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2003-08-04

Openly Gay Reverend Wins One of Two Votes Required To Be Elected Bishop in Episcopal Church

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Rev. V. Gene Robinson faces a final vote today in the House of Bishops. We speak with Rev. Susan Russell of the Claiming the Blessing Collaborative on whether the decision threatens to divide the church. [Includes transcript]

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A New Hampshire clergyman moved a step closer yesterday to becoming the first openly gay elected bishop in the Episcopal Church.

The House of Deputies, a legislative body composed of clergy and lay people, voted to approve the Rev. V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. The vote was one of two required to be confirmed. He faces a final vote today in the House of Bishops.

56 year-old Robinson is a divorced father of two and has lived with his partner, Mark Andrew, for 13 years. He was elected by his diocese in June, but the church requires that a majority of convention delegates ratify his election.

Robinson has rejected repeated calls from opponents to withdraw his candidacy to prevent a breakup of the church, as a gay clergyman in England did recently.

Many say the decision threatens to divide the United States church, which includes 2.3 million people, as well as the larger Anglican Communion, an association of 70 million people in churches in 164 countries.

In 1998, during a once-a-decade meeting of top Anglican leaders from around the world, a majority supported a resolution that said homosexuality was "incompatible" with scripture, but the resolution was not binding.

Episcopalians on both sides of the issue say a final vote in favor of Robinson could build momentum for approving blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: As we move right now to Minneapolis, a New Hampshire clergyman has moved a step closer to becoming the first openly gay elected bishop of the Episcopal church. The House of Deputies, a legislative body composed of clergy and lay people, voted to approve the Reverend Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. The vote was one of two required to be confirmed. He faces a final vote today in the house of bishops. Robinson is a divorced father of two, he lived with his partner, Mark Andrew, for 13 years. He was elected by his diocese in June, but the church requires that a majority of convention delegates ratify his election. Robinson has rejected repeated calls from opponents to withdraw his candidacy to prevent a breakup of the church as a gay clergyman in Britain did recently. Many say the decision threatens to divide the U.S. church, which includes 2.3 million people as well as the larger Anglican communion, an association of 70 million people in churches, 164 countries. We go to Minneapolis now to Susan Russell who is Executive Director of Claiming the Blessing Collaborative which works with the Episcopal gay group, Integrity. Welcome to Democracy Now!

SUSAN RUSSELL: Good morning. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: As we speak the conference is going on, there is going to be a second vote on reverend Gene Robinson to be the New Hampshire bishop. Can you talk about what’s happened there this weekend and the significance of the vote yesterday in the House of Deputies to approve him?

SUSAN RUSSELL: The significance of that vote yesterday was amazing. Not just the power of the holy spirit that we could feel in that hall, but the margin vote was greater, quite larger in fact than our numbers were telling us that we could count on. And I’m convinced that the house of bishops today will concur with his election and New Hampshire is going to have a fabulous new bishop.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about this issue of whether the U.S. church will be divided, will actually separate into two.

SUSAN RUSSELL: Amy, one of the things to remember is that in 1976, the Episcopal church met last in Minneapolis and we approved the ordination of women, the same threats of schism and split were all in the air at that time, that was the last great schism that was going to split the church. It didn’t split the Episcopal church. It grew it, it made it stronger, it made it more vibrant. And I’m utterly convinced that when we take this next step forward on the inclusion of gay and lesbian people we’ll look back at 2003 as another real watershed date for inclusion and the progressive gospel the way we look at 1976 on the issue of women.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Susan Russell, what most struck you about this weekend what will you remember?

SUSAN RUSSELL: Oh my God, I will remember the power of the love that’s been just palpable between the people in this place, people who have labored, some of us for—  I’ve only been at this for a decade. Some of them have been at it 20 and 30 years, trying to move this church forward, not because we’ve got an agenda but because we love the church and we love the gospel and we want to make this church a place where anybody is welcome. And the energy in the house of deputies yesterday as we waited for that vote, sort of waiting for everybody to exhale. And also the quality and tone and timbre of the debate, even from those for whom this is not a good thing, has been— the tone has been high, the rhetoric has been respectful by and large, and I have great hope and excitement for what we’ll do on the other side of this great move forward.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, Reverend Susan Russell. Executive Director of Claiming the Blessing Collaborative. She is speaking to us from Minneapolis, thank you very much, where New Hampshire clergyman has gone through one of two votes, the House of Deputies, the legislative body of the Episcopal church, has voted to make him the bishop of New Hampshire. He will be the first openly gay bishop in the U.S. Episcopal church. You are listening to Democracy Now! When we come back, we’ll talk about Liberia. Stay with us.


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