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October 28, 2012 10:33 PM   Subscribe

Bishop Gene Robinson speaks at First Presbyterian Church in NYC in 2009 on the 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, and offers (and challenges church goers to offer) water to Gay Pride parade participants as part of his ministry. [5m19s]

This week (starting October 29, check local listings), PBS's Independent Lens will show the documentary Love Free Or Die [PBS website], about Robinson's ordination and the issues surrounding it, for the Episcopal Church and him personally.

Another clip [3m,15s], in which Robinson faces a protestor during worship service.
posted by hippybear (31 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
posted by kinnakeet at 11:05 PM on October 28, 2012

Agreed, this is wonderful. Thanks, hippybear. Here's another clip that I found.
posted by koeselitz at 11:13 PM on October 28, 2012

That's great. Stuff like this always reminds me of the first two photos on this list, which we all probably saw already but what the hell it's late.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:05 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Robinson is a badass, thanks for this.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:11 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by nestor_makhno at 12:45 AM on October 29, 2012

I have always found Robinson as a bit of a grandstander, who seems to like the attention, and is not very pastoral in dealing with his enemies, the documentary doesnt convince me otherwise.
posted by PinkMoose at 2:27 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, self effacing soft spoken priests don't become bishops. Also, as long as he does the right thing, his motives are less relevant.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:56 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

"I have always found Robinson as a bit of a grandstander, who seems to like the attention,"

It is kind of hard to miss this about him, but I guess we all have our gifts and challenges - I think his seem well suited to the kinds of things he does but I can see how it would be off-putting.

"...and is not very pastoral in dealing with his enemies"

I'd be curious if you could elaborate on this, are there examples you could point to?
posted by Blasdelb at 3:00 AM on October 29, 2012

If anyone is interested in hearing full-length talks from Bishop Robinson, there are 3 from the UK's (liberal Christian) Greenbelt festival online - they're on sexuality and on the challenges he's faced as bishop. (Note: Greenbelt usually charges for talk downloads from the most recent festivals, but I can't find any charges listed here...so I am not sure if they are now offering older festival talks for free or if this is just a glitch of some kind, but these appear to be free.)
posted by Wylla at 3:48 AM on October 29, 2012

Shocking, a Gay man supports Gay rights. That's like Black people being for Civil Rights, isn't it? Please excuse my lack of enthusiasm for someone acting in their own self interest. Like kids being against bullying and parents for cheap and accessible child care, these things are to be expected.

Now, show me a childless, Scottish, agrarian, southern baptist preacher doing the same, I'm listening. Until then, this is less inspiring than it is inspired. If you get me.

Dude's a fine speaker, but when that's your career I would expect nothing less.

I'm not saying they are bad, just not the best stuff on the internet either. I need more Grar on Mondays and less hugs. Okay, Grar and Hugs.
posted by NiteMayr at 6:08 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not saying they are bad, just not the best stuff on the internet either. I need more Grar on Mondays and less hugs. Okay, Grar and Hugs.
posted by NiteMayr at 6:09 AM on October 29, 2012

I never watch the Olympics because like, come on, they're world class athletes. BORING.
posted by kmz at 6:17 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also MLK? Come on, so over that "I Have a Dream" stuff. Where's his ode to Monster Truck Rallies?
posted by kmz at 6:19 AM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

It must be so dull for the privileged class to have to watch minorities standing up for themselves over and over again.

Then again, it's pretty dull for us minorities to wait for the privileged class to take a stand for us, so you'll excuse us if we get the ball rolling.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 6:25 AM on October 29, 2012 [13 favorites]

[Few comments removed - NiteMayr, it's early in the thread and it's unclear whether you are trolling or not. If you'd like to participate in this conversation please make it a little more clear?]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:06 AM on October 29, 2012

The Bishop here literally controls the pulpit...

In some sense, yes, in others, no. He actually is in a hierarchical institution where the Bishop is suppose to control pulpit but that isn't usually the case. Many Episcopal churches will actively bar or not participate with such a bishop. There are major Episcopal churches here in New York who do all they can to not let the presiding bishop come and preside because the presiding bishop is a woman. The Episcopal church is funny because it has all the trappings of Roman Catholicism with a crapload of low church calvinism creating strange bedfellows. As a Bishop, he's in a powerful position. He's not like some homeless LGBT kid living on the streets of Gainesville Florida. But he's in a position surrounded by other powerful bishops - and those who completely disagree with him. There's a reason why the Episcopal church has shrunk and bishops have helped push dioceses out of the Episcopal church and into other socially conservative Anglican bodies. Bishop Robinson's bishop is actively shrinking his denomination. His existence is actively forcing his denomination to take sides. He's in a privileged position where his existence forces his church to battle over these issues rather than letting those in the denominational to turn a blind eye. His visibility, and his personality, are forcing a conflict. So he's able to use a privileged position to force the Episcopal church to not just claim that "all are welcome" but to really mean it. A black kid in New York City is easy to ignore (and usually is). Gene Robinson, in the Episcopal church, isn't.
posted by Stynxno at 7:08 AM on October 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

"I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.
" Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Letter From A Birmingham Jail
posted by Blasdelb at 7:24 AM on October 29, 2012 [8 favorites]

Now, show me a childless, Scottish, agrarian, southern baptist preacher doing the same, I'm listening.

