ygp4ca.jpgGENE ROBINSON

 

I think most gay people sense early on that they are different even if they are not exactly sure how they are different. That was certainly true for me by age 11 or 12. You have to remember that when I was that age, gay was not a word that was being used to describe homosexual people. There was very little discussion of it. There were certainly no role models like we have today of successful and productive people who were gay, so it was not something easily admitted to oneself, never mind the world. But very early on – I’ve probably told the story of friends of mine getting hold of a Playboy magazine and realising that they were very much more interested in these pictures than I was. And not only that – being aware of my attraction to other boys and finding that such a despicable possibility, given what the church had taught me and what scripture seemed to be saying about  this – you just pray it’s a phase you’re going through, something you’ll outgrow. It was certainly something from the very moment I sensed I was ashamed of and fearful about – fearful for my own safety. I grew up in a world where that sort of thing was not remotely tolerated. It was in middle, southern America, which is still perhaps the most conservative place around these issues.

Q . Did you assume you would just grow out of it?

Yes. And then when I didn’t, by the end of college and the beginning of seminary, I got into therapy twice a week to rid myself of this horrible thing. I felt if I couldn’t change it outright, I could at least put it aside. I very much wanted to have a wife and family…

Q. Why did you want that?

I’ve always been a very family oriented person. I think the most important things in life happen in families. As painful as they cam sometimes bed, they are also perhaps our greatest hope for learning about community and about self less love and all of that. I’ve always loved children and I very much wanted that for myself, and so my entering into therapy was an attempt to make that possible for myself. By the end of that time I felt myself ready for a relationship with a woman.

Q. Did you feel it (the therapy) had worked, or did it just put you in denial?

“It didn’t work, and it almost never works for people who attempt it. I guess I did think it had worked. I suspect it didn’t make the same sex feelings go away, but it certain worked in that I felt ready emotionally and spiritually and physically for a relationship with a woman, so it certainly made that part of myself possible. And so when I entered into a relationship with the woman who became my wife, it was full of integrity – I wasn’t pretending to be something that I was not.  And yet within a month of meeting her, I shared that all of my primary relationships had been with men, that I had been in therapy to make a heterosexual relationship possible, and that I felt I was in a good place to do that.

Q. And she was quite happy with that?

Yes, she seemed to fully understand that. And then some 10 or 11 months later, just about a month before our wedding, I became fearful again that….I believe I used the word that this might rear its ugly head at some point in the future.

Q. So you were completely transparent about it, and she was quite happy?

Yes. What she said at the time was that we loved each other very, very much and if something like that happened, somehow we would deal with it together. And oddly enough 13 years later we did. I met her between my middle and third years of seminary.

Q. What drew you to Anglicanism?

I grew up in a very evangelical tradition, very Bible-oriented. Quite conservative, perhaps bordering on fundamentalist. By the time I finished High School.  I had an English literature teacher who got me reading Paul Tillick and some other popular theologians. I had begun to question the narrowness of the church I had grown up in and one of the things that particularly irritated me was that I would ask some difficult questions and would often be told ‘there are certain questions you shouldn’t ask’.  While I thought there were some questions that didn’t have answers – or easy answers – I didn’t think there was any question that shouldn’t be asked.

Q. So it was Anglicanism’s spirit of broad enquiry that appealed?

Yes. I go off to college, which quite coincidentally happened to be owned by the southern dioceses of the Episcopal Church and met an assistant chaplain there. When I raised my questions again, instead of telling me that I shouldn’t be asking, instead he congratulated me on asking all the right questions and said he didn’t have all the answers, but I was welcome to come in and let’s look for those answers together. I remember being struck at how undefensive he was about his religion – that Anglicanism seemed to be big enough and broad enough to allow and even encourage those kinds of questions.  It had its own answers, but it existed to help me come to my own answers. I remember thinking ‘gosh, that seems to me to be the way religion ought to be’. So I was very encouraged by that. One day when I was ranting and raving about how much of the Nicene Creed I didn’t believe, he said ‘well, when you’re in church, just say the parts of the creed you do agree with. Be silent for the others. We’re not asking you do so something against your integrity’. And again I thought whew, that’s what one would hope for from a religion – honesty and integrity. And I guess that’s a theme that has carried throughout my life in Ministry – that God wants us to be honest and full of integrity.

