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Rev. Susan Russell

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What a Difference a Decade Makes

Posted: 08/06/2013 2:27 pm

Ten years ago today was the day we were promised the world would end, the sky would fall and life as we knew it would cease to exist. Western civilization -- already teetering on the brink -- would topple over and we would all be really, really, really sorry... if the Episcopal Church finished the work the Diocese of New Hampshire and the Holy Spirit had started and consented to the election of the Reverend Canon V. Gene Robinson as the Ninth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire.

And 10 years ago today -- by a vote of 62-43 -- the bishops of the Episcopal Church made it official and Gene Robinson entered the history books. The world did not end, the sky did not fall and life as we knew it did not cease to exist. Oh, it got a little bumpy for awhile. At his consecration in November 2003 we had to go through metal detectors, past bomb sniffing dogs and through a phalanx of international media types to get to the service where the first openly gay priest to become a bishop in the Episcopal Church. But 10 years later the world and the church are both very different.

Lord knows there are miles to go before we rest. The election of one gay bishop does not the end of homophobia make. But yet, what a difference a decade makes. In 2013 we have seen 13 states achieve marriage equality, the end of federal discrimination against same-sex marriage, the repeal of DADT and the end of discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military -- along with a dramatic shift in public opinion on with a majority of Americans now supporting full equality for LGBT citizens.

The election of Bishop Gene Robinson didn't make all that happen -- but it didn't hurt. It didn't hurt that the Episcopal Church was willing to step up, speak out and show the world that it would not be blackmailed into bigotry. It didn't hurt that they were willing to listen to the Holy Spirit call the right person -- even though he was a gay person -- to be the Bishop of New Hampshire. And it didn't hurt that all the media attention focused on that day 10 years ago today -- and on the weeks and months after -- gave Bishop Robinson the opportunity to demonstrate extraordinary grace under fire while witnessing to the power of God's inclusive love for absolutely everybody.

It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who famously said that "the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice," but he didn't say it bends easily or quickly, nor did he say there wouldn't be some cracks along the way. Maybe that's why one of my favorite songs is Leonard Cohen's "Anthem," a song that includes this wisdom: "There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in."

What the Episcopal Church did 10 years ago today, on August 6, 2003, when they consented to the election of V. Gene Robinson as the ninth Bishop of New Hampshire -- was create a crack in systemic homophobia that let the light in: the light of equality, justice and compassion that shone far beyond our little corner of Christianity in some powerful and prophetic ways. And ten years later that is still something to celebrate.

So here's to you, Bishop Robinson. Jesus loves you more than you will know. And so do we!

 

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