I can't speak to your specific example, but there are plenty of non-gay clergy who who openly support gay rights. So, fine, maybe Robinson isn't as inspiring as someone with nothing to personally gain from this, but he's not the only one making these efforts from a position within organized religion.
posted by asnider at 8:13 AM on October 29, 2012

"Now, show me a childless, Scottish, agrarian, southern baptist preacher doing the same, I'm listening."

Ahem, MetaFilter's own Pater Aletheias seems to have kids but meets all of your other qualifications. A isolated example you say, what about the Methodist Church? More than 1,100 pastors have now signed a pledge stating that they are willing to perform same-sex marriages despite the clear statement from the church's General Assembly that this would continue to result in defrocking - a financially and spiritually catastrophic thing for them to risk.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:51 AM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

+Gene Robinson's story helps reveal the tension between two competing strands in Christianity - between grace and a strand of natural law theology.

The Anglican tradition has generally diminished doctrine, instead emphasizing pragmatism in church-state politics and pastoral care in everyday moral judgment - this is from Richard Hooker to modern situation ethics. I do not argue that these are philosophically justifiable - it is simply part of our general inheritance.

That the bishop enjoys the spotlight seems like a minor, if necessary, vice in an age where celebrity is a vehicle for cultural reflection. He has, in my view, been quite charitable to his enemies, with some understandible exceptions.

But it is questionable that my church's institutional decline is due to it's liberality. A few years ago a colleague said to me he lost forty families to do the consecration of +Robinson; but he received forty the same year. The forty who left were those who always seemed angry about the culture; the ones who entered were relieved to find some Christian faith that didn't hate gay people.

The Episcopal Church's decline is much more because its leadership was unprepared for competition in the spiritual marketplace - it wasn't used to making its case in the public sphere, assuming people would understand the place of a reasonable, liturgical faith amongst others. That may be changing as it becomes able to identify it's particular niche, but blaming its liberality for decline is a tired narrative that needs correction.

In the diocese of New York there are probably three (out of nearly 200) Episcopal churches that would not desire the Primate of the Episcopal church (a woman) to celebrate. One of those has recently called a woman as a priest-in-charge. Only one is prosperous (that's St. Thomas, 5th avenue, but they do still support the very liberal Diocese of New York financially). And out of 7000 or so Episcopal churches and 100+ dioceses in the country, there are perhaps 100 churches and 3 breakaway dioceses. In the breakaway dioceses, some churches remaining in the Episcopal church are growing, unfettered by being affiliated with conservative theology. Is growth universal? No: a growing church has much more to do with effective hospitality than theology. But a liberal theology just might make hospitality easier.

+Gene's ordination illustrates a very specific thing about the Episcopal Church: the formal institutional body is not frightened of openly Gay or Lesbian people in roles of sacramental or spiritual leadership. Is it huge? It's the only catholic tradition affirming such. Only time will tell if it will help reinvigorate us.
posted by john wilkins at 12:14 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Everything I wanted to say has been spoken, and I think Wilkins is right--except he is forgetting Carter Heywood, though she wasn't a bishop.

That clip with the protester--with the sound of the organ made to drown him out, and the five white men dragging him from the church...that is a marginalized person who has gained authority and uses that authority to marginalize other voices.

I'm queer, and Anglican--but one of the goals of the anglican church is to have a moderate way of inclusion, and that moderation includes ideas of Toleration and Temperance, Robinson, like Spong seem to have neither...this is not me arguing that conserative voices also fail at this task.
posted by PinkMoose at 1:28 PM on October 29, 2012

Letting somebody interrupt your service and yell at you goes beyond Toleration and Temperance.

Not letting a bigot shout over your sermon is not marginalizing them.
posted by kmz at 2:36 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

PinkMoose: "I have always found Robinson as a bit of a grandstander, who seems to like the attention, and is not very pastoral in dealing with his enemies"

We used to call those "prophets." Church needs all kinds...
posted by Apropos of Something at 3:06 PM on October 29, 2012

There is a difference b/w not letting a bigot shout over you, and having 6 guys muscle someone out of a church, esp, if yr message is that the church should be home to everyone.

