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Bishop Vicky Gene Robinson and his ‘beloved’ Mark Andrew to divorce

Bishop Vicky Gene Robinson and his ‘beloved’ Mark Andrew to divorce
After nearly two years of speculation the rumors are true

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
www.virtueonline.org
May 4, 2014

Go back in time. It's July 9, 2012 and Bishop Vicky Gene Robinson (IX New Hampshire) has the floor of the Episcopal House of Bishops. He is taking a Point of Personal Privilege to respond to a Virtue Online e-mail inquiry about rumors floating around General Convention that he and his "husband" Mark Andrew were hitting a rough spot in their same-sex marriage.

"...Also last night I received an e-mail from a person who calls himself a correspondent for VirtueOnline, wanting me to comment on whether or not my beloved Mark and I are having relationship problems, and whether or not we are discussing or planning a divorce. I have no intention of responding to that e-mail. It is nobody’s damn business," he ranted.

"I just need to say to this house that for nine years I have borne a level of scrutiny the likes of which I believe most of you can only imagine, and there is a limit to what one person can bear," the New Hampshire bishop whined "I have only three and a half more days as an active bishop in this house and less than six months as an active bishop of this church. Can you cut me a little slack, please? “Can you find it in your heart, if you’ve got a question about something that I’ve said or done, to ask me personally? I will answer you truthfully."

The carefully crafted VOL email to Bishop Robinson said, "The word on the ground at General Convention, and now making the rounds on the Internet, is that you and Mark Andrew are apparently parting ways. I realize this is a delicate issue, but a valid one, due to your high visibility as a bishop in The Episcopal Church . . . So there, in all humility I ask, Bishop Robinson, are you and Mr. Andrew experiencing relational problems? Have you separated? And are you discussing divorce? There are rumors out there, I would like to try and set the record straight."

Now 22 months after that initial e-mail, Bishop Robinson is answering as another communiqué filters out of the Episcopal House of Bishops confirming the long speculation. An announcement from Bishop Robinson to House of Bishops, which he calls his "HOB family", and jointly signed by "+Gene Robinson and Mark Andrew" confirms that a same-sex divorce is on the horizon for The Episcopal Church poster boy for same-sex marriage, noted gay rights activist and vocal spokesman for the LGBTQ crowd.

"It is time to share with you, our HOB family, that my partner and husband of 25+ years, Mark, and I have decided to be divorced. As you can imagine, this is a difficult time for us -- not a decision entered into lightly or without much counseling," the retired bishop writes. "I'm sure that you will understand the private nature of this change in our lives and our commitment to keeping those details appropriately private. Our life and ministry among you continues to be something that both of us count as an honor and blessing. We ask for your prayers, that the love and care for each other that has characterized our relationship for a quarter century will continue in the difficult days ahead."

Again, Bishop Robinson will make headlines with this new revelation. He is no stranger to headlines. The latest was when he was tapped by President Barack Obama during Holy Week to pronounce the concluding prayer at a White House Prayer Breakfast immediately tweeting: “POTUS ‘preaches’ at the Easter prayer breakfast. Then, out of the blue, asks ME to close with prayer. OMG! #privilege.”

This will be Bishop Robinson's second divorce. He was originally married in 1972 to Isabella "Boo" McDaniel Robinson whom he met as a seminarian chaplain at the University of Vermont. The couple had two children -- Jamee Robinson and her sister Ella Robinson. The heterosexual couple was divorced in 1986 when Robinson went public with his sexual orientation although there had been hints a decade before. Bishop Robinson and his first wife are also the grandparents of two granddaughters.

Mark Andrew first came on the scene in late 1987 while vacationing in St. Croix. In July 1988, then-Fr. Robinson and Mr. Andrew moved in together. Bishop Douglas Theuner (VIII New Hampshire) blessed their new home. This event marks the time that the new gay couple considered the formal recognition of their "life together."

Vicky Gene Robinson was first ordained deacon in May 1973 by Bishop Leland Stark (VI Newark) and priested in December by Bishop George Rath (VII Newark). In 1988 Fr. Robinson became the Canon to the Ordinary of his friend Bishop Theuner, a post he held until he was elected the Bishop of New Hampshire in June 2003 on the second ballot with a 58 clerical and 96 lay ballots cast. A total of 39 clerical and 83 lay votes were needed to put him over the top.

Since his election was held within 120 days of a general convention (LXXIV General Convention - Minneapolis) and after a bruising two-hour Committee on the Consecration of Bishops debate, the New Hampshire Bishop-elect skated through the House of Deputies confirmation process with a laity vote of 63 in favor, 32 opposed, and 13 divided; the clergy vote was 65 in favor, 31 opposed, and 12 divided.

The House of Bishops' vote was delayed two days to investigate late allegations of sexual impropriety and pornographic activity. The accusations could not be proved and the HOB's vote was 62 in favor, 43 opposed, with 2 abstentions, sweeping Canon Robinson into the House of Bishops.

He was consecrated bishop on November 2, 2003 by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold in a highly publicized event drawing national and international attention. In all, 48 bishops attended Bishop Robinson's consecration while another 19 TEC bishops issued a statement warning of a possible schism between The Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion as a result of Robinson's elevation to the bishopric. As a direct result of the new Bishop's consecration, the fabric of Anglicanism has been rent and the resulting fission is widening.

Bishop Robinson and his live-in lover settled in. The Bishop had a new job and Mr. Andrew was employed by the State of New Hampshire.

"I plan to be a good bishop, not a gay bishop," Robinson told the Associated Press at the time. "I'm so much more than my sexual orientation."

In 2003 when Vicky Gene Robinson was elected bishop, there were 15,531 Episcopal souls in the Diocese of New Hampshire of whom 4,858 