Q. What shifted you from being an enthusiastic convert into ordained ministry?

Very early on I felt a call to ordained ministry. Even growing up in this evangelical background, I took church very, very seriously. I think I got up to something like 14 or 15 years of perfect attendance every Sunday! So the church had always been important to me and very central to my life. The other calling that I struggled with was that I always had an interest in being a paediatrician, but when I got to college I realised that it was not the science of medicine that I was drawn to, but the people. – ministering to people. Ordained ministry became very much my focus, and I think when I finally said yes to God’s call to ordination, it felt like gears not meshing but grinding. It’s as if when I finally said yes to ordination, those gears suddenly meshed and inside I became very peaceful and at rest. That felt like an inner confirmation of that call from God. And so off to seminary I went.

 

Q. You didn’t find a gay culture at seminary?

At seminary I did, yes. That was in New York. I went to seminary in the fall of 1969 and only three months before in June were the Stonewall riots, which was supposedly the beginning of the gay liberation movement. So even in New York it wasn’t something terribly much talked about, though of course New York being New York there were gay people there who were more open than you would have experience in most other cultures.

Q. How did that manifest itself?

Well, I had a relationship with someone, and it was a very positive and negative experience. It felt very positive to be falling in love with someone, to have them falling in love with me, and to experience this kind of bond, and at the same time it was horrifically awful because – oh my goodness, maybe this isn’t a passing phase. Maybe I am this way. Oh my God, what am I going to do?

Q. is that what pushed you to therapy?

Absolutely. Absolutely. And knowing that if I were this way, the chances were almost complete that I wouldn’t be ordained.  So there was a lot at stake and I wanted to do this right and well, so I got into therapy, to change that, and the desire for a family were perhaps the two guiding principles.

It was the last two or three years of the 13 years we were married that this began to just impress itself in my thinking and my wife and I began to talk about this more and more. We were each in therapy and we were together in therapy, trying to discern what was the right thing for us to do.

Q. So it was a very long and considered process?

Oh very, very much. It was a wonderful marriage and as a matter of fact almost everyone we knew was devastated by the announcement we were getting divorced. We were the marriage everyone hoped for. We were the ones people pointed to and said ‘if only we can have what they have’.  And yet beneath the surface there was this other very painful thing going on.

Q. And yet you’ve managed to keep the family, haven’t you?

I was just visiting my wife two weeks ago. She has become quite a national expert in the area of horseback riding for the emotionally and physically handicapped. She was beginning a new phase of this programme, she invited me down and I said a prayer and a blessing over this new effort with her board….we’re still very, very close. I just saw her on Saturday at our grand-daughter’s birthday party.  We are very very close and we talk often.  The thing that has hurt me most in the press – and there have been some awful things said – but the most painful is the charge that I ‘abandoned my wife and children to move in with another man’. First of all, there wasn’t another man – I didn’t meet my partner until two months after my wife was remarried. I never abandoned my wife or my responsibilities to her and I never abandoned my children. As a matter of fact they joke about that all the time. We talk nearly every day and they will often joke they’re the abandoned children. We tried to do the dissolution of our marriage in a holy way. We took a priest with us to the judge’s chambers for the divorce decree and went back to his church and in the context of the holy Eucharist released each other from the vows we had taken, asked each other’s forgiveness for ways in which we might have hurt one another, pledged ourselves to the joint raising of our children and gave our rings back as a symbol of the vows we no longer held each other to. It was one of the most healing moments of my whole life and I think that’s partly why our relationship has continued. To be so good and why our children were affected as little as possible in a family break-up.

Q. You made a remark about how your girls sometimes go to your partner now rather than you?

Yes. You know it’s very interesting – sometimes parents are the last people you want to talk to and you feel you can’t get any objective advice from them because they are too bought in. So they often go to him for the kind of objective voice they suspect they can’t get from their real Mom and Dad. They’ve always thought of him as one of their Dads. They were five and nine when I met him, so he was very much a part of their growing up. He’s just wonderful with them. They adore him and he them. I would say I’ve been blessed. I’ve really had the best of both worlds. I had a wonderful relationship with my wife and I have a wonderful relationship now of almost 20 years with my partner. I feel much blessed.

Q. is that perhaps partly why people have been gunning for you? That there’s a jealousy there? It doesn’t quite fit the model – they can’t compartmentalise you in gay culture.

