NGLTF Executive Director Matt Foreman
Yesterday, I had the honor of attending V. Gene Robinson’s consecration as Bishop of New Hampshire. I knew this was a historic day. But I had no idea how awe-inspiring and hope-restoring it would be.
For several months, I’ve been despairing about what our national LGBT community will be facing over the next year. It’s already clear that our lives and relationships will be brutally distorted and demonized by the religious and political right – fodder in the 2004 elections. With Leviticus and St. Paul being used as cynical clubs, we will be made the Willie Hortons of this political season. Our opponents’ skillful exploitation of the Supreme Court’s Lawrence decision and so many other pro-gay things that happened over the summer has driven down public support for our equal rights for the first time in years.
Yesterday, however, gave me great hope. There, 4,000 guests – congregants, really – came not just to witness but to wholeheartedly endorse what is to many abject heresy: the consecration of an openly gay man as a bishop of the church.
I don’t know what I expected, but I was overwhelmed to see the make-up of the crowd. Overwhelmingly, the faces reflected straight, Episcopal New Hampshire. Hundreds of older married couples and hundreds of younger couples with their children. High school students. The combined choirs of a dozen churches. Flocks of UNH students guiding people to their seats. The air was charged with electricity.
The high church processional was led by representatives of all the parishes in the diocese carrying their congregation’s banner. They were followed by priests – yes, a few with rainbow stoles – of every age and race. Then came a young priest with a smoking gold incense censor on a chain swinging it in high circle-eights – moves that would astonish even the most accomplished circuit party flagger. Last came more than 40 bishops in scarlet robes, ending with the Presiding Bishop of the American church and other senior bishops in flowing vestments.
People who objected to the consecration were allowed to speak, including one priest from Pittsburgh who embarrassed himself by talking about oral and anal sex and even rimming. Each was politely thanked for their comments. When they and about 50 of their followers then walked out of the arena, however, it was as if they were never even there because their seats were quickly occupied by others.
At the moment of consecration – the “laying of hands” – an act repeated for 2,000 years – all the bishops gathered around Gene and extended their arms toward him. With the threat of worldwide schism hanging over their heads, it was an act of unbelievable courage.
As if there was something to prove – because indeed there was – the audience sang hymns heartily and responded with affirming shouts when asked if they wanted Gene to become their bishop. After he was robed by his family – including his partner and ex-wife – and formally presented to the diocese, wave after wave of applause thundered for long minutes. This was not about doing the “right thing” through gritted teeth; it was a joyous celebration.
Without a doubt, there has never been such a display of overwhelming heterosexual acceptance, affirmation, commitment and love not just for a gay man, but for our entire community, our hopes, and our dreams.
To the people of the Diocese of New Hampshire and the Episcopal Church of the United States – thank you.