In the decade since he became a global lightning rod for debate, gay Bishop Gene Robinson has written often about sexuality and scripture in the voice of priest and a teacher. But this week, as Robinson announced he and his longtime male partner were divorcing, his words sounded secular and intimate.
In a piece for The Daily Beast, Robinson, 66, said he would keep the details of his divorce from Mark Andrews, who he married in 2003, “appropriately private.” However, he wrote that both parties are responsible for marriages ending: “the missed opportunities for saying and doing the things that might have made a difference, the roads not taken, the disappointments endured but not confronted.”
While Robinson has declined to comment to The Washington Post, news of his marriage ending drew attention across the globe. Robinson has been one of most famous U.S. priests since 2004, since the Episcopal Church made him a bishop and prompted dozens of churches in the denomination to break away. He became a very public advocate, writing columns directed to Pope Benedict about how to handle clerical sex abuse and to evangelical mega-pastor Mark Driscoll about sin. In 2010, he became a senior fellow at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, which said he would be handling issues involving “economic justice, immigration, LGBT rights, health care and the environment.”
The Daily Beast piece didn’t address divorce in a specifically religious context. Robinson was divorced before, from a woman with whom he has two children.
However, in a piece last year for The Washington Post, Robinson challenged Driscoll and others who cite the Bible in calling gays “sinners” but don’t look to literal scripture for how to treat divorced people.
“While Jesus never says a word about homosexuality, Jesus is quite clear and specific that remarriage after divorce is adultery. Following Driscoll’s advice to homosexuals, these remarried and ‘practicing’ adulterers should repent of their sin and seek to amend their sinful lifestyles – by divorcing their second spouses (ending their sinful ways) and thereafter living a celibate and chaste sexual life, according to the precepts of Scripture. Or, in Driscoll’s practice of applying biblical standards of conduct, is there a double standard? Perhaps all sin is not created equal, and God is less disgusted with adulterers than with homosexuals. I hardly think so. The Bible cannot be literally true for some, but not for others.”
In Robinson’s piece, published Sunday, he said he’s trying to take the advice he gives couples in pre-marital counseling: “Marriage is forever, and your relationship will endure — whether positively or negatively — even if the marriage formally ends.”
He also put the split in the context of the LGBT equality movement, in which he is considered a giant for taking an office that made him the target of death threats and countless critical sermons.
“It is at least a small comfort to me, as a gay rights and marriage equality advocate, to know that like any marriage, gay and lesbian couples are subject to the same complications and hardships that afflict marriages between heterosexual couples.”