"The Bible is the word of God, not the words of God," said Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, in presenting his talk, "The Role of the Religious Liberal Voice in Advocacy of Gay Rights," at a Cornell United Religious Work (CURW) in the City event April 7 at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields in New York City's Greenwich Village.
"I don't believe the Bible says anything about homosexuality," said Robinson, the first openly gay, non-celibate priest whose ordination as bishop in 2003 caused a worldwide firestorm, since "context is everything" when interpreting a historical document. According to Robinson, the ancient words that have been translated to homosexuality in the modern Bible, more closely describe what we know as pedophilia. Therefore, the Bible is "silent" about homosexuality, said Robinson.
"For almost 200 years the church interpreted the Bible to support slavery," Robinson pointed out. The church admitted it was wrong about slavery and repented. Likewise, Robinson said that he believes the church will eventually admit its mistake about homosexuality, too. "We shouldn't allow the religious right to take the Bible hostage," said Robinson. "The Bible belongs to us all."
Robinson, who was elected bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire after serving nearly 18 years as an assistant to a bishop, was invited by Barack Obama to give the invocation at the opening inaugural ceremonies at the Lincoln Memorial Jan. 18, 2009. Robinson's story is featured in "For the Bible Tells Me So," a documentary that deconstructs the passages in the Bible that condemn homosexual behavior. Robinson's book, "In the Eye of the Storm: Swept to the Center by God," published in 2008, addresses sexuality and theology.
According to Robinson, "prejudice combined with power" creates the "isms" still facing the oppressed today, including blacks, women and gays. Those isms are racism, sexism and heterosexism -- a term Robinson said better describes what most people call homophobia.
"Our society has written a preference for race, gender and sexuality into law," said Robinson. However, as with Jim Crow laws that were overturned in the South, "changing the law, doesn't guarantee society will." As an advocate of full civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people and equal protection under the law, including civil marriage rights, Robinson implored the LGBT members of the audience to push their allies and friends to do more than be just tolerant of them.
Robinson's lecture was co-sponsored by CURW in the City, the Episcopal Church at Cornell, Cornell Mosaic, and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center. Matthew Carcella, associate dean of students and director of the LGBT Center, said Robinson is an "leader in the national LGBT movement" whose "consecration was a watershed moment in history for LGBT inclusion and equity in religious communities." Robinson also delivered the 2011 Frederick C. Wood Lecture on campus April 6.
John Mikytuck '90 is a freelance writer in New York City.