although unwittingly, we have been on the national and international stage. It has given us the opportunity to proclaim God’s love for ALL of God’s children in profound ways. I do not expect that to be diminished in any way as we move through the next two years of transition and as you move into a new partnership with your new bishop! All I can say is that it is the most profound, blessed and exciting honor to continue as your bishop. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for loving me and working alongside me in bringing the Church in New Hampshire and the world ever closer to the Reign of God.
It’s been a great, collaborative ride, and it will continue to be. All in the name of God, who loves us beyond our wildest imagining, and who will continue to lead us into the future as surely and as faithfully as in the past. Thanks be to God.
And now, I will ask our outgoing Standing Committee President to lead us in prayer, sending us into the world, to care for the People of God, preach the Good News, and continue as faithful witnesses to the Gospel.
The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, IX Bishop of New Hampshire
Monday, February 16, 2009
This past Sunday Bishop Gene Robinson officiated at my home parish, St. James Episcopal Church in Keene, NH. It was the first time I had met the man, and he proved to be everything his supporters claimed, and more: warm, scholarly, humorous, articulate, spiritual...I am proud this man is my Bishop.
Afterwards, we had some time to chat with him. He had recently testified before the NH State Legislature concerning the issue of marriage...and, just as I had suggested in my own testimony several years ago, he asked for a seperation of the civil 'rights' from the ecclesaistical 'rites.' In other words, he asked the state to grant 'recognition' (and you can use any word you'd like for that) to any two people desiring state recognition, while the churches would issue their own blessings (or not) based on their own traditions and canons. The distinction between the civil and the ecclesiastical is precisely what I have been arguing for all along here.
We forget that two different processes are happening because they 'collapse' into one at most wedding ceremonies. The Bishop has proposed that churches within his diocese lead the way for making this clear: He has suggested that a Justice of the Peace perform the 'civil' ceremony at the back of the church for all couples (gay or straight), and then have the couple proceed to the altar area where the ecclesisastical rites are engaged.
Makes a heck of a lot of sense to me.