Pious Pioneer

By Joe Martone

Posted January 10, 2013 in News

Groundbreaking (and gay) bishop coming to show Palm Springs that all are equal in the eyes of God

As anyone who has ever been in a relationship can tell you, love is one of the most complex things a human can experience.

It becomes even more difficult when authorities on high declare that your love shouldn’t even exist, that your desire will condemn you to eternal suffering.

It’s worst of all when those said authorities are your direct superiors.

This is the constant struggle that the Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson—who will be visiting Palm Springs later this month—has been going through for years, a struggle that intensified after he came out as the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican church. For Robinson, parts of these struggles have recently come to an end. This weekend saw him formally retire from his New Hampshire diocese, and pass the torch to his successor, A. Robert Hirschfeld.

From Robinson’s perspective, the feelings are mixed.

“Well it’s very much a bittersweet experience,” Robinson tells the Weekly. “On the one hand, I loved the diocese I’ve had. I’ve really loved it. But at the same time I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my own life and ministry. I really have so much respect and love for my successor, whom I’ve been working with over the last four months.”

Robinson’s personal quest, however, is far from over. Robinson has been a vocal advocate for LGBT rights, unafraid of sharing his own challenges to help others. Last year he released a documentary entitled Love Free or Die at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival where it won the Special Jury Prize.

“It shows the way in which I and others in and beyond the Episcopal Church have changed people’s attitudes towards LGBT people in the faith. I think the message in the movie is our faith could change and can change. Individual people make a real difference. They really can make it happen. It’s a hopeful movie and I think it’s inspiring.”

As bishop, there was controversy at every turn. When he was consecrated in 2003, he wore a bulletproof vest to his own ceremony. When he met with the Archbishop of Canterbury, his reception was less than welcoming. He did not learn where he would be meeting the man until he was boarding a plane to leave the country, and when he finally did meet leader of the Church of England he found himself being lectured on the decline of American churches.

In 2008, Robinson was excluded from a once-a-decade gathering of Anglican bishops and clergy in England called the Lambeth Conference.

“[Love] doesn’t seem like rocket science, right? . . . That love between two people of the same genders [is] put in a different category of people of sin [is] just antithetical to everything I know about God and everything I read about God in the Old and New Testament,” Robinson says. “It’s astounding that people of faith so blinded by their prejudice. On the other hand, we shouldn’t be surprised by that. For countless centuries we’ve used scripture to justify slavery and people still use scripture to justify the degradation and subjugation of women. We follow in a very blind line of learning. It’s very exciting to be alive during a time when people of faith are learning that they have been wrong about LGBT people, just as they were wrong about slavery and women . . . At the end of the day, love wins. ”

Though his tenure as bishop is over, his future is clear. Robinson will be attending a screening of Live Free or Die in Palm Springs scheduled for Jan. 19 at Camelot Theatres. The former bishop will answer questions afterward. All are welcome.

For ticket information, call (888) 718-4253 or go to www.showclix.com/event/LOVEFREEORDIE.



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