Also, the problem with calling Robinson a prophet, is that prophet's don't declare themselves it.
posted by PinkMoose at 10:14 PM on October 29, 2012

I'm not overly familiar with Robinson's rhetoric. Has he ever named himself a prophet?

And I haven't read the Bible in decades, but I'm pretty sure I remember plenty of prophets were naming themselves as such. I could be wrong.
posted by hippybear at 10:26 PM on October 29, 2012

"There is a difference b/w not letting a bigot shout over you, and having 6 guys muscle someone out of a church, esp, if yr message is that the church should be home to everyone."

My understanding is that in most churches standing policy is for the organ to play and the choir to sing something familiar to the congregation while the ushers do their best to engage with the heckler and defuse the situation - with an emphasis on getting them out of the service. This is something that both especially liberal and especially conservative congregations are more at risk of and can be both very dangerous and very unpredictable for everyone involved.

I think we saw very different clips, I saw a young guys swinging massive arms around a section of elderly people then swinging a massive helmet before a bunch of aging ushers who didn't necessarily see him grab his coat, which I didn't notice until the second time I watched the clip, rushed forward to put themselves between him and the congregation and encourage him out of the sanctuary. I would be very surprised if they did indeed just muscle him out of the church and toss him into the street - both because he was a hell of a lot bigger than any of those ushers and wouldn't have been going anywhere he didn't want to as a result of their efforts as well as because standard procedure is generally to make this kind of thing the beginning of a relationship rather than the end of one if possible.

I grew up in a church that has been plausibly labeled by others to be the liberal wing of the Methodist church and it occasionally attracted that that kind of attention. The only time I was around for it, the situation was delicate and dangerous enough for the ushers to organize an evacuation of the pews around the man, try to engage with him from a distance, and call 911. That would have been maybe fifteen years ago and my understanding is that the ministers are still in contact with him.

"Also, the problem with calling Robinson a prophet, is that prophet's don't declare themselves it."

Could you point to an instance of him doing anything like this? I'm not finding anything. Apropos of Something calling him a prophet or like-a-prophet would indeed be very different from Robinson calling himself a prophet.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:09 AM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I watched the protest clip. It's not clear to me that Robinson is directing parishioners to remove the man, but that they're removing him (singing over him) of their own accord). For reasons we don't like to contemplate, of course, there's also lots of reasons to be afraid for his safety in that moment: churches generally don't have metal detectors, and more than one gun has found its way into a service in the US over the last decade or two.

As far as I know, I'm the one who introduced the prophet word into the conversation, not Robinson., And I'll stand by it, because the prophetic tradition is all about using a certain level of bombast to call attention to the way of the world, to cause the rest of us to see the injustice and think about remedying it. I don't think the lesson of the John the Baptist story is that every Christian should wear sackcloth and only eat locusts and wild honey, but rather that John the Baptist highlights themes of the faith that are of vital importance. It's fairly clear to me we (the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion, Christianity writ large) wouldn't have made the progress we have on gay issues without Gene Robinson. Further, in that clip, you see him trying to push even farther: giving out water at Pride is not about tolerance, it's about love, which is way bigger. That, to my ear, is prophetic work.
posted by Apropos of Something at 9:32 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

For those in the thread without the, to some dubious, benefit of a religious education - to prophecy or be a prophet in a New Testament context is meaningfully distinct from the Old Testament context most are familiar with today. The word Paul used, that is commonly translated as prophesy, no longer really has a good modern cognate. He used it to describe concept everyone is capable of to different degrees and could be developed like a talent. To "prophecy" into a person or subject was to gain an understanding of it, rather than see into its future. Thus, for example in a modern context, a good therapist might be expected to have a gift for "prophecying" into the lives of their patients developed from solid instincts with years of academic and clinical training. Not really a magic thing but also not really a thing that couldn't be understood as a gift from God or spiritually meaningful. In this context the Old Testament prophets can be understood as particularly bombastic folks with a gift for groking social justice issues, geopolitical realities, and - to the Christian eye - the will of God.

Gene Robinson's very identity and position are inherent threats to peace in the Church, and I can see how that could be scary, but I have yet to see him as a threat to anything other than the kind of negative peace I left a quote about upthread that ultimately means very little in the absence of the kind of positive peace his simple presence, much less his subdued bombast, promotes.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:48 AM on October 30, 2012

Love Free Or Die is now available to watch online through November 19. [57m]

Apologies if this video is not available outside the US.
posted by hippybear at 5:28 PM on October 31, 2012

"Apologies if this video is not available outside the US."


posted by Blasdelb at 5:31 PM on October 31, 2012

Blasdelb: check your MeMail.
posted by hippybear at 5:50 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

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