Robinson says church conflict has brought him ‘closer to God’

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Speaking to more than 400 people in Benton Chapel on the Vanderbilt campus, the ninth Bishop of New Hampshire’s Episcopal Church, The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson told the crowd that the conflict over the Episcopal Church appointing a gay Bishop has brought him “closer to God.”

Robinson made his remarks during a 45-minute talk to a standing-room-only crowd of students, faculty, staff and community members. He is in Middle Tennessee to share his story of being appointed the nation’s first gay Bishop, and will speak on Saturday, April 14 at the Southeastern Regional GSA  (Gay Straight Alliance) Conference hosted by the University of the South-Sewanee.

His presentation, "Ministry in the Eye of the Storm" was co-sponsored by the Vanderbilt Divinity School Carpenter Program, the university’s GLBT Resource Center and Office of Religious Life.

“It is an honor to welcome a person of such great faith,” said James Hudnut-Beumler, dean of the Divinity School. “He has carried out no other agenda than that of his faith. We are excited to have him here in the name of the right for all to serve.”

Robinson addressed his remarks not only to the lay persons in the audience, but to divinity students who are studying for the ministry.

“I have five things I want to share with you today,” he said.

Robinson said:

–  Learn to tell the story of your own salvation.
“Jesus was always in trouble for preaching the Gospel,” he said. 

–  Take the Scriptures back from those who are abusing them.
“Make them our own,” he said. “We must reclaim those stories. It’s important for gay and lesbians to know those stories and how they fit into them.” 

–  Pay attention to the people that Jesus paid attention to.
“He (Jesus) was killed because he was passionate about the things he believed in,” he said. “We need to pay attention to the last, the lost and the least.”   

–  Be prepared to pay a price.
“We’ve gotten so wimpy,” he said. “You can’t fight injustice and not pay a price for it.” 

–  We’re all going to Heaven.
“ I believe with all my heart that we are all going to Heaven. That really puts into perspective everything that has happened in my life,” he said. “I’m not looking to be a martyr, just a Bishop.”

Robinson reminded the assembly that “there had always been conflict in the Church.

“Why are people surprised to see conflict in the Church,” he said. “Conflict does not keep us from God.”

Born in the South, Robinson struggled with his homosexuality at an early age. Torn, he married his now ex-wife in 1972. After having two daughters and still unable to deny his sexuality, he divorced his wife.  In 1989, Robinson met his current partner, Mark Andrew.