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social sciences

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Robinson, V. Gene (b. 1947)  
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Inside the ice arena, the traditional ceremony of installation went on without incident. Sharing the solemn but joyous occasion with Robinson were his life partner, his two daughters, and his ex-wife.

After becoming a bishop, Robinson continued his visits to congregations because he saw it as "an enormous educational and spiritual opportunity" to have "remarkably deep and meaningful discussions about what we really believe and why we believe it."

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In a December 2003 interview in The Advocate Robinson stated, "I want my ministry to be about noticing people on the edges and bringing them into the center of the church." This goal was rendered more difficult in 2005 when a commission of the Anglican Church called for a moratorium on the ordination of homosexual bishops and on blessings for same-sex couples.

Ever optimistic, Robinson said, "I believe with my whole heart that the Archbishop of Nigeria [Peter Akinola, a staunch opponent of the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy] and I are going to be in Heaven together. And we're going to get along together because God won't have it any other way. So we better start practicing now."

The issues remain divisive and unresolved, however. Several conservative congregations have left the Episcopal Church over the question of Robinson's ordination and have affiliated themselves with Akinola, who supports draconian legislation in Nigeria that prescribes prison sentences for homosexual activity and even positive discussion of homosexual issues.

At a summit of the worldwide Anglican Communion in February 2007, Anglican leaders called upon the American church to ban the blessing of same-sex couples and the election of gay bishops by September 30 or face expulsion from the Anglican Communion. It is unclear what the response of the Epispocal Church will be to this ultimatum, but it has a history of cautious support of gay people and a theological tradition generally opposed to the fundamentalism that characterizes many of the conservatives.

Since Robinson became a bishop, his workload has been enormous. In addition to performing his duties in the church, he is frequently invited to address organizations promoting social justice. Eventually stress took a toll on him, and he found himself becoming dependent on alcohol. Although his work had in no way suffered, he voluntarily sought treatment in February 2006.

Robinson and his family appeared in Daniel Karslake's documentary For the Bible Tells Me So, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2007. The poignant film tells the diverse stories of five Christian families in which a son or daughter came out as gay or lesbian. Reviewer Kyle Buchanan stated that "few gay viewers and their families will be unable to relate to that journey or to this film's sensitive, moving depiction of it."

The central message that Robinson wishes to impart through his ministry is "that God loves us beyond our wildest imagining . . . but," he concedes, "for oppressed people, that message is harder to believe. I think that for people of color, for women, for gay and lesbian folk, they've been told that they are 'less than' for so long that it comes as especially good news to them, but it's also harder for them to believe."

With specific regard to glbtq people, he stated, "We've had more and more people coming out, more and more people becoming self-affirming. Still, self affirmation only goes so far. But if I say, in a clerical collar, that God thinks I'm all right, it carries a different weight: it means that I have the audacity to say, 'Not only am I self-affirming, but God is affirming me.'"

On June 7, 2008, Robinson and Andrew entered into a civil union in advance of his trip to England to attend the once-in-a-decade Lambeth Conference, from which Robinson has been excluded from full participation.

Linda Rapp

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social sciences >> Overview:  Anglicanism / Episcopal Church

The Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church in the U. S. A. is a part, has dealt with issues of sexuality in complex ways, not all of them favorable to its glbtq membership.

social sciences >> Overview:  Boycotts

Boycotts, the refusal to patronize companies or institutions, have in recent decades been organized by glbtq rights advocates to protest discriminatory practices and policies.

social sciences >> Overview:  Evangelical Christians

Evangelical Christians, who tend to be fundamentalists and socially conservative, have not been welcoming to glbtq people.

social sciences >> Overview:  Lutheranism

Lutheranism is riven into numerous denominations, which vary widely in their attitudes toward homosexuality and in their acceptance of gay men and lesbians as full participants in church life.

social sciences >> Overview:  Mixed-Orientation Marriages

Mixed-orientation marriages--those in which one partner is straight and the other is gay or lesbian--often end in divorce, but such an ending is not inevitable.

social sciences >> Overview:  Reparative Therapy

Reparative therapy is a dangerously misguided attempt, supported by homophobic religious organizations, to change a person's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.

social sciences >> Overview:  Spirituality

Today's glbtq spirituality movements must be seen as part of a long history in which gender-special people were considered sacred to their tribe or family because of their obvious spiritual gifts.

social sciences >> Boyd, Malcolm

In 1977 Malcolm Boyd, an Episcopal priest and prolific author, became the first prominent openly gay clergyman in a mainstream Christian denomination in the United States.

social sciences >> Gomes, Peter

After coming out publicly in 1991, to protest a homophobic incident at Harvard University, the Reverend Peter Gomes lent his eloquent voice to the cause of equality for glbtq people.

social sciences >> Hawkes, Brent

Senior Pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, the Reverend Doctor Brent Hawkes has worked with fervor and dedication to secure equal rights for glbtq Canadians.

social sciences >> Shepard, Matthew

Matthew Shepard led an unremarkable life, but his shocking death transformed him into an icon of the glbtq movement for equality.


Adams, Elizabeth. Going to Heaven: The Life and Election of Bishop Gene Robinson. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Soft Skull Press, 2006.

Bates, Stephen. "The Guardian Profile: Gene Robinson." The Guardian (London) (October 31, 2003): Home Pages, 3.

Buchanan, Kyle. "Big Gay Double Bill at Sundance." The Advocate (January 22, 2007):

Lang, Joel. "At the Center of the Divide: Episcopal Church's First Openly Gay Bishop Sees a Higher Purpose to the Debate." Knight Ridder Tribune Business News (Washington, D.C.) (January 23, 2007): 1.

"Our Bishop: The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson." Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire:

Steele, Bruce C., and John Caldwell. "Person of the Year: Bishop V. Gene Robinson." The Advocate 905 (December 23, 2003): 34.

Zoll, Rachel. "Head of Episcopal Church Asks for Patience after Anglican Demands on Gays." The Advocate (February 21, 2007):


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Robinson, V. Gene  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2007  
    Date Last Updated June 10, 2008  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2007 glbtq, Inc.  


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