Two days before heading to his own church’s national convention, the Rev. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, addressed an enthusiastic crowd at a dinner sponsored by More Light Presbyterians at the 220th General Assembly.
Robinson, who was elected bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, heartily affirmed the efforts of Presbyterians working for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people in the church.
“What you have done is create enormous confusion in the Presbyterian church,” he said. “Confusion is a big step forward from certainty.”
Not long ago, he explained, the church was absolutely certain about God’s will regarding gays and lesbians. Now both the Presbyterian and Episcopal churches are in what he called a state of “holy chaos.” Churches and households with gay family members are “trying to decide how deep, how broad, how wide God’s love really is.”
Advocates for LGBT people in the church believe that God loves them unconditionally. “If you preach a God like that, you can get into trouble,” Robinson said. But he reminded listeners that Jesus preached that kind of gospel throughout his ministry.
In response to those who use the Bible to condemn homosexuality, Robinson pointed to some of Jesus’ final words to his disciples in the Gospel of John. Jesus told them, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:12-13a).
“We don’t worship a God who stopped revealing Godself at the end of the first century when the canon was closed,” he said. “So look for the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth.”
Robinson said he drew inspiration from leaders in the civil rights movement: “People risked their lives for something they knew they would not see the end of.” One way advocates of LGBT people can keep going “is to remember how this is going to end.” At the end of the day, Robinson declared, there will be full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church and culture.
In closing, he called on LGBT Presbyterians to live lives of joy, love, compassion and hospitality. “If we live that way,” Robinson said, “there will be no denying that the life of Christ is in us.”
The More Light dinner also included presentation of two awards. The Rev. John S. McCall, pastor emeritus of Sixth Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, received the Rev. David Sindt Leadership Award, which recognizes individuals who exemplify the pioneering efforts of the founder of the pro-LGBT movement within the Presbyterian Church. BGLASS, a More Light chapter at Princeton Theological Seminary was recognized with the National More Light Chapter Award for best living out the mission of the organization.