That’s right. I don’t fit all of those stereotypes. I’m not a misogynist. I don’t hate women. I have wonderful relationships with women. I had a wonderful marriage. For people who would very much to criticise me…it’s difficult for them to do so in ways which might be the most easy and obvious ways.  I wasn’t duplicitous with my wife.  I continued to care for her and our children after our divorce.  At our daughter’s wedding, my partner walked my wife down the aisle while I walked my daughter down the aisle and the three of us sat together. It really was quite lovely.

Q. And you must have been helpful to her through her second divorce as well?

That’s right. Absolutely. Our love for each other continued right through that time and I think she still considers me a confidante and companion on the way. In that sense I think marriage is for a lifetime, even if you get divorced.  It is a lifetime relationship.

Q.  Were you really aware when you were ordained as a bishop of just how schismatic it was going to be and how much pressure was going to be put on you?

No.  Did I think it would be controversial? Of course.  Did I have any idea that the furore over my consecration would be as broad or as deep as it was? Absolutely not. We took seriously the voices that were coming our way and we knew this would be a shock in many quarters. On the other hand I think the Episcopal Church is trying to do ministry in its own context and our context. Gay and lesbian people have become active and open members of our congregations and active and open members of the clergy. This was just a next logical step for us. It’s important to remember that the consents to my election were done separately with the laity, the clergy and the bishops and all three of those consent votes were by about a two thirds majority. It was not a narrow margin.

Q. But the sheer scale of the venom you could never have expected…

That’s right. That’s right.

Q  ECUSA ordains gay priests but has a problem with bishops…

That’s right. It’s very interesting. As I look back on this – and perhaps it has something to do with the theology of the episcopate – ECUSA has been ordaining gay priests for many, many years. Not every bishop will do that but many do. I will and have. Many make a requirement that the person be celibate, but many do not make such a requirement. It’s interesting that the wider Anglican Communion has either not known that or has not chosen to make an issue of it before now. I understand that a bishop is understood to be ordained for the whole church, although that’s true for the priesthood as well. One is a priest of the church and provided they are a priest of good standing, they can exercise their ministry anywhere in the world. It’s just a surprise to me that this issue did not become an issue until a gay and lesbian person became elected bishop. If it’s wrong for one (bishop and priest) it ought to be wrong for both. Bishops have a certain importance, but it’s just an importance that the church has given them. It’s not an innate importance. So it either ought to be wrong for all orders of ministry, or for none.

Q. There was a real danger at your ordination?

My partner and I wore bulletproof vests. We had to spend some $100,000 on security for the event. It was not only me we wanted to keep safe, but all of the participants. We did have a contingency plan at if shots were fired or a bomb sent off, if I was still alive there was a separate location and I was to be taken there. Three bishops – it takes three bishops to lay hands on you to ordain you – would be there and a photographer to prove it happened, so that at the end of the day if I was still alive, the consecration itself would not be thwarted.

Q. Have you ever really felt in danger?

I had a conversation with my daughters the afternoon of the consecration as I was putting on my bulletproof vest. They were of course very concerned. It gave me the opportunity to have the conversation with them that death is not the worst thing. If there is a reward to Christianity it is that we need not fear death. It certainly wasn’t anything that I wanted, but I said to them that if something terrible happens today I am following God’s call as best I can discern it and that makes me very happy. So if at the end of the day I am dead you know I died happy and I died trying to do what I discern to be God’s will and for some purpose. That is a blessing.

Q. How do you feel when you read some of these comments from other provinces of the church? From your fellow bishops?

The pain comes less from the fact those statements are coming from fellow bishops than that they are coming from fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. That is now how we are meant to treat one another in the body of Christ. Frankly as an act of self protection I pay as little attention to those as possible.  I have important and serious work to do in my own diocese and I am so grateful to have those people. I love those people. I love them. If I were to pay overly much attention to all of those comments coming my way I would be so distracted from the real work and ministry I have been given to do. It would paralyse me. I pay as little attention to them as possible. Some of them are so hateful and vile and inaccurate that I get frustrated and angry, but for the most part I feel so close to God…

Q. Can you forgive them?

You know, I can.  And here’s why. They only believe what the church has taught them to believe, and I believed those same things myself for a very long time. This is what a gay person has to contend with. We’ve been taught the same things everyone else has. It took me 39 years to claim who I really am as a child of God and as a gay man. How can I expect someone who has never met anyone openly gay who struggled with those themselves to so easily change their minds about this? So while I don’t welcome that kind of hatred coming my way, and while I don’t believe the church teaches us to hate, certainly the church has taught us all to condemn homosexual behaviour. I would argue it has taught that mistakenly, but I can certainly understand why people feel this way so no, I don’t have any trouble forgiving.

