October 10: Bishop Gene Robinson’s Visit (2004)

Bishop V. Gene Robinson was the ninth bishop of New Hampshire and the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion. On Sunday, October 10, 2004, Bishop Robinson made a visit to the Church of the Epiphany at the invitation of rector Randolph Charles and with the consent of Bishop of Washington John Bryson Chane. Charles and Robinson were classmates at Sewanee and General Theological Seminary. Bishop Robinson’s visit came just under a year after his consecration. This was Robinson’s first time in Washington since that event. Due to the controversy over Robinson’s episcopate there was a large press presence at Epiphany and services drew close to three times the normal attendance. On that Sunday morning, Bishop Robinson preached at the 8am and 11am Eucharists. Following the early service, Robinson donned plastic gloves and jumped in to help serve breakfast and interact with Welcome Table guests.

Robinson was born into poverty, the son of Kentucky tobacco sharecroppers. Raised in the Disciples of Christ denomination, he joined the Episcopal Church while attending college. He was ordained a deacon by Bishop of Newark (and former Epiphany rector) Leland Stark. Even before his election as bishop, Robinson had been an active clergyman, promoting clergy wellness, counseling clergy and reconciling parishes in conflict. He promoted education about AIDS, civil rights, and tolerance, especially for gays and lesbians. He was elected to the episcopacy on June 7, 2003, and consecrated bishop on November 2. He became bishop of New Hampshire the following March. Robinson’s election to the episcopacy became the focus of heated controversy not only within the Episcopal Church but also within the larger Anglican Communion. In 2009 he led the invocation at ceremonies preceding the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Robinson was influential in the 2009 decisions by the General Convention to affirm the right of gays and lesbians to be ordained and to explore liturgical options for performing same-sex marriages.

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