MANCHESTER, N.H. – The Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop-elect refused to leave his election despite the risk of a permanent divide within the 77 million-member Anglican Communion.
"I do have this sense I'm supposed to go forward, and I do feel that's coming from God and not my own ego. But I don't know," he said during a religious education meeting Sunday at Grace Church.
"If I step down, do you really think other qualified gays and lesbians wouldn't be elected?" he asked the 40 gatherers. "My standing down isn't going to make it all go away."
His comments were prompted by a suggestion from a parishioner that Robinson consider steeping down for the interests of preserving the larger church.
"I personally think it's not worth losing the family," Paul Apple of Mont Vernon said.
In the weeks following Robinson’s confirmation in August, leaders of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion warned of an inevitable split within the worldwide body of believers.
At an emergency meeting in London last week, Anglican leaders released a statement of caution, saying that, should Robinson be consecrated as bishop of Hampshire in Nov. 2, "the future of the communion itself will be put in jeopardy."
Conservative Episcopalians at the meeting said they plan to form an independent network of churches opposed to Robinson’s election and to the national church’s acceptance of its priests blessing same-sex unions.
The announcement came a week after a meeting of 2,700 dissenting Episcopalians in Dallas. In addition, the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas voted to withhold $512,000 from the national church to protest Robinson's election, marking the first time in which a Texas diocese has repudiated the national church by cutting off its financial support.
Despite such threats to the Church’s unity, Robinson remained optimistic, saying he believes God wants him to go forward: "If I'm wrong, God help me and God will help me.”
While Robinson did not deny the Anglican leaders’ charge against homosexuality as being “contrary to Scripture,” he said that is outweighed by the Scripture’s call for love and acceptance of all.
Going further, he tied together the spiritual sickness of homosexuality with issues of gender and race. According to Robinson, the root of the dissension is the desire of “white men” to remain in power.
This is a "threat to the way things have been done, when white men have pretty much been in charge of everything," he said. “I don't like being thought of as the reason they leave the church.”
However, according to diocese spokesman, Jim Goodson "A majority of our delegates disagree."
"Liberalism is an attitude advanced in the sense of tolerance but when it comes to issues of the gospel, such liberalism should not be tolerated,” said Father Muzambi, sub-dean of the Anglican Cathedral in Harare.
"It is the Bible that decides on the way forward because it is the final authority or reference point on this matter. Bishop Robinson must be expelled from the church and no Anglican must pull out of church in protest. He has to go.
"Biblically when you are a Christian you are no longer expected to do as you please. The Bible in Leviticus 18:22 and Corinthians 5:1 and 13b speaks about sexual immorality making strong emphasis on removal of such people from the church," he said.
The Pope John Paul II, during a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury earlier this month, agreed that “These difficulties extend to essential matters of faith and morals."
There are 77 million Anglicans worldwide; its American branch, the Episcopal church USA, has more than 2.4 million followers.