Gene Robinson, first openly gay Episcopal bishop, to divorce husband

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In this photo released by the Episcopal Dioceses of New Hampshire, Mark Andrew, left, and Bishop V. Gene Robinson are shown during their private civil union ceremony performed by Ronna Wise in Concord, N.H., on June 7, 2008

The first openly gay Episcopal bishop, who became a symbol for gay rights far beyond the church while deeply dividing the world’s Anglicans, plans to divorce his husband, The Associated Press reported.

Bishop Gene Robinson announced the end of his marriage to Mark Andrew in an email sent to the Diocese of New Hampshire, where he served for nine years before retiring in 2012.

Robinson would not disclose details about the end of their 25-year relationship but wrote Sunday in The Daily Beast he owed a debt to Andrew “for standing by me through the challenges of the last decade.”

“It is at least a small comfort to me, as a gay rights and marriage equality advocate, to know that like any marriage, gay and lesbian couples are subject to the same complications and hardships that afflict marriages between heterosexual couples,” Robinson wrote. “All of us sincerely intend, when we take our wedding vows, to live up to the ideal of ’til death do us part. But not all of us are able to see this through until death indeed parts us.”

Robinson did not respond Sunday to email and phone requests for comment from AP.

Robinson has never been fully accepted within the more than 70 million-member Anglican Communion, which is rooted in the Church of England and represented in the United States by the Episcopal Church.

The bishop endured death threats during his 2003 consecration and intense scrutiny of his personal life, and in 2006, he sought treatment for alcoholism. His election prompted some Episcopal dioceses and parishes to break away and establish the Anglican Church in North America with other theological conservatives overseas. Robinson was barred in 2008 by then-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams from the Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade global meeting of all Anglican bishops, as Williams struggled to find a way to keep Anglicans united.

But Robinson was also widely celebrated as a pioneer for gay rights, became an advocate for gay marriage and was the subject of several books and a documentary about Christianity, the Bible and same-sex relationships. He delivered the benediction at the opening 2009 inaugural event for President Barack Obama and, after retirement, became a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank with close ties to the White House.

Robinson, 68, had been married to a woman and had two children before he and his wife divorced. He and Andrew had been partners for more than a decade when Robinson was elected to lead the New Hampshire Diocese. The two men were joined in a 2008 civil union in New Hampshire, and it became a legal marriage when the state recognized gay marriage in 2010.

“My belief in marriage is undiminished by the reality of divorcing someone I have loved for a very long time, and will continue to love even as we separate,” Robinson wrote. “Love can endure, even if a marriage cannot.”

—  Steve Ramos

Good luck getting your same-sex union blessed by the Episcopal Church in Dallas

Stanton.James

James Stanton

A resolution in the works for years came to fruition this week when same-sex blessings were approved by the House of Bishops at the Episcopal General Convention.

The blessing is a recognition of the couple’s commitment by the church and blesses their union together, much like a wedding ceremony without the legality. The Episcopal Church became the largest denomination in the U.S. to endorse same-sex unions with the resolution, which passed with a vote of 111-41 with three abstentions and approves the blessings for three years.

However, Dallas’ heavily LGBT Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle won’t likely perform the ceremonies at all. The Rev. Steve Waller, openly gay rector at St. Thomas, told Dallas Voice last month that he had not asked for permission to perform the blessing if it was approved at convention because conservative Dallas Diocese Bishop James Stanton wouldn’t allow them.

Bishops have the authority to approve or ban same-sex blessings in parishes in their diocese as outlined in the resolution.

“We would not be given such permission by our diocese,” Waller said. “I can’t speak for the bishop, but I suspect he will toe the line and not grant permission. Our bishop has been pretty clear that he didn’t want to do that.”

Waller could not be reached Thursday for comment on the resolution’s passage. Stanton didn’t return calls last month or Thursday asking whether he would allow the blessings.

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth’s provisional bishop, the Rt. Rev. C. Wallis Ohl, told Dallas Voice that he would retire soon and would leave it up to the next bishop to decide if the blessing will be allowed.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the passage brought tears to gay couples at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Houston’s heavily gay Montrose area.

“I’ve had people in tears” over the approval, said the Rev. Lisa Hunt. “It’s one thing for us as community to say you’re welcome and then to have rites that you can’t do … now they can really believe that the welcome is true.”

