Sunday, March 20, 2011
Speaking to the Vanderbilt community Monday night, The Right Reverend Gene Robinson Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire said life is getting better for the homosexual community, but there is still work to be done.
Robinson is best known for being the first openly gay priest to be ordained Bishop in a major Christian denomination when he was elected in 2003.
Hosted by the Vanderbilt Medical School Gay-Straight Alliance as part of their annual LGBTQI Health Week, Robinson spoke to a room of around 300 people in Langford Auditorium about the Church’s turbulent relationship with the LGBT community.
“I know the Church is responsible for most of the pain in the lives of gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, we just have to admit that, and at some point we will repent of it the way we repented of our support of slavery using the bible,” Robinson said.
“I think what you’re seeing is God at work liberating God’s people in this LGBT movement, and the Church scrambling to catch up, not fast enough in my humble opinion,” Robinson said.
Robinson said that in his opinion, the issue of homosexuality has been settled in the Episcopal Church, but he pointed to the Evangelical position against homosexuality as a deterrent for the younger generations.
“Most young people don’t want to belong to a Church that is condemning their gay and lesbian friends,” Robinson said.
During the question and answer session of the event, a self-identified Southern Baptist took issue with Robinson’s position on homosexuality and religion, citing verses in the bible that some interpret as condemning same-sex activity. Robinson responded by explaining his interpretation of scripture.
“The way I go about scripture is I have to ask ‘what was that context’ and ‘what did those words mean to the people who wrote them and the people who hear them’ before I can ask whether it has some binding authority on me,” Robinson said.
“I believe the bible to be the word of God, and not the words of God,” Robinson said. “I don’t believe God dictated those words, but I do believe the authors sat down to record as best they could and in an inspired way this dynamic relationship with the living God.”
Robinson also discussed same-sex marriage, citing the Obama administration’s decision to cease legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act and the President’s changing attitude about same-sex marriage as turning points in the LGBT movement for equality.
The issue with marriage in general, according to Robinson, is the confusion between the secular and religious ceremony.
“It is very clear that marriage is a secular institution. The clergy is there to bless the union,” Robinson said. “If you get married without benefit of clergy, you’re still married.”
Recalling the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Robinson Movement of the 1960s that changing the laws is important but not the endpoint of the LGBT movement.
“When we get all the laws around LGBT people in place, it won’t mean all of the hate will go away,” Robinson said. “So there is going to be plenty of work to be done.”
Speaking about the big picture, Robinson said that the most threatening part of the LGBT liberation is the threat is poses to traditional society.
“What I think this is really about, the big picture, is the beginning of the end of patriarchy,” Robinson said. “For a very long time, straight, white, educated, wealthy, western men have been making most of the decisions for most of the world, and that jig is up.”