Q. Have you ever had a crisis of faith?

Not since I was 20 years old perhaps. I believe it is in God’s plan to include all of God’s children in God’s church. I don’t know if it was in God’s plan for me to somehow play a key role in that for gay and lesbian people. I do believe in free will so if I had not said yes to God’s call someone else would have. Indeed for many years I didn’t know if I would play a role in that, or if I would play a small and insignificant role and someone else would stand on my shoulders and do this thing and I was quite as surprised as anyone else that it seemed to fall to me to be the one elected and to be something of a focus. But we are told over and over in scripture that we will pay a heavy price for doing God’s will. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. I don’t know why it comes as a surprise to Christians that there is always a difficult price to be paid. I can’t imagine Desmond Tutu being surprised that his journey has been difficult at times – that he has had death threats. It certainly was true for Our Lord in his life and it’s all over the scriptures. I think we don’t want to believe it because who could wish for such a thing? But when it comes why should it be a surprise?

Q. Has Desmond (Tutu) been supportive?

I have never met Bishop Tutu. I presume (Rowan) still holds the views he was quite public about prior to his appointment of Canterbury and that coming into that position and feeling he needed to b e Archbishop of Canterbury for the whole church and the communion. I choose to believe him – that he has set his personal views aside in order to fulfil that role. I think that must be a very difficult place to be and I don’t envy him that role at all. When he did consent to meet with me he did not meet me there (Lambeth Palace). It was very private and I was eager and willing to accommodate him and when he asked me not to function liturgically or to preach I was saddened by that but I want to help him as much as I can. I’m limited in what I can do and I won’t step down, but other than that I am eager to try and help him any way that I can. I certainly would not do so (celebrate or preach) without his permission.

Q. Are there bishops in the Church of England who have backed you?

Yes there are. I won’t name them – I don’t know how public they want me to be. I have received huge support from the Church of England both from the clergy and from the pews. Hardly a day goes by never mind a week that I don’t receive encouraging words of support. I think the thing that is the most mystifying to me and the most troubling about the Church of England is its refusal to be honest about just how many gay clergy it has – many of them partnered and many of them living in rectories. I have met so many gay partnered clergy here and it is so troubling to hear them tell me that their bishop comes to their house for dinner, knows fully about their relationship, is wonderfully supportive but has also said if this ever becomes public then I’m your worst enemy. It’s a terrible way to live your life and I think it’s a terrible way to be a church. I think integrity is so important. What does it mean for a clergy person to be in a pulpit calling the parishioners to a life of integrity when they can’t even live a life of integrity with their own bishop and their own church? So I would feel better about the Church of England’s stance, its reluctance to support the Episcopal Church in what it has done if it would at least admit that this not an American problem and just an American challenge. If all the gay people stayed away from church on a given Sunday the Church of England would be close to shut down between its organists, its clergy, its wardens…..it just seems less than humble not to admit that.

Turning to the Scottish Episcopal Church…..

I don’t know a lot about it except that I feel grateful for your ordaining Samuel Seabury!

Was [the Bishops’ Statement] helpful?

Absolutely. Before there can be acceptance and celebration of something there at least has to be toleration of something. That’s a big step. I think the Episcopal Church is not looking for agreement, only for permission to live out its life and ministry in the context in which we live. It is not asking the church in Nigeria to raise up gay and lesbian priests and bishops. We are only asking to be allowed to do so because it seems to be where God is leading us in our context. What I take from the Scottish Episcopal Church’s statement is an acknowledgement simply of that. It lets us be what I have always understood us to be in the Anglican Communion, which are autonomous provinces.

So you found it supportive?

Very much so. Very much so. And grateful for it. As you can imagine, statements like that are few and far between at the moment in the Anglican Communion. What I like about it is that it was a refusal to draw a line in the sand and I think there is way too much of that going on right now in the Anglican Communion, whether that be the Primates Communiqué making demands on the Episcopal Church or whatever – I don’t think that helps us right now.

Q. Is there a risk that there will be a cost for the Scottish Episcopal Church in this? Could it suffer the same potential consequences (as ECUSA) of being put out of communion?