St. Stephen’s and St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin were the first two parishes to be granted permission to perform the blessings by Bishop Andy Doyle of the Diocese of Texas. Hunt said she plans to perform them as early as November.

The convention, which began last week and ends today, also approved new anti-discrimination language for transgender clergy and church members.

—  Dallasvoice

A Sister’s Gift honors volunteers

Brunch recognizes the efforts of women volunteering in HIV/AIDS community

Edwards.Cheryl

Cheryl Edwards

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Sheri Crandall serves dinner at Ewing House once a month, and has been for six years. She is one of 11 women who have volunteered their time to help those living with HIV/AIDS who will be honored at brunch this weekend sponsored by A Sister’s Gift Women’s Center.

A Sister’s Gift provides resources and support for women living with HIV/AIDS. Cheryl Edwards founded the organization in memory of her brother, Ronald Lewis, who died of AIDS in 1995.

A Sister’s Gift will recognize Crandall as “Volunteer — feeding with faith.”

Crandall said she was embarrassed to be honored for simply doing the right thing. When she joined Church of the Incarnation, an Episcopal church on McKinney Avenue in Uptown, people were already involved with the AIDS Services of

Dallas supper club. She’s taken the program to heart and over the years has become friendly with some of the residents.

“Some have been there the entire time,” she said. “Others transition in and out, and others pass away.”

Crandall said that some residents have special dietary needs and the group tries to keep that in mind in preparing a meal that is as healthy as possible. But, she said, if groups didn’t continue serving meals at the facility, some people wouldn’t eat.

Rosemarie Odom will be recognized as a community advocate.

Odom co-founded C.U.R.E., a Collin County-based group that uses panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in HIV education efforts. This week, C.U.R.E. members hung 18 panels at the Anatole Hotel for the Out & Equal conference.

Odom said that she and Roseann Rosetti started C.U.R.E. because the number of HIV cases were increasing and fewer people seemed to know about it.

“People forgot about what happened in the early ’80s or didn’t know about it,” she said, adding that many people who come to see the quilt panels have never seen the quilt before.

The group has had success displaying panels in Plano and Frisco public schools and starting a discussion about HIV, Odom said, noting that, “Everyone wants to take a picture with it and touch it.”

For World AIDS Day, Odom said C.U.R.E. is planning an event in downtown Dallas with AIDS Interfaith Network. They will display panels from the quilt at the brunch.

Gretchen Kelly will be recognized at the brunch as an HIV fundraiser and volunteer patient advocate. For more than 20 years, Kelly has helped raise funds for a variety of agencies including DIFFA, AIDS Services of North Texas, Legal Hospice of

Texas, AIDS Services Dallas and AIDS Interfaith Network.

But rather than talking about herself, Kelly said Edwards should be getting the award.

“She made a promise to her brother,” she said. “She’s worked really hard to make it work. She’s dedicated her life to it.”

Edwards founded A Sister’s Gift after her brother died of AIDS to provide resources and support for women living with HIV/AIDS.

Edwards said the idea for the brunch came several years ago when she was given an award and noticed that she was the only woman being recognized.

She remembered a woman who took care of her brother when her parents were out of town and she said she knew there had to be a lot of other women whose devotion to people with HIV were not being recognized.

“Women’s needs are different from men’s,” she said.

Edwards called one of the primary services provided by A sister’s Gift “navigational counseling.”

“After many women are diagnosed with HIV, most are clueless about where to go and what to do,” she said.
Edwards said the goal is to make sure women with HIV get medical care and stay on their regimen. They provide bus passes to make sure clients can get to doctors appointments.

More than 95 percent of A Sister’s Gift’s clients live below the poverty line. So when possible, they provide grocery assistance and utility assistance.

TOP Event Center, 1508 Cadiz St. Oct. 29 at 11:30 a.m.
$20 online at ASistersGift.org.
$25 at the door.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 28, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

What’s Brewing: Slavery dropped from ‘Marriage Vow’; Presbyterian Church celebrates gay clergy

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is the only major GOP presidential candidate who’s spoken out against the Family Leader’s “Marriage Vow.”

