Gay Bishop Gene Robinson Prepares For Retirement

RobinsonAfter 27 years with the Episcopal Dioscese in New Hampshire, openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson is set to officially retire on January 5th, bringing to the end a career that helped break homophobic barriers within the Anglican church here in the States.

And as he prepares himself for the next step in his life, Robinson says he’s in awe of the rapid progress his religion has made in the nine years since he first became bishop.

“I’d been given this really remarkable opportunity and it would be
selfish of me not to be the best steward of that opportunity,” he told the Associated Press.

“We went from my consecration, which set off this
international controversy, to nine years later seeing gay, lesbian and
transgender congregants welcome at all levels of the church, including

The AP also reminds readers of one of Robinson’s bravest acts: standing up against the international Anglican Communion for not inviting him to their once-a-decade Lambeth Conference in 2008:

He was publicly shunned by church elders, targeted with death threats
and says he struggled to strike a balance between being the “good
bishop” and the “gay bishop.” In the end, he says, they became one and
the same.

He is a self-described “off-the-end-of-the-scale extrovert” who bounds
across stages and television studios, whether promoting causes or his
new book, God Believes in Love: Straight Talk About Gay Marriage.

Robinson said it pained him deeply to be excluded in 2008 from [the Lambeth]
gathering… He said it was the first time
since 1867 that a bishop had not been invited.

He traveled to England despite the snub to make his presence known and minister to anyone who wanted his counsel.

As for his relationship to New Hampshire, where he’s lived since the mid-70s, Robinson said, “New Hampshire was the one place where I wasn’t the gay bishop. I’m just the bishop. That’s been terrific and kind of lifesaving in way.”


  1. Scotty says

    Even though I’m an atheist I recognize that dramatic and lasting positive social change for gay equality will not come without major attitudinal shifts among the religious majority. So, I say good for you, Bishop Robinson, for having helped to spearhead those changes. You’ll be missed as an openly gay high-ranking religious leader. Hopefully your post-clerical work for full equality and social change will be just as meaningful and important. Enjoy retirement!

  2. Marc C says

    As it is right now, god isn’t in the mix. However, if I was inclined to accept any spiritual council, this is one of the only men that I would be willing to get it from.

  3. voet says

    I am also a member of the fastest growing religious group in America–the “nones.” I also have tremendous respect for the dignity and grace that Vicky Gene Robinson has shown in the face of incredible difficulty.

    Marc, if I were to seek spiritual council from a bishop, I would also consider going to Bishop Desmond Tutu who has been another advocate for us.

    Peace to both men.

  4. Diogenes Arktos says

    As Voet noted, Archbishop Desmod Tutu has been an incredible advocate for LGBT people, particularly because he recognizes the fight for LGBT rights is on par with the fight against apartheid. (Unlike too many African Americans, who resent even the hint of a comparison.)

    The full article noted that +Gene Robinson didn’t stay until the mandatory retirement age of 72 because in December 2009 a lesbian, +Mary Douglas Glasspool, was elected a Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. While it seems a small point, it is nonetheless important that +Robinson was a Diocesan Bishop – the head of the diocese. Contrary to the full article, +Glasspool is not. This does not denigrate +Glasspool’s status as a bishop per se: it’s a statement of canonical reality that she is not the head of the diocese.

    @Andrew: I know you are not an expert on all matters. Neither am I. While I have complained you have not followed the text in front of you, here you did too good a job.

    The “Anglican church” is not the same as the “Anglican Communion.” The Rt Revd Gene Robinson is a bishop of The Episcopal Church, which is the American province of the Anglican Communion. This is not the same as “the Anglican church here in the States”, which properly refers to a collection of splinter groups which left The Episcopal Church and are therefore not viewed as part of the Anglican Communion.

  5. anon says

    While he’s properly credited with coming out himself, he failed to advance any gay rights issues within the church itself, so he’s a only really a symbolic victory and also the primary beneficiary of his coming out. I think that’s a bit of a shame, really. Someone’s got to come along and actually change doctrine at some point.

  6. Onnyjay says

    Robinson wasn’t elected bishop to advance anyone’s agenda, he was chosen to be the shepherd of the clergy in New Hampshire. And let’s not forget Jack Spong, a long-time advocate for inclusion of GLBTs in the Episcopal church and still a strong voice for reform and renewal.

  7. Diogenes Arktos says

    Do not underestimate the importance of the simple no-so-quiet presence of +Gene in The Episcopal Church. He brought a human face to LGBT issues that +John could never have brought. On a diocesan staff, it is common for the Bishop to be the “good cop” and someone else be the “bad cop”. +Gene was the “bad cop” under his predecessor and he *still* won election by the diocese. His election marked that doctrine had changed.

    I always say it takes all types in all places to change minds. However, it also matters who supports you. (Read David Mixner’s “A New Year’s Reflction – TR 28 Dec 2012 for some political examples of turning down gay money.) I admire the courage of +John to take his public stances. OTOH – it doesn’t help advance those stances when he is not uncommonly viewed as an out atheist. (As I was reminded a few days ago on TR.) I know some LGBT-friendly people in TEC who believe that +John did set back LGBT issues in the denomination. I am reminded in many ways of those who oppose Dan Savage.