Let me say two things about that. One is the whole notion of punishment being meted out to provinces of the Anglican Communion that are somehow non-compliant is somehow antithetical to the whole Anglican tradition, positing some sort of centralised Curia that has the ability and the authority to do such a thing, is about as un-Anglican as you can imagine. After all, our church was founded in resistance to a centralised authority in Rome. And so to pose the possibility of such a centralised Curia with those kinds of authorities seems to me to be as un-traditional as it could be. But within that context I would say that one of the things we are called to do in scripture is to stand with the oppressed and the marginalised and the Scottish Episcopal Church in its statement and in refusing to criticise and condemn the church for what it has done is in some sense standing with us and so if indeed the Episcopal church in America is to bear some sort of punishment it would not seem unlikely that all those who have stood with us might be so punished. I don’t believe that will happen. I pray that it won’t happen. We very much want to be part of the Anglican Communion. We will never walk away from the Anglican Communion. It would be sad beyond belief if somehow an attempt was made to expel us. I don’t know of a liberal person in ECUSA that wants to be rid of the Communion, that would willingly walk away.

Q. But what happens if they do put you out of Communion. Do you just carry on as before?

Well, we’ve never operated that way before, so that history would have to be written. Of course we would carry on. I think we would be diminished by that lack of connection to the church in the rest of the world. It’s what helps us remember that the whole world isn’t like our context, that the whole world doesn’t share the kind of resources we are blessed to have. It keeps us human; it keeps us connected to the rest of the world. The other thing that needs to be said is that we have deep and abiding roots in Africa and in Asia and in South America and no matter what happens to the Communion we will keep up those connections. As you and I sit here right now there are I think 40 bishops from Africa and 40 bishops from America meeting in Spain. These are bishops who have had connections between America and Africa for many many years and I can’t imagine that change in status would destroy those connections.

Q. Will an accommodation be reached?

It’s impossible for me to know what the conservative churches and leaders will do. For myself and the Episcopal church, we are absolutely committed to the Anglican Communion and intend to stay and contribute and invest ourselves personally. I pray every day that the rest of the Communion will welcome our presence, as problematic as it might be. I think we need each other. We need to learn and grow with the presence of each other. I think it would be a terrible loss to all of us.

Q. Lambeth is coming up next year. As I understand it. They haven’t invited you.

That is correct. I believe every bishop in the Episcopal Church has received an invitation except for me.

Q. That must be quite hurtful.

A. Yes. But it’s not over. This is a story still waiting to be written. I have great hopes that a way can be found for me to be present and for the most conservative provinces of the Communion to be present.

But can we realistically presume that whether you are invited or not, you will be around Canterbury at that time?

I have not made that decision yet. I have great hopes that I will be officially included in some way or another.

Q. There is a very real risk, is there not, that the whole Anglican Communion will come to pieces, with Rowan ending up effectively forced out?

If that should happen, I would have to say that something else is at work beyond my consecration. We have faced many divisions before – the ordination of women, the consecration of the first woman bishop – all sorts of things. If the destructive forces are so strong as to cause that sort of dissolution, then something much larger than the issue of homosexuality is at stake here.

The people that we find on the Conservative end of this issue are generally the same people who opposed liturgical reform, the ordination of women and so on. These people have been unhappy for a very long time. I think in some ways my consecration was just an opportune event on which to hang this larger struggle. Personally I think George W Bush had it in his mind to attack Iraq and 9/11 became a wonderful excuse for doing so.  It’s like that.

Q. Where do you see yourself positioned in the church?

As a matter of fact I’m more evangelical than almost anyone you would run into in the Episcopal Church. I come out of evangelical roots and see my ministry as one of evangelism. When I speak to gay and lesbian groups I don’t talk to them about gay rights, I talk to them about their souls. My goal is to get them to church and bring them to Jesus. I speak that language and believe it with my whole heart. I believe that Jesus is standing at the doorway to our hearts every moment of the day and my mission is to encourage people of all stripes to open that door and let Jesus in.

Q. What do you think Jesus would make of all this?

I think Jesus is terribly disappointed when we close the door on anyone – when we make it harder for anyone to access God’s love. Looking at this debate I think Jesus both understands how hard change is and for me I believe Jesus thinks the debate and the pain of it is worth it in the end. It was either Gandhi or Dr Martin Luther King who said the ark of history bends inevitably towards justice. I may be wrong. Only time will tell. But I do think this has to do with the ark of history bending towards justice.