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The “Marriage Vow” pledge that a right-wing Iowa group is asking presidential candidates to sign continues to make headlines. Over the weekend, the group, called the Family Leader, removed a portion of the pledge’s preamble which suggested blacks were better off during slavery. But this wasn’t before GOP candidates Michele Bachmann — who, alarmingly, leads one recent Iowa poll — and Rick Santorum had already signed the pledge, which also says homosexuality is a choice and calls for banning all pornography. Thus far, only one GOP presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, has spoken out against the pledge, although Jon Huntsman has also confirmed he won’t sign it.

2. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s new policy allowing ordination of non-celibate gays and lesbians took effect Sunday. Many congregations marked the change with a national day of prayer organized by More Light Presbyterians, which pushes for LGBT equality within the church. The 2.8 million member Presbyterian Church joins other Protestant denominations including the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in allowing gay clergy.

3. Six police officers have been fired for lying about what happened during a September 2009 raid of the Atlanta Eagle, a gay bar, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. More officers face hearings this week following the release of a 343-page report showing they lied or destroyed evidence in the wake of the raid. Eight men were arrested during the raid, but charges were dropped and the city later paid the men more than $1 million to settle a federal lawsuit.

—  John Wright

HRC calls out Pastor Joel Osteen, who will again promote gay teen suicide on CNN tonight

Above is video of the Houston megachurch pastor’s latest remarks, which are scheduled to air tonight on CNN. And below is a press release that just came across from the Human Rights Campaign:

HRC to Joel Osteen:  Use Your Pulpit for Good, Not Hate

Televangelist’s Hateful Remarks Before a National Audience are Dangerous

WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest civil rights organization dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality, today called on Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, TX and well-known evangelical preacher with a syndicated television following of over 7 million viewers, to immediate apologize for his remarks on national television that “the Scripture shows that [homosexuality] is a sin.” Osteen made the remarks on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight. The full show will air tonight.

“It’s a real shame that someone of Joel Osteen’s prominence and life experiences would repeat this tired and dangerous statement. It furthers ignorance and discrimination by some Americans and adds a burden to those already struggling to accept their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “One would hope Mr. Osteen would use his pulpit, with an audience of over 7 million people, to tell all human beings that they are loved just the way they are. Instead he chose to send a dangerous and irresponsible message.”

The American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association have both concluded that same-sex attraction is normal.

Mr. Osteen’s position does not reflect the views of many religious leaders and denominations. Mainline denominations such at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and the Episcopal Church, see God’s divine presence working across the spectrum of human sexuality. Many Baptists also dispute Mr. Osteen’s stance.

“Joel Osteen is certainly entitled to his opinion, but America needs to know that he doesn’t speak for all Christians, he doesn’t even speak for all Baptists,” said Rev. Dr. Miguel de la Torre, a Baptist minister and member of the HRC Religion Council. “As a Southern Baptist and an ethicist I believe that we can’t follow Jesus’ commandment to love God and our neighbor as our self if we start with the premise that homosexuality is sinful. Starting with the belief that people are sinful doesn’t allow us to get to know them, let alone love them.”

HRC encourages young Baptists who are struggling with their identity to contact the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB) for resources on the church and sexuality. AWAB’s website is http://www.wabaptists.org/. AWAB partnered with the Human Rights Campaign in 2010 to honor several Washington, DC area Baptist pastors who were instrumental in passing marriage equality legislation in the District of Columbia.

—  John Wright

Bishop V. Gene Robinson says he’ll retire in 2013

RACHEL ZOLL  |  AP Religion Writer

The first openly gay Episcopal bishop said Saturday, Nov. 6 that he will retire in 2013, due in part to the “constant strain” on him and his family from the worldwide backlash against his election seven years ago.

Bishop V. Gene Robinson, whose consecration convulsed the global Anglican fellowship, said he was announcing his retirement early so the transition would be smooth for the Diocese of New Hampshire. He assured congregants that he is healthy and sober after seeking treatment for alcoholism five years ago. He will be 65 when he steps down.

Robinson revealed his plans at the annual diocesan convention in Concord.

“The fact is, the last seven years have taken their toll on me, my family and you,” the bishop said, in prepared remarks released by the diocese. “Death threats, and the now-worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as bishop have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark.”

