Robert Ganshorn

Gay Anglican Bishop Suffers Death Threats

Filed By Robert Ganshorn | July 14, 2008 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, The Movement
Tags: Anglican, Anglican Church, Gene Robinson, schism, Uganda

Bishop Gene Robinson is under siege in London. He has gone there at the invitation of an Anglican church to give a sermon to the faithful. He has gone to London because he was specifically disinvited from the Anglican annual conference at Lambeth due to the controversy surrounding him. He has been invited to preside over a celebratory mass in London where he will address the same issue as the conference is conducted in Lambeth. It should also be noted that there is a firestorm in the Anglican Church both over his elevation to Bishop (as a non celibate gay man in 2003) and recently the approval of women to be Bishops in England.

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Bishop Gene Robinson has received death threats in both the United States and since coming to London causing him to hire security and keep the location of his residence a secret. He has publicly said that his concerns are greatest for the anguish of his partner, daughter, and two granddaughters for his safety.

The fundamentalist wing of the church is in full revolt and it seems only a matter of time before they create a formal schism. Even now over one hundred bishops from around the world are not attending the Anglican Conference in Lambeth in protest over the ongoing disagreement that they are enthusiastically referring to as a New Reformation. Some 291 bishops from around the world (but largely from Africa) have already attended an alternative conference in Jerusalem. They are determined to keep women and gay men from having a leadership role in their church. Gene Robinson is not without friends and allies.

Over two hundred churches in the United States are affected by this schism at this point. It is important if you are Anglican to know how your current church stands in this debate as you must support those who do not discriminate against positive gay role models and women. They are disguising their hatred for us in rhetoric suggesting that we are a distraction from their mission to the poor in Africa and building transparent governments there. What are these people doing that they think they have a right to have a say in the control the government of Uganda?

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Hi Robert,

I have a quick question for you (not being an Episcopalian/Anglican myself). Can you give us any explanation as to why the bishops from Africa are so opposed to gays and women serving in the priesthood? I would hate for ignorant Westerners (such as myself) to just assume that all Africans are bigots, when the fact of the matter is that Western missionaries brought Christianity to Africa in the first place. I would be willing to suggest that since Christianity is both sexist and homophobic, these are outside influences that have been imported to Africa. But I don't know. Since it sounds like you're a member of the Anglican community, can you give us your best guess?

It's my experience that the newest converts to Christianity are usually the first to point out the "Thou shall nots" while those in the tradition for longer end up (hopefully) focusing on Christ's love. Hence, the mainstream Protestants slowly turning towards LGBT rights while Pentecostals and Evangelicals are turning away.

Historically, the most conservative branch (Evangelical) of the Church of England did most of the mission work overseas, while the mainstream to liberal folks (Broad and Anglo-Catholic) did the mission work to poor English people. Therefore, the Evangelical literalist style of interpreting the Bible also went to Africa, whereas the mainstream to liberal end of the CoE at home continued to develop the use of contemporary German-inspired literary - historical - linguistic critical analytic methods (non-literalist) to read and understand the Bible.

It may also be pointed out that many subSaharan African ethnic groups have a long history of patriarchy not that different from that in the Bible. There is still a fair amount of polygamy among those men who can afford this expensive way of life. Women are not seen as powerful by most ethnic groups - Ellen Sirleaf, President of Liberia, is an anomaly and the result of fatigue with the dreadful male leadership of the war period. Big Men are the preferred style of leader - pompous, big entourage, glitz, no pretension of being a technocrat with specific expertise. Therefore, it seems preposterous to have women clergy, not only because of pseudoPauline injunctions against women teaching in public (contradicted by Paul in other letters), but because there are no other powerful women in the ethnic group. About gays - there's no prestige for the man who doesn't have four or more offspring from one or more wife - reinforced by the literal readings of Leviticus et al.

Let us not be smug. We still have controversy over women and gay clergy in the Church of England and Episcopal Church, and there looks to be either a schism or an endless squabble.

I agree with Bil; however, I think it is also a matter of education and economics.

Among people who are living uneducated and on the edge of survival, it is easy for faith to be reduced to the following of a collection of simple-to-understand rules. To keep God from being displeased, do not kill, do not steal, do not commit adultery, do not lie, etc, etc.

Both education and economic prosperity bring the opportunity to sit about and ponder the differences between obeying simple rules and behaving in truly loving ways toward your fellow man so that all can live harmoniously.

At least, that's my theory.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 15, 2008 4:09 AM

Good afternoon from Thailand. Serena, it appears that Nancy who came before me, has answered your question well. Submission of women is culturally common in Africa, but I agree that the Western cultures also have a long way to go.

I am not a member of the Anglican communion, or any organized religion, but I know an ally when I see one. Even retired Bishop Desmond Tutu has been supportive of Bishop Robinson. I personally find those who would do harm to Bishop Robinson to be some of the true haters of the world who out to control the disadvantaged. Being anti gay into the bargain is just an issue around which they coalesce.

As to the state of my soul, she is fine.

Death threats? And the fundies think they're the ones who are threatened by our existence.

Nancy, thanks for the great analysis. And I totally agree with you , AJ. it's a luxury to sit around philosophizing about the meaning of life when your survival needs haven't been met.