I commend Skyline Church for holding this conversation and for inviting the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire, and not the latest RuPaul look alike. Bishop Robinson had broad support in the audience, thanks to many Episcopalians who made the trip to La Mesa, including some from as far away as St. Paul in-the-Desert, Palm Springs. A few wore Tshirts that said “Fearless Love” with the new diocesan logo.
When the so-called moderator introduced Bishop Robinson, there was an outburst of applause, so I knew there were plenty of supporters in the audience. He spoke from the heart, and he spoke calmly and with conviction. He was warm and funny. All this in stark contrast to the two who spoke against gay marriage: Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse and Dr. Robert Gagnon. Dr. Gagnon gave a steamroller-style presentation supported by a PowerPoint with detailed analysis of what Jesus said about homosexuality, or rather what he extrapolated from Jesus’ statements about marriage. Dr. Morse spoke about the harm that would befall society if gay marriage is allowed. These arguments were not new or interesting.
What I found interesting, and irritating, is that the so-called moderator kept interrupting Dr. John Corvino, who is an out, gay man speaking in favor of gay marriage alongside Bishop Robinson. The moderator was the lead pastor of Skyline Church, Jim Garlow. He should not have even attempted to moderate the conversation. He did allow the Rev. Canon Allisyn Thomas to moderate once he recognized that he was really advocating for a position, and not a fair-minded moderator. It bothered me that he was so unaware of his own actions.
One of the most powerful moments was when Bishop Robinson, in replying to a query from the anti-gay marriage speakers about Biblical texts, said that although he agreed that all Biblical texts about homosexuality are negative, it was Scripture that saved his life because he would have put a gun to his head had he not heard God’s voice saying to him, “You are my beloved. In you I am well-pleased.” Bishop Robinson knew that he was loved by God in spite of what his conservative, homophobic, small-town, Kentucky church told him about homosexuality. A burst of applause from the audience when he finished telling this story punctuated his point.
A fair amount of humor peppered the otherwise tense conversation. It was interesting to sit in the huge, warehouse-like sanctuary with my partner, Kathy, and to know that we were sitting right next to people who were opposed to gay marriage. Not a comfortable experience, but a good one, because it means that we can all be in one room together and discuss this hot topic without coming to blows.
Kudos to Skyline. Huge love and thanks to Bishop Robinson. My favorite picture is to the right!
We’ll be publishing more thoughts about the Skyline event over the week (to read them all, click here).