Robinson not seeking a quiet retirement

1st openly gay Episcopal bishop plans to be active voice

V. Gene Robinson is passionate about challenging religious people on the left to speak out. V. Gene Robinson is passionate about challenging religious people on the left to speak out. (Bill Greene/ Globe Staff)
By Lisa Wangsness Globe Staff / December 5, 2010

CONCORD, N.H. — V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion, may be retiring from his job heading the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire in a couple of years — but don’t expect him to vanish from public life.

In addition to continuing his ministry to people who grew up without religion or who have had bad experiences with church, Robinson said he plans to become more involved in public policy issues. Religious people on the political left, he said, need to speak more loudly — and provocatively — on behalf of the poor and vulnerable.

“Jesus was constantly upsetting people,’’ he said in an interview at the diocesan offices in Concord last week. “If we started proclaiming what Jesus did, which is our love for the marginalized and the outcast, and started demanding legislation and money that helped these people, there would be hell to pay. And that’s exactly the kind of Gospel trouble I think we should be in.’’

Robinson, whose election seven years ago created a rift in the Anglican Communion, surprised many when he announced last month that he would retire in early 2013, more than six years before he will reach the mandatory retirement age of 72. His mention of death threats among the many reasons he cited for leaving led to speculation that he felt chased out.

But Robinson said that is not true. Being the focal point of so much controversy has been stressful, he acknowledged, on top of a job that is fast-paced and demanding. But he said most Episcopal bishops retire in their mid-60s, and by 2013 he will have served as bishop for nine years. It seemed, he said, like a reasonable time to pursue other interests.

Robinson said he did not allow himself to contemplate resigning until the 2009 election of the Rev. Mary D. Glasspool, a lesbian, as assistant bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

“I think there was a sense that I would remain as an active bishop until there was a sign that this was not an aberration, or mistake, or a one-time event, but was actually a change in our church,’’ he said.

In 2006, the Episcopal Church imposed a de facto moratorium on approving new gay leaders, heeding the call of the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the honorary head of the Anglican Communion, to pause and consider the potential consequences for the body, which includes 38 provinces with common roots in the Church of England. Robinson’s consecration had alienated traditionalists, particularly in Africa and Latin America, the largest and fastest-growing parts of the church, who believe scripture deems homosexuality immoral, and who threatened schism.Continued…

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