Q. Are there any nuggets from the Bible that sustain you?

The sixth chapter of Isaiah is where he describes his call. It’s very important to me. The scripture I use with all of my candidates in the ordination process is where Isaiah has a vision of heaven and of God’s love, realises his own unworthiness and the unworthiness of all of us, experiences God’s touching his lips with the hot coal and removing his sin, and then God says ‘who will go for us? Whom shall I send?” Isaiah says here am I, send me. That’s where my sense of call comes from. The other interestingly also from the Hebrew scriptures but read by Jesus in his own home town synagogue is also Isaiah 61: ‘Where the spirit of the Lord is upon me and has called me to preach Good news to the poor, release to the captives to bind up the broken hearted and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’. I believe that is the passage that Jesus discerned his ministry out of and I think that’s why it’s recorded that he read that passage from Isaiah. I think he was discerning his own call at that point, and his ministry went on to embody that. That’s the scripture I used in my first major address to my diocese after being elected because I felt that if it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for us and that our ministry ought to be about those same sorts of priorities.

Q. You have become famous – almost a celebrity. How do you handle that?

It’s bizarre and it’s surreal. I was in New York not too long ago, dressed not in clericals but in regular street clothes. What looked to be a homeless person stopped to ask for money. I was on my cellphone, my partner gave him something and he was walking off. He turned around and pointed to me – I was still on my cellphone – and said: ‘I saw you on TV the other night and you were awesome’. He then walked off. It’s not anything I want or expected or was in many way prepared for, but it’s an opportunity for evangelism and every opportunity I get I try to use for God.  When I travel outside the diocese it’s amazing the people who stop me in the street or at an airport, mostly to thank me for what I’m doing or to tell me a story about themselves or a relative who has felt encouraged by what I’ve been doing. People have been simply wonderful to me.

Q. You must wish in a way you could just talk about important Christian issues.

It would be wonderful. I would love to be just another bishop. It seems to me that God has called me to this particular time and this particular ministry in which 95 per cent of my time I do get to spend just being a bishop in my diocese where this is simply not an issue. But there is this other ministry which God has given me to incarnate this issue for the church and for the world. It is a daunting calling, but one that I am trying to do to the best of my ability and in it all not to point to myself but to God who made all this possible for me to be elected, but that God somehow got through to me that I am loved for who I am and the confidence I got from knowing that I am one of Christ’s children led to my election, not that God rigged the ballot box

Q. The Catholic Church still retains an anti gay stance, ye it has huge issues with its own gay priests….

I shouldn’t matter at all to anyone in the Roman Catholic church because as the Pope reasserted only a couple of days ago, they are the only one and true church and so as far as they’re concerned I’m just playing church, as is the Archbishop of Canterbury I might add. But last summer I led a retreat for 75 gay Roman Catholic priests. I don’t know that I have ever been with people in such pain and again it is the same issue for the Church of England, it is one of integrity. I believe there are no barriers to God’s love for us. How difficult it must be to preach God’s love to a congregation and serve an institution that refuses to extend that love to you. It must be enormous.

Q. Have you any message for the Scottish church? Have you ever been to Scotland?

Yes indeed. I’ve been to Iona. Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness and the north. I love Scotland. It’s been a while and I would love an invitation to come back. I’d encourage the Scottish church to do what they did 200 plus years ago – to stand with their brothers and sisters in Christ in the United States and to offer their support.  Not necessarily their agreement even, but their support of our being a constituent member of the Anglican Communion trying to discern God’s will for us at this time. I think that the size of the Scottish church matters not. It’s the moral voice that is needed and will be appreciated by many Americans and Canadians and Australians and others. The world needs what the Anglican Communion has the opportunity to provide.  In a global village we have to find a way to live together while we disagree about certain things. If the world doesn’t learn that soon we’re going to destroy ourselves. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Anglican Communion could provide a model where we could disagree about many things and yet still hold together as a community?  I think we have an opportunity to be a sacrament – a sign pointing towards treating each other with such infinite respect that we can transcend our differences and respect one another without having to agree. I think the world desperately needs to learn how to do that and we have a great opportunity in the Anglican Communion to exhibit and be a model for that and that’s what I hope we will do.

My own church, Old St Pauls – any message for us?

I’d say that I celebrate the embrace of diversity that Old St Pauls exhibits. I believe therein lies the hope of the future for the church. In that embrace a congregation becomes more Christ-like than in anything else it can do.  If Jesus stood for anything it was the embrace of all, especially the marginalised, and to welcome all is the greatest tribute to Christ there could be. I would love to visit and be a part of that community someday. (It would be terrific to receive an invitation to preach).That would be wonderful.

Andrew Collier can be reached at:  andrew@colliermedia.com