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Gene Robinson

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The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson (born 1947 May 29) is the ninth bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Robinson was elected bishop in 2003 and entered office on 2004 March 7. Prior to becoming bishop, he served as assistant to the retiring New Hampshire bishop. Robinson is best known for being the first openly gay, noncelibate priest to be ordained to the historic episcopate. See also: Gay bishops


Robinson was born in Lexington, Kentucky. When he was born, there were concerns that he would not survive the delivery, so the physician asked Robinson's father for a name for the baby's birth and death certificates. Charles and Imogene Robinson had counted on a girl, thus explaining Robinson's feminine given name of Vicky Imogene.[1] Robinson survived and went home to his family's farm outside Lexington, where his parents worked as tobacco sharecroppers. The family used an outhouse, water from a cistern and did laundry in a cast-iron tub over an open flame.

He and his family attended the Disciples of Christ church. He later attended the University of the South in Sewanee, which is affiliated with the Episcopal Church, and soon became involved in Episcopal life. After graduating that University in 1969 with a B.A. in American Studies History, Robinson began a course of study toward a Master of Divinity degree at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in New York. He received his degree in 1973. After being ordained as a deacon and later as a priest, Robinson briefly served as Curate at Christ Church in Ridgewood, New Jersey.

He moved to New Hampshire in 1975 and became Canon to the Ordinary in 1988. While attending the Seminary, he sought counseling to rid himself of homosexual thoughts. The counseling did not change his sexual orientation, and in 1972 he married despite these feelings about his sexuality, of which he had informed his fiancée. After having two daughters (Jamee and Ella), Robinson publicly acknowledged his homosexuality. He and his wife divorced in 1986, but remain friends. Around 1989, Robinson met his current partner, Mark Andrews, who currently works in the New Hampshire state government. Robinson has one granddaughter, Morgan Isabella. [2]

Election as bishop[edit]

Template:Anglicanism Robinson was elected bishop by the New Hampshire diocese on 2003 June 7. As this election occurred within 120 days of the Episcopal General Convention, it required ratification there, rather than by the alternative process of diocesan standing committees.

The General Convention of 2003 became the center for debate over Robinson's election, as conservatives and liberals within the Church argued over whether Robinson should be allowed to become bishop. Some conservative elements threatened a schism within both the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion should Robinson be elected.

Allegations of impropriety[edit]

Robinson won the first two of three votes required for his election to be ratified, but allegations suddenly arose on August 4 to the effect that he had "inappropriately touched" an adult male Vermont parishioner on two occasions at a New England area conference, and also had connections with, which at the time carried a link to, a resource site for bisexual people that included links to pornography sites. The final vote was postponed to address these last minute charges.

David W. Virtue, a critic of gay ordination, brought up the pornography allegation, claiming that "Gene Robinson’s website is linked by one click to 5,000 pornographic websites." [3] When no such link was found on the Diocese of New Hampshire web page profiling the bishop-elect, Virtue stated that the link was on the website of an organization Robinson supported. Robinson was already known to be associated with Outright, a secular organization for the support of young homosexual people. Fred Barnes, a Fox News commentator, repeated the allegations on the website of The Weekly Standard.[4] On the day the allegations arose, the website issued a press release [5] stating that it had removed the offending link, that it had been unaware of the pornographic links on, and that Robinson had no involvement with that particular chapter of Outright.

David Lewis, of Manchester, Vermont, the man who had alleged the "touching," was then reported to have said, during the investigating committee's telephone call with him, that the acts in question were two separate occasions of what felt to him like intentionally seductive arm-squeezing and back-stroking, although in a public setting. Lewis acknowledged that others might have regarded the two incidents as "natural," yet the incidents were disturbing to him nonetheless. The investigating committee's report also stated that Lewis regretted having used the word "harassment" in his e-mail, and that Lewis declined an invitation to bring formal charges. No journalist ever contacted Lewis for confirmation of any details of the investigating committee's report.

Confirmation as bishop[edit]

The investigation was concluded on August 5, with Robinson cleared of the allegations, and the final vote was scheduled for the same day. Robinson was confirmed, receiving 62 votes in favor, and 45 against. He was consecrated on 2003 November 2, amid continuing objections, some of which were aired at the service. The consecration took place at an ice hockey arena in Durham, New Hampshire.

Ramifications for the Anglican Communion[edit]

Robinson's appointment prompted a group of 19 bishops, led by Bishop Robert Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, to make a statement warning the church of a possible schism between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, stated that "[it] will inevitably have a significant impact on the Anglican Communion throughout the world and it is too early to say what the result of that will be." He added, "[i]t is my hope that the church in America and the rest of the Anglican Communion will have the opportunity to consider this development before significant and irrevocable decisions are made in response." [6] Retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu stated that he did not see what "all the fuss" was about, saying the election would not roil the Church of the Province of Southern Africa. Other senior bishops of the church, like Peter Akinola, Archbishop of the Church of Nigeria, have stated that their churches are in an "impaired communion" with the Episcopal Church.

Treatment for alcoholism[edit]

On 2006 February 14, it was reported that Robinson was being treated at an inpatient rehabilitation facility, after arriving at said facility 2006 February 1, in order to combat his "increasing dependence on alcohol". Robinson wrote to his community in an email, explaining that he voluntarily sought the help he needed. “I am writing to you from an alcohol treatment center where, with the encouragement and support of my partner, daughters and colleagues, I checked myself in to deal with my increasing dependence on alcohol.” He added that he had been dealing with alcoholism for years "as a failure of will or discipline on my part, rather than a disease over which my particular body simply has no control, except to stop drinking altogether."

Diocesan officials were surprised by the news and asserted that they did not notice his alcoholism affect his ministry in any way. The Episcopal Church, through its General Convention, has long recognized alcoholism as a treatable human disease, not a failure of character or will. The members of the Standing Committee issued a statement fully supporting "our bishop and his family as he confronts the effects of alcohol on his life, and we commend him for his courageous example to us all, as we pray daily for him and for his ministry among us." [7] [8] [9] He returned to work on March 8. [10]


Gene Robinson's life, and the significance of his election to people both inside and outside the Episcopal/Anglican church, are the subjects of a 2006 biography, "Going to Heaven: The Life and Election of Bishop Gene Robinson" by Elizabeth Adams.[11]

Robinson featured prominently in a documentary film entitled For The Bible Tells Me So that screened at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.[12]

External links[edit]

This article is based on a GNU FDL LGBT Wikia article: Robinson Gene Robinson LGBT