Saturday, November 06, 2010

Bishop Gene Robinson announces plans to retire

 BB NOTE: The timing is fascinating.  Nothing is done without some planning.  If he retires in January 2013, well guess what happens in 2012?  The Episcopal Church has a General Convention. Last time the New Hampshire election was timed so that the voting to affirm Gene Robinson's election would be done at General Convention 2003.  It will be interesting to see if New Hampshire follows the same strategy again.  The 2012 General Convention is slated to take up the Anglican Covenant as well.

From here:
Bishop V. Gene Robinson, whose consecration as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church set off a historic rift in the global Anglican Communion, announced to his New Hampshire diocese on Saturday that he intended to step down.

He plans to retire in January 2013 after nine years as bishop, to give the diocese enough time to elect a new bishop and get the approval of the national church, a process that can take two years.

The news took some by surprise because Bishop Robinson is an energetic 63-year-old, and mandatory retirement age for Episcopal bishops is 72. He has led a relatively stable and healthy diocese, despite predictions by some that his election would undermine the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire.

The reason to depart, he said in a speech delivered at the close of the annual convention of his diocese, is that being at the center of an international uproar has taken a toll on him and on the diocese.

“Death threats, and the now worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as bishop, have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark” and on Episcopalians in the state, he said.

But those who know Bishop Robinson say he has no intention of retiring from public life. His status as a symbol in the international gay rights movement means that after he steps down, he will have no shortage of platforms from which to preach his message that God blesses gay relationships too. (Through a spokesman, he declined interview requests.)

Bishop Robinson has become a national figure. In 2009, he gave the invocation for the opening event of the inauguration of President Obama. He also sees himself as an evangelist to people alienated from Christianity.

The election of Bishop Robinson in a church in Concord, N. H., in 2003 was the shot heard round the Christian world. It cracked open a longstanding divide between theological liberals and conservatives in both the Episcopal Church and its parent body, the Anglican Communion — those churches affiliated with the Church of England in more than 160 countries.

Since 2003, the Communion’s leaders have labored to save it from outright schism, not just over homosexuality, but also over female bishops and priests.

The current strategy, pushed by the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, is for each regional province to sign a “covenant” of common beliefs.

The covenant has been slowly making its way through laborious writing and approval processes, which could take years.

Late last month, an international coalition of liberal Anglicans started a campaign to reject the covenant, saying, “The covenant seeks to narrow the range of acceptable belief within Anglicanism.”

The group, Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity, said, “Rather than bringing peace to the Communion, we predict that the covenant text itself could become the cause of future bickering and that its centralized dispute-resolution mechanisms could beget interminable quarrels and resentments.”

The church in New Hampshire suffered less fallout under Bishop Robinson than the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion. Only one New Hampshire congregation departed during his tenure, a congregation long unhappy with the direction of the Episcopal Church, according to diocesan leaders.

The number of active members in New Hampshire fell 3 percent, from 15,259 in 2003 to 14,787 in 2009. In that period, the Episcopal Church, like most mainline Protestant denominations, lost about 10 percent of its members. (It had about two million in 2008, the last year for which statistics are available.)

Bishop Robinson won critics over with a leadership style that was decisive but collaborative, said Margaret Porter, moderator of the diocesan council.

“The people who were skeptics, that did not last,” she said. “He was willing to meet them where they were. There were churches that were reluctant to have him visit as bishop for a time, and I think he now visits every congregation and is welcomed.”

But the pressure on Bishop Robinson became apparent in 2006. He took a monthlong leave to be treated for alcoholism. He said Saturday that he was in his fifth year of sobriety.

He and his partner of more than 20 years had a civil union ceremony in New Hampshire in 2008.

Bishop Robinson is no longer the only openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. Bishop Mary D. Glasspool was consecrated in Los Angeles earlier this year.

