Bishop Robinson blasts VOL: “I have had just about all I can take”

By Sarah Frances Ives
Special to Virtueonline
July 9, 2012

On July 9, 2012, at the beginning of the House of Bishops meeting, New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson was granted by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori what he called a moment of “personal privilege” at the beginning of the House of Bishops. He said he did so in the spirit of the gospel that from Luke 8:17 “Nothing is hidden.” He said he spoke out of directness and wanted accountability.

Robinson complained about his past nine years as bishop. He referred to his past history saying, “Nine years ago today charges were brought against me” when he was running for the episcopate. Robinson continued, “Seven years later Bishop John Howe asked for my forgiveness about things he had been told about me” that had questioned Robinson’s fitness for the episcopate. Robinson stated that Howe had been told “a lie” and “I of course forgave him.” Robinson said that he and Howe are now close.

Robinson continued into the present saying, “I received an email from Howe saying that he had been contacted by two bishops” who said that Robinson “had no intention of reading the communication from the nine bishops.” Robinson was referring to the nine bishops who have recently had Title IV charges brought against them.

Robinson defended himself stating that this email was “either a lie on those two bishops part or it was something I said that was misconstrued.” Robinson said that he had “read every word communicated to us” since arriving here. He added, “It helped me understand where those bishops were coming from.”

Immediately following this, Robinson made a second complaint that he had received “an email form Virtueonline” asking Robinson about the state of his relationship with his “beloved Mark.” According to Robinson, the email asked whether they were having relationship problems or were planning a divorce.

Robinson vociferated, “It is nobody’s damn business.” He complained that “for nine years I have borne a level of scrutiny” beyond what he should have been and “there is a limit to what one person could bear.” He complained, “While we were discussing reconciliation yesterday, two of you had been emailing Bishop Howe.” Robinson defended himself, “I believe that I have treated every one of you with honor and respect and I have listened to you every time.”

Robinson stated, “I have only 3 and a half more days of active bishop in this house and less than six months” as an active bishop in the Episcopal Church. Then he begged, “Can you cut me a little slack please?”

Robinson asked that if there were questions about him, “Can you ask me personally? I will answer you truthfully.” He acknowledged, “We disagree about lots of things.”

He complained, “I know I am tired.”

He continued: “It has been a long nine years.” Robinson said, “I have had just about all I can take.”

He ended, “You can question my motives for saying this. I don’t know what my motives are.”

In a reference to G. K. Chesterton’s statement that many do not attempt to live the Christian faith, Robinson pleaded, “Let’s not talk about reconciliation. Let’s attempt it.” He begged again, “Can we try together? Please.”

Following Robinson’s rambling statement, Bishop Edward Salmon of the Diocese of South Carolina (retired) requested the names of the two bishops involved with this email. He said, “What I am concerned about [is that] two people said things and the names are not given. I had a rule in the Diocese of South Carolina that no third party information without names.” He concluded, “Anonymity is the devil’s workshop.”

Bishop Robinson offered no names after Bishop Salmon’s appeal for more information.

When asked by this correspondent, Virtueonline produced a copy of the carefully worded email to Bishop Robinson that said, “The word on the ground at General Convention, and now making the rounds on the Internet, is that you and Mark Andrews are apparently parting ways. I realize this is a delicate issue, but a valid one, due to your high visibility as a bishop in The Episcopal Church . . . So there, in all humility I ask, Bishop Robinson, are you and Mr. Andrew experiencing relational problems? Have you separated? And are you discussing divorce? There are rumors out there, I would like to try and set the record straight.”

The obvious contradiction in this puzzling situation is that Bishop Robinson stated that he would like questions directly asked to him, yet when a professional journalist asked him a question, he complained at length about it in the House of Bishops, without answering the question.

All clergy and bishops in the Episcopal Church realize that spouses, partners, and children become public figures after the ordination of one person in the family. This is discussed in seminary and formally and informally at many clergy gatherings. Any relationship (dating, partnered, or marriage) becomes a public reality in congregations and dioceses. Robinson had publicized his relationship during the election process by his public appearances with Mark. What is puzzling about this is the level of self-pity that Bishop Robinson demonstrated. The public scrutiny he is going through is a common experience for ordained clergy. By complaining about this publicly, he has brought much more public attention to his personal life and called forth increased questioning about the state of his relationship with Mark.

The email to Bishop Robinson from Virtueonline was carefully stated and appropriate considering his public position. Robinson does seem to be having personal difficulties that we wish him all the best with, but clearly his speech about his personal life was out of order for the House of Bishops.

The bishop received a standing ovation.

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