Gene Robinson

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The Right Reverend Vicki Gene Robinson (born May 29, 1947) 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 March 7, 2004. Prior to becoming bishop, he served as assistant to the retiring New Hampshire bishop, amid great controversy. Robinson is best known for becoming the first openly non-celibate gay bishop in the Anglican Communion, making Anglican views of homosexuality a major issue for the Church.

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Background

Robinson was born in Lexington, Kentucky. His family attended the Disciples of Christ church, as did he. He later attended the University of the South in Sewanee, which is affiliated with the Episcopal Church, and soon became involved in Episcopal religious 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 underwent therapy to rid himself of homosexual thoughts. The therapy was unsuccessful, but in 1972 he married, despite these doubts 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.

Election as bishop

Robinson was elected bishop by the New Hampshire diocese on June 7, 2003. 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

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" David Lewis, an adult male parishioner, on two occasions, and also had connections with outright.org (http://www.outright.org), which at the time carried a link to allthingsbi.com (http://www.allthingsbi.com), a resource site for bisexual people that included links to pornography sites. The final vote was postponed.

Robinson was already known to be associated with Outright, a secular organisation for the support of young gay people. On the day the allegations arose, the website issued a press release [1] (http://outright.gwi.net/CalendarInfo.asp?MtgID=1763) stating that it had removed the offending link, that it had been unaware of the pornographic links on allthingsbi.com, and that Mr. Robinson had no involvement with the design of Outright's website.

David Lewis, of Manchester, Vermont, the man who had alleged the "touching," then stated that the act in question was a touching on the arm and the back, in a public setting, and acknowledged that, while the contact made him uncomfortable, others could regard the two incidents as "natural". He said he regretted having used the word "harassment" in his e-mail, and declined an invitation to bring formal charges.

Confirmation as bishop

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 favour, and 45 against. He was consecrated on November 2, 2003, 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

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. This sentiment was later echoed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who stated that the decision would likely alter the Communion. But Mr. Williams also said that it was too early to discern what the alteration would be. [2] (http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/releases/030806.html) 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.

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