In his resignation speech in New Hampshire, Bishop Robinson said: “This is the one place on earth where I am not ‘the gay bishop.’ I believe that you elected me because you believed me to be the right person to lead you at this time. The world has sometimes questioned that, but I hope you never did.” 
Read it all here.


The Underground Pewster said...

Don't forget that liturgies for ssbs should come out of GC 2012. +VGR can then go out on a high note.

Anonymous said...

“Death threats, and the now worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as bishop, have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark” and on Episcopalians in the state, he said.

Poor Bishop Gene - ever the victim..


RMBruton said...

So, basically, it took less than a decade to destroy an entire denomination and render the idea of an Anglican Communion virtually useless.

Anonymous said...

Boy oh boy are we gonna miss him.

Wilf said...

There may be good news here for +Gene. It's possible that God has laid something on his heart - and that he knows he will wrestle with this better if he is not an active bishop.

We can pray for him.

I've never known him to deny the essentials of Christ's identity. There is much more hope for +Gene than for those who are active in ministry and do this.

Bryan Owen said...

Anglican Down Under has some interesting thoughts about all of this in his posting "Not much news in this announcement." A money quote:

"Now perhaps, dear readers, you live in a different world to me, but in my world stressed people who cite stress as a reason for early retirement do not then stay in the job for a further 26 months!"

Dale Matson said...

"Now perhaps, dear readers, you live in a different world to me, but in my world stressed people who cite stress as a reason for early retirement do not then stay in the job for a further 26 months!"
It's intended to heighten the drama.

Anonymous said...

love the spin on nos in the article.... TEC has 2m members and NH is down only 3% ......... but ASA is down 18% since 2003 in NH

Daniel Weir said...

I will refrain from commenting on what I see as the nastier comments in this thread. Gene has been my friend for more than 30 years and he is a far gentler person than many that I encounter here. I would say that he is not alone in announcing his retirement early and I see his reasons for that as those he has stated, i.e., to provide time for an orderly transition, and not "to heighten the drama."

The Lakeland Two said...

Fr. Weir,

How he conducts himself now until his retirement will reflect the truth, as well as following his retirement.

My problem with this is if he is so worn out, why doesn't he stay home and stop traveling everywhere. The main job is taking care of his diocese. Serious question is how much time has he spent in his diocese versus out of it promoting the "cause"?

I have gay people in my life whom I love dearly. Gene may be a gentle person, that's not the issue. (How you've treated some of us isn't all that kind either - so your ding doesn't carry the bite you think it does.)

As a Christian leader Gene is called to a different standard. He would have had more of my respect if he had gone with others of like belief and created a different entity rather than pushing out others in the name of inclusiveness. If he wanted to marry his partner, go do it, but leave leadership - or go start your own church. Whether he personally pushed away doesn't become the point, he's part of the movement and he's running with the pack.

If the Anglican tent is so big, why couldn't the reappraisers have said, OK, we believe this way and if you don't, that's OK? Instead, like Women's Orders, it's been shoved down many of our throats, with dissent being stomped on. Instead of growth, we have decrease across the board. At what cost? It is because there is no room for dissent that I have the most issue with - especially in the name of "inclusiveness".

Daniel Weir said...

. I an sorry if I have been less than civil to others in this forum.

The friends I have in NH are not at all unhappy with the care they have received from their Bishop.The diocese seems to be very healthy. It is a reality of life these days that Bishops are often required to be away from their dioceses, although it is probably true that Gene was away more than most.

The question of women's ordination continues to surface - with expressions like "shoved down many of our throats." I think that those of us who supported the ordination of women were often remarkably patient with Bishops who didn't. We allowed those Bishops to veto the calling of women by parishes for years, effectively saying the a Bishop's convictions trump those of everyone else in the diocese. As far as I know, no Bishop has been forced to ordain a woman in violation of his conscience, nor has a vestry be forced to call a woman.

The Lakeland Two said...

