Jag fortsätter med engelska, nämligen med anteckningar från Biskop V. Gene Robinsons anförande i Saint Martin in the Fields (kyrkan vid Trafalgar Square) i går.
Gene Robinson valdes till Biskop i New Hampshire i USA för 2 år sedan (länk till höger), vilket har tagits till förevändning för mycket rabalder inom den Anglikanska kyrkogemenskapen. Han bor nämligen sedan 18 år ihop med ett mannfolk - och det finns det många - inte minst i USA - som vill förbjuda.
Vid biskopsvigningen representerades Svenska kyrkan av Biskop Krister Stendahl och Stockholms nuvarande Biskop Caroline Krook har inbjudit Gene Robinson till Stockholm i slutet av denna månad.
Det pågår sedan ett par decennier en maktstrid mellan en högljudd Calvinistisk minoritet i främst Amerika och Afrika, som vill göra om den Anglikanska kyrkogemenskapen efter konfessionella linjer, och kyrkans majoritet som vill fortsätta som hittills - vilket inbegriper fortsatt emancipation för socialt marginaliserade grupper; slavar, kvinnor och nu homosexuella kvinnor och män.
Not living is the worst thing
I attended a lovely service today put on by Changing Attitude at St. Martin's in the Fields. This is what I took away from the address after.
Gene Robinson began by talking about his traumatic birth, and early childhood illness resulting from a difficult delivery, and how his survival seemed to be miraculous to many who thought he would soon die after birth. How when he became Bishop his mother had suggested she had always thought that God ensured he survived for a reason, and this must be it.
He was a charming, intelligent, witty man, down to earth, short in stature, and came across as having a heart of gold. This was a very different man from the timid person who spoke across a satellite link to LGCM in Manchester two years ago. This was a man who had been transformed through his ministry as bishop, someone who had overcome his fear of death while facing very real death threats, who had been blessed to see people’s lives transformed by God through his ministry. He saw being gay as being a gift, and through that comes the gift of our knowing our need of God (cited Beatitudes).
We cannot regret being gay, lesbian and transgendered, if through that we also come to know God. This is not about a social agenda or axe-grinding. It is about witness to the greatness of God, which is what we are required to do. He quipped: “Some of my very best friends are straight people”. He had a fundamentalist upbringing, and there began his love for scripture; yet despite what his church was doing with scripture, God’s voice still manages to come through.
He recounted looking at Playboy with other school-boys, which set up his self-alienation and hiding. He had therapy to try and cure his sexual orientation, and subsequently was married to a wonderful woman, who knew about his desires, and they had a wonderful marriage. Eventually he felt that God was calling him out (cited Jesus telling Lazarus in the tomb to “come out”). He and his wife made a decision to be divorced. They felt that the only way to honour each other, as they had promised in their vows, was to let each other go (which was painful).
When they were divorced, they then celebrated the Eucharist together, returned rings, and asked each other for forgiveness. He was honest with his children. He has been with his partner for 18 years.
He referred to the sermon at his consecration, where it was stated that a bishop cannot be a symbol of the unity of the church – that together the bishops are a symbol of that unity, but that unity cannot consist in any one of them. In following his calling, he was aware that it is hard to know what is God’s voice and what is one’s own ego – discernment is needed, and that is why one must refer to one’s spiritual director in these matters.
The decision for selecting a bishop in ECUSA is taken by the diocese, unlike here; there are no external factors involved. The bishop is elected by both the laity and the clergy in two sets of ballots. He was elected by those representatives in his diocese, as their bishop, in accordance with his province’s rules.
Becoming a Bishop has changed his life. He talked about the death threats, his need for body guards, being approached in letter by a woman in prison as a result of his election, and the ministry to women in that prison that came out of that. His selection was about far more than just sexuality, and this has opened the doors of the church to many who are not gay, but who can see it as a sign that they too are included. People outside the church and in the gay and lesbian community saw something in the process that spoke to them of God’s love.
Talking about the death threats, he said that for us, as Christians, dying is not the worst thing – not living is the worst thing. Dying is not a reason to be fearful. Throughout scripture we are told, in Jesus’ words, “be not afraid”.
On the day he was consecrated bishop, nobody there doubted the presence of the Holy Spirit. Now, New Hampshire is the only diocese in the Anglican Communion that is not obsessed with sex. He is just the bishop – they have moved on now – it is about the Gospel. The church there is growing like crazy; they have lost some people, some big donators. People are now returning to the church after 20/30 years, they are receiving Roman Catholics (Ratzinger being elected Pope could be a huge benefit to the Anglican Communion); it is unbelievable. And they are drawing in people who have no connection with the church; not specifically gay and lesbian people, but young people with families who see an inclusive church. Rather than being bad for the church, it seems the church may well be a better church for inclusion.
He gave twelve items of advice.
1. Go beyond inclusion. We are baptised into the church, we are already in the church, and nobody can exclude us.
2. Act normal (not straight). Then people will see we are normal.
3. Work on your own stuff. It is not over when we come out, that is just the beginning. It is like coming out of Egypt and wandering in the wilderness for 40 years; there is a temptation to go back to the security of Egypt.
4. Offer your gifts to the church. We have gifts besides being who we are as gay people, and should pull our weight like everybody else.
5. Focus on other issues as well. We need to care for the poor. The sin of Sodom was neglect of the poor, orphans and widows; who are the real sodomites in our governments? Those who neglect the poor and marginalised commit the sin of Sodom. Do not neglect these scriptures, use what has been hidden within them.
6. Gently and quietly teach. Be patient and tell them what it feels like to be told “love the sinner, hate the sin”, or about being a “practicing” homosexual, “it’s OK to be gay but not practice” (asked what “practicing” means; had a humorous aside about when it starts to become practicing – living in the same house, sharing a room, sharing a bed, touching each other, etc.). At what point do we practice? Who has the right to assume that they know what it is we do in private? What happened with Jeffrey John put paid to the idea that the issue was about practice. You cannot separate sin from the sinner; you cannot separate out who you are; it is about who we are.
7. Connect with other “isms” – racism, sexism, etc. The oppressor wants us to argue rather than deal with the oppression. Together we become the majority. Straight white men have run the scene too long, and it is coming to a close, we all have a place at the table now.
8. We will not see the end of this struggle in our lifetime. That is fine, we know where it will end.
9. Be prepared to pay a price. Jesus tells us that it will cost us.
10. Learn to preach the Good News. Use opportunity to talk about God and how amazing He is.
11. Do your own spiritual work: Prayer Worship Discernment So that you can point God out (Told joke about what happens when you cross a Unitarian and a Jehovah’s Witness – goes knocking at doors, but when the door opens forgets why he’s there).
12. Keep focussed on mission. Not about sexuality, about bringing people to Jesus Christ. We have a story to tell. We know what it is like at the margins and to be at the heart of God. People want to hear this; they want to hear about our amazing God. This is our story.
Talked about when Peter and John went to the Temple, and the man at the Beautiful Gate. Peter’s “I have no silver and gold”. We have been made to sit at the gate, and forgotten that we belong inside. Jesus has made us walk. People will want to know where we get our joy and peace. We belong in the Temple, and that is where God wants to see us.
He then answered some questions. He felt that the Roman Catholic Church trying to tie in their problems with child abuse with homosexuality was abysmal. When asked what we should do when we are cursed and vilified, he responded “love them anyway”.
Apologies for any errors or omissions on my part, but this was from my notes & memory.