Theo Hobson meets Gene Robinson, the only openly gay Anglican bishop, who says that homosexuals are more open to the Christian ‘message of radical change’
I am sitting in St Mary’s church, Putney, home of right-on Anglicanism. Bishop Gene Robinson — the gay American whose election nearly split the Anglican church — is seeking reassurance from his fans. He’s had a grilling from our nasty press, he says, and is relieved to be among friends. I get out my pen and prepare to dip it in poison. I feel deeply ambivalent about Gene — not hostile, but very much in two minds. And I think he may hold the future of the Anglican communion in his hands.
‘The Anglican tradition is uniquely capable of holding two seemingly contradictory ideas together,’ he says. ‘Its position on abortion, for example, is that all human life is sacred [he stretches out his right hand, as if to seize this principle, then continues]. And, that no one has the right to tell a woman what to do with her body [the left hand shoots out]. Both are true.’
Well, my position on Robinson is that he is right, that the Church’s official discrimination against homosexuals is an absolute sub-Christian disaster — and that he is guilty of making a quasi-Christian sect out of gay rights. Both are true.
He is, for this audience, a cult figure, a symbol of the change it prays for. And he fully accepts this role. As the only openly gay bishop of the Anglican Communion, he is the one-man vanguard of a revolutionary cause. In as far as he is accepted by his fellow bishops, the Church is choosing reform over reaction, light over darkness. It seems pretty intent on choosing darkness at the moment.