News & Politics

Courageous Gay Bishop Weathers Storm

Bishop Gene Robinson calls on religious gays and lesbians to fight for acceptance within their spiritual communities.
Ironically, we can feel the most spiritually alive when we're being battered by life's fiercest storms.

For Gene Robinson, such storms have struck twice: first, when he could no longer deny his homosexuality and divorced his beloved wife; and second, now, as the Anglican Communion battles over the place of gay people, a struggle that intensified in 2003, when he was consecrated as the nation's first openly gay Episcopal bishop.

In the inspiring In the Eye of the Storm: Swept to the Center by God, the New Hampshire bishop tells what he's learned about himself as a gay Christian and the role he feels called to play in the world's third-largest Christian denomination.

"I am hopelessly in love with the church. It feeds and sustains me," he told me. "I am committed to helping change it from the inside, holding my head up high."

Robinson believes an engaged God -- not a God "who dusted his hands off and walked away into the sunset" -- is challenging the church to embrace those of us who're gay, just as it was challenged over earlier injustices.

He points to what Jesus told his disciples on the night before his death: "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:12-13).

Robinson believes, "We are literally seeing that (promise fulfilled) now.

"The changes we've seen in our understanding of the Scripture over the 19 centuries since it was written have happened through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. ... Things that seemed simply 'the way of the world' -- like slavery, polygamy and the lower status of women -- in retrospect seem like examples of humankind's flawed, limited and mistaken understanding of God's will. Our ability to better understand God's will has improved with time, prayer and reflection," he adds.

Robinson's book is being released as he prepares to step back into the spotlight: In June, he and his partner of 20 years, Mark Andrew, will be joined in a New Hampshire civil union, followed by a blessing at their church.

In July, despite not being invited to the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference of bishops in England, Robinson will go in an unofficial capacity to give wary bishops "a chance to sit with a self-affirming gay person of faith," he says.

The two events, he says, are linked: He wants to ensure his partner has legal rights under the civil union law because "it's potentially dangerous" for Robinson to attend the conference. (He wore a bulletproof vest at his 2003 consecration.)

Because religion is often entwined with anti-gay attitudes, he believes "it's going to take religious people to undo that thinking and believing."

Gay-friendly allies aren't enough. Robinson urges gay people who've left their church, synagogue or mosque to return, come out and walk into the storm: "Instead of giving up on our religious communities, let's think about taking the risks and bearing the burdens of transforming them."

Bishop Robinson's courageous life demonstrates the spiritual rewards of refusing to run for cover if your conscience tells you that you mustn't flee the storm.

Deb Price of The Detroit News writes the first nationally syndicated column on gay issues. To find out more about Deb Price and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at