Robinson was surrounded by bodyguards and wore a bulletproof vest under his vestments when he was consecrated in 2003, an event celebrated far beyond the church as a breakthrough for gay acceptance even as it broke open a long-developing rift over what Anglicans should believe.

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. body in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, a group of churches that trace their roots to the missionary work of the Church of England.

The spiritual head of the Anglicans, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, has been struggling to keep the fellowship together since Robinson was installed.

Episcopal and Anglican traditionalists overseas formed alliances and created the Anglican Church in North America as a conservative rival to the Episcopal Church.

Under pressure from conservatives, Williams did not invite Robinson to the 2008 Lambeth Conference, a once-a-decade meeting of the world’s Anglican bishops. Instead, Robinson flew privately to England and spoke at local churches while the other Anglican bishops convened.

Robinson and his partner of more than two decades, Mark Andrew, held a civil union ceremony in 2008, and the bishop publicly advocated for same-sex marriage in New Hampshire, which the state approved last year. Robinson also gave the opening prayer at a concert ahead of Barack Obama’s inauguration as president.

The bishop’s retirement will not heal tensions among Anglicans, which go beyond Robinson. Episcopalians solidified their support for same-sex relationships last year by authorizing bishops to bless same-sex unions and by consecrating a lesbian, Assistant Bishop Mary Glasspool of Los Angeles.

In his speech Saturday, Robinson thanked congregants for supporting him through the tumult over his election.

“New Hampshire is always the place I remain, simply, ‘the bishop.’ This is the one place on earth where I am not ‘the gay bishop,”’ Robinson said. “I believe that you elected me because you believed me to be the right person to lead you at this time. The world has sometimes questioned that, but I hope you never did.”

—  John Wright

A Q&A with Bishop Gene Robinson

Bishop Gene Robinson signs copies of his book on Wednesday night at the Cathedral of Hope.
Bishop Robinson signs copies of his book Wednesday at the Cathedral.

As I reported in today’s Voice, Bishop V. Gene Robinson preached Wednesday night at the Cathedral of Hope. I had the privilege of sitting down with Robinson, who became the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church in 2004, prior to the service. Here’s a transcript:

Q: First, a quick point of clarification, last time you were here for Black Tie Dinner in 2008, you told me you couldn’t preach in the Dallas diocese without Bishop James Stanton’s permission. You’re scheduled to preach tonight at the Cathedral. Has something changed?
A: The circumstances have changed. I can’t function liturgically, which includes preaching in an Episcopal church, without the bishop’s permission, and I would never do that. When I was here, it might have been the same week as Black Tie Dinner [in 2008], I went out to [St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church]. Because I did not have his permission, I just spoke after the service at the coffee hour, but because this is a United Church of Christ parish, I’m not bound by that. But I did back in early December let the bishop know that I was going to be here and what I was going to do.

Q: So you’re not going to be breaking any rules tonight?
A: No, no headlines there.

—  John Wright

Episcopal Church approves lesbian bishop

Bishop Mary Glasspool
Bishop Mary Glasspool

The Episcopal Church has approved the ordination of Mary Glasspool as bishop of Los Angeles. She is the first openly gay person approved by the church since Gene Robinson became the bishop of the New Hampshire diocese in 1983. Glasspool is also the the first out lesbian bishop.

This news is in contrast to the local Episcopal diocese, which recently voted against same-sex marriage liturgy. More on that decision, including comments from members of St. Thomas the Apostle church and Bishop James Stanton, in the Spirituality section of Friday’s Dallas Voice.

—  David Taffet

Bishops Gene Robinson and Jane Holmes Dixon discuss LGBT issues on 'State of Belief'

I just received word that this week’s episode of “State of Belief” will feature openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson and Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon, only the second woman ordained by the Episcopal church chatting up the latest goings-on in the Episcopal church. You might know they made some very gay friendly decisions at the General Convention back in July.  “State of Belief” host and Interfaith Alliance president, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy talks to both as they “offer their unique perspectives on breaking down barriers, whether the chaos and division in the Episcopal Church reflect changing attitudes in America, and how this may impact the Church’s relationship with the Greater Anglican community, comprised of many conservative members.”

The press release said the show airs tonight but I found it already posted here. Good stuff.

—  Rich Lopez