Gay clergyman bemoans U.S. reputation as forcing its ways on other cultures
The perception of Americans as aggressors affected the politics within the Anglican Church, said the gay clergyman whose election as bishop set off upheaval within the 77-million member global Anglican Communion.
"The worldview of America, seen as swaggering around the world and having our way and all others be damned, the energy around this issue (gay clergy) has as much to do with that perception as it does with Scriptures," Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay man to be ordained a bishop in the Episcopal Church, told a Honolulu audience last night.
The 60-year-old bishop of New Hampshire was in Hawaii on the way to meet Anglican bishops in Pacific Rim countries during a three-month sabbatical. He said he wants other prelates to "see it as a face, not as an issue."
"Most bishops I know believe that 20 years from now we will have ordination of gays and lesbians and blessings of same-gender unions," he said.
Robinson was invited to speak to Integrity Honolulu, a local branch of a national organization of gay, lesbian and transgender Episcopalians. Members of the diocese and others were also in the audience of about 60 people at St. Clement's Church in Makiki.
The rift between the 2.3 million-member American church and other national churches in the Anglican alliance began when the ruling body of the U.S. church approved his ordination in 2003. African and Asian churches rebuked the Americans, and conservative U.S. Episcopalians sought to overthrow the existing American church.
Just last month the U.S. House of Bishops moved to mollify the more conservative elements of the church by agreeing to hold off on ordaining homosexuals and promising not to establish an official blessing ceremony for same-gender couples.
Nine Hawaii delegates to the 2003 General Convention, including former Honolulu Bishop Richard Chang, voted with the majority favoring Robinson's consecration. "We don't have to be frightened that the church is falling apart," Robinson said.
He said opposition to homosexuals in the church comes from a "small, passionate and vocal" group.
Robinson had been executive assistant to the former New Hampshire bishop for 17 years when the diocesan electing body chose him as bishop, an action that required consent of the national church. He was married when he was ordained as a priest in 1973. He was divorced in 1986 and is the father of two daughters. He has lived openly with his partner of several years.
"I'm proud that we're willing to have this fight in public ... and that we can hold together while we figure it out."