But rather than throw fuel on the culture wars, Robinson foresees a new role as a bridge builder for a nation strained by divisive issues. First up: helping his new church home,St. Thomas Parishin Dupont Circle, found a Center for Non-Violent Communication.
Our big goal is to change the nature of the debate in Washington, Robinson said during an interview at his Concord office. “We’re mostly shouting at each other these days. We’d like (the center) to become a place where people can learn about and commit themselves to a different kind of tone.”
Robinson, 65, is carving out multiple platforms for weighing in on national issues. He’ll be writing essays and doing public interviews as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank. He’ll likely be preaching once a month in his expected role as bishop-in-residence at St. Thomas, a congregation known for its advocacy on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.
The cause of fostering civil dialogue won’t mean backing off hot-button issues, however. He plans to keep campaigning for coast-to-coast legalization of same-sex marriage, which is the topic of his new book, “God Believes in Love,” and a major theme in the recent documentary about his life: “Love Free or Die.”
Despite fighting for one side’s agenda, Robinson hopes to show how shared values and language can help diffuse tensions. He aims to model, for instance, how to translate religious views into secular policy statements that anyone could endorse.
“When you claim to have the truth, as opposed to the truth as you perceive it, then you move us toward a theocratic view of government,” Robinson said. “There is a better way of injecting religious belief and faith into the public debate, and it starts with a certain kind of humility.”
For Robinson, causes from gay rights to the environment and a robust social safety net fall under a single rubric: defending the vulnerable. That overarching principle, he hopes, will color each endeavor in his next chapter.
He’s already raised $500,000 for a new $6.3 million sanctuary at St. Thomas, which was destroyed by arson in 1970, where a chapel will be named for him. He’s pitching the chapel as a pilgrimage destination, especially for gay teens who?ve never seen a Christian tribute to an openly gay person.
Yet no matter how he frames his retirement, observers say, he’ll be hard-pressed to reinvent himself as a transcendent or bridge-building figure.
Conservative critics say he’s defied scriptural authority and flaunted nearly 2,000 years of Christian tradition, first as an openly gay bishop and then by marrying his partner, Mark Andrew, in 2010. They contend he’s done untold damage to the 77 million-member Anglican Communion by shattering time-honored, God-given standards for leadership.