Bishop Robinson visits Guilford

Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire visited Guilford on Jan. 28 as part of Religious Emphasis Week. Robinson is the nation’s first openly gay Christian bishop. After last semester’s bias incident in which a student of the LGBTQA community was threatened by anonymous notes attacking homosexuality, junior Thomas Eaves suggested that Robinson be invited to visit Guilford. Eaves “took great pleasure” in introducing the Bishop.

Students, faculty, and members of the community filled the benches at the New Garden Friends Meeting to hear Robinson.

Robinson began by saying, “if you’re here somewhat hesitatingly, suspiciously, or just downright contrarily, you are especially welcome.”

“The only way we are going to get through some of the issues that face us is by facing each other in an air of respect and commitment to our broader community,” he said.

After his election on June 7, 2003, Robinson received death threats, had to wear a bulletproof vest and required around the clock security.

The bishop shared the story about when he first realized he was homosexual.

Robinson said that when individuals come out, “it’s up to the parents to accept their children or act like it never happened.”

At age 13 he suspected he was different after friends were excited to see a Playboy magazine, and he was not. He knew instinctively that to admit he was gay would have endangered him physically and damaged his relationships in the community.

“There began the divide that GLBT people have encountered many times in their lives, ” Robinson said. “In my time, to come out meant you’d risk either winding up in a gutter on drugs, unhappy, or if you were brave enough you’d kill yourself.”

Yet, Robinson said that “with time ideas change.”

“Change happens when you have a world view, then you have a new experience for which that world view is not sufficient to explain, then you are thrown into chaos,” said Robinson.

Throughout the bishop’s lecture, many in the audience laughed at his humor and nodded in agreement with his words.

Then the bishop asked the question, “Is tolerance enough?”

“Tolerance is not enough. I have a friend who says you tolerate hemorrhoids. Tolerance has this begrudging quality to it,” Robinson said. “If you are on the receiving end of tolerance, it doesn’t make you feel all that great. People of color, women, LGBT community know how debilitating and unloving it is to merely be tolerated.”

“There was a vigil last fall followed by a few dialogues,” said senior Brian Daniel, the president of PRIDE. “The incident has been forgotten. Bishop Robinson brought it back. Just because the incident occurred last fall, does not mean that bias does not still exist today.”

Some students, like junior Matt Sinclair, wanted to begin a dialogue about the belief that homosexuality is a sin. Sinclair says that he loves sinners and doesn’t harshly judge homosexuals, though he identifies homosexuality as one of many sins.

“I have gay friends; still, homosexuality is a sin based on the way I was raised in the church,” said Sinclair.

Sinclair said that he fears students aligned with his way of thinking would be ostracized for their stance on homosexuality. Instead of a reasonable dialogue there would be shouting from both sides and nothing would be accomplished, Sinclair said.

Like Sinclair, Assistant Athletic Director Dave Walters said that homosexuality is one of many sins that separate Christians from God. But he said he treats everyone in the community with the respect they deserve.

Walters said fear is what causes a divide between students who disagree with living as a homosexuals and the GLBT community.

“When fear enters, there’s a greater possibility for misconception and error, which confuses reality,” Walters said.

Senior Casey Thomas said the discussion about homosexuality is important to create institutional respect towards students with differing views.

“While we must respect bigots, I feel no obligation to respect the imagined right to bigotry,” said Thomas.

Thomas says she doesn’t expect everyone to be best friends, but that those with differing views should put their cards on the table.

“What we need more than tolerance is love, compassion, understanding and acceptance,” Daniel said. “We may not agree with everyone’s views on our campus, but that does not mean we should not respect them as people.