You have got to be kidding me...or yourself. Or hoping to mislead others. The bishops alone who do not believe in WO have been the targets of such hate and ridicule from TEC leadership. That's being "inclusive"? How about the fact that even though non-WO bishops allowed women to go to other dioceses to become priests only to be attacked still?

Have you not read Katie Sherrod's attacks alone?

Physical world calls. I will come back to the "forced" part of Fr. Weir's comments later. But, yes, women have been forced on non-WO congregations.

Daniel Weir said...

I will wait for Lakeland Two's further comments, but I do recognize that there has been nasty rhetoric from some on both sides of the issue, but not from me.

Daniel Weir said...

Since Lakeland Two hasn't responded, perhaps someone else can provide me with information about non-WO congregations that been forced to call women priests. I know of parishes where the vestry was denied the right to consider women priests, but I haven't heard of a call being mandated against the will of the vestry.

Daniel Weir said...

It seems to me that the claim that there were congregations that were forced to call women priests has not been supported by any evidence - at least on this blog.

The Lakeland Two said...

I've been spending some time in the constitution and canons - which has been interesting and will share that later this evening. I've been busy offline and have only dabbled a little as pleased me the last couple of days. Will respond, sorry to make Fr. Weir wait.

The Lakeland Two said...

OK. I wanted to have more time to research, etc., but will go ahead with what's been on my mind on this.

Are women priests forced on a diocese/congregation.

The Constitution and Canons alone force an issue which is ironic. When it suits TEC they want to use goverment prinicples, yet when it suits them - First Amendment. This issue plays out here.

Title III, Canon 1.2 and 1.3:
Sec. 2. No person shall be denied access to the discernment process for any ministry, lay or ordained, in this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities or age, except as otherwise provided by these
Canons. No right to licensing, ordination, or election is hereby

Sec. 3. The provisions of these Canons for the admission of
Candidates for the Ordination to the three Orders: Bishops, Priests
and Deacons shall be equally applicable to men and women

So, just in the Canons alone is a forced element. If anyone in the process chooses to elimiate based on conscience of no women, they are violating the Canons. And disciple being what it is, someone not wanting to adhere to that will be disciplined a lot faster than anything else.

I was on our search committee and I and several others on the committee were by told by several of our congregation they did not want a woman as a priest and would leave. Which surprised me since our church is on the liberal edge bleeding into full liberal. We got the talk from the diocese rep that we had to consider females and could not say give us just men candidates. Why? That would violate the law. When does it apply to a church and when does it not? When the powers that be want that agenda. The women candidates we were given were not what our congregation wanted on other levels - as were about 90% of the men as well. So some in our congregation were "forced" to consider women.

Those who are in conservative congregations who have a woman bishop have a woman forced on them.

St. John's in Bristol, CT. One of the Conneticut Six. In Bishop Smith's own words: "On Wednesday, July 13, about 9:45 a.m. the Rev. Susan McCone and I came to the parish office to deliver copies of the Inhibition of Father Mark Hansen and a copy of the letter in which I appoint the Rev. Susan McCone Priest in Charge of the parish."

Now, Fr. Weir, if you have a congregation that's known to be that conservative, what's the point of putting a woman in?

That's forced. The choice not to have a woman priest has been removed. All it takes is one person on a search committee to throw out a card that says so. And off to the secular courts they go.

The Lakeland Two said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Lakeland Two said...

3:26 was a duplicate. Sorry.

Daniel Weir said...

Lakeland Two,

Thank you for your comments.

As to the requirement, of which I have been well aware, that parishes consider women candidates for rector, I find this falls far short of forcing women priests on a congregation. The vestry is free to reject those women candidates.

I had forgotten the Bristol parish, but was under the impression that many of the conservative parishioners had left with Fr. Hansen. If that was not the case, then I think that even as an interim appointment this was unwise.

I would guess, without any evidence, that the number of congregations denied permission to consider women clergy is far larger than the m=number of those that have been forced to call a woman.

I think we can agree that bishops can be autocratic - as can priests.