Friday, July 25, 2008

It must run in the family

The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson has long reminded me of another, even more famous Robinson. Back in the 1950s, Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey did not choose Jackie Robinson to become the first black baseball player in the majors because he was the best black player, but because of all the good black players, he was the one who could best handle the racist catchers with cleets up and the fans and newspapers hurtling racial slurs and broken bottles.

In today’s similarly toxic atmosphere, I believe that God, acting as the church's GM, has chose a new Robinson for the same reason that Rickey chose the old Robinson. There may be other GLBT priests who would make better bishops than +Gene (although I doubt it), but there aren’t likely very many who could handle the pressure as well. By asking +Gene to bear the burden of blazing the trails, to take the pain and to be the one to show conservatives that hey, the gay guys actually DON’T want to rape you and eat your children, God is creating a path for even better pastors who just aren’t as strong. If it is not +Gene who goes first, no one will be able to follow.

Although +Gene is not officially invited to Lambeth, his presence there has nonetheless been felt very strongly. Here is a post from his blog about his speech last night to other bishops, and several posts from other blogs, including bishops' blogs, with their thoughts about him. So, from +Gene:
This was my first opportunity to meet my foreign counterparts, and of course like my brother and sister American bishops, found this to be a wonderful, sobering and thoughtful experience.

After a presentation by some of our bishops about the polity and practice of electing bishops in our Province, and an introduction of me (via DVD) by laity and clergy of New Hampshire, I spoke. I told them that the one goal I had was that they might recognize the God I know and witness to in my life as the same God they know in their lives. I believe that happened.

During the question and answer conversation, several wanted to express their support, and did so movingly and sincerely, some through a translator. Both bishops and spouses contributed. Others asked good questions and listened intently to my answers. I could not have asked for a more respectful hearing. Comments made during and after the presentation revealed a deep yearning to heal this current divide -- theologically, culturally and ecclesially. The longing for Communion seemed palpable to me. Those who would prematurely announce the demise of the Anglican Communion obviously haven't talked to these folks!

From Bishop Leo Frade of Southeast Florida:
One of the topics of the meeting was the absence of the bishop of New Hampshire from our gathering. I must say that we were very upset because due to security, Gene Robinson could not even meet with the rest of the bishops. Regardless of what position you may hold on this issue, as Americans we are used to more equality, and to have one of our duly elected bishops forbidden to meet with us is a travesty. This was a meeting of the bishops of The Episcopal Church, and it is sad that in the 21 Century we are still acting as if we were in the Middle Ages.

From Bishop Neff Powell of Soutwestern Florida:
We had a Provincial gathering of our bishops. Gene Robinson, as you know, was not invited to the Lambeth Conference, but nevertheless is in Canterbury leading "fringe events." He was barred from attending our meeting by our hosts on the grounds that the Provincial gatherings are official events of the Conference and being held within the bounds of the Conference. This announcement was not well received. We were discussing holding our next meeting outside the bounds of the Conference when it was announced that Gene would not be in Canterbury that day. So the story continues.

From Elizabeth Kaeton of Integrity USA:
It's an amazing experience. The excitement that surrounds one of his visits is like unto a 'rock star'. Everyone wants to tell him how much they admire him and to thank him for his courage and witness. The nice fellow over at the Coffee stand made a latte just for Bishop Gene and absolutely insisted that he take it for free. He did so with tears in his eyes saying, "It's an honor to serve you, sir."

And just for fun, from MadPriest, “Gene Robinson Could Be Next Pope”:
It seems very ironic to me that the only two provinces of the Anglican Communion that actually possess real, apostolic bishops are the Scottish Episcopal Church and T.E.C. They have the uninterrupted line. In fact, the argument the papacy used in the 19th. Century to discount the reality of Anglican orders does not apply to either of these two provinces. I expect there is some get out clause somewhere but it is possible that Bishop Gene is in full communion with Rome. Now, how do we swing the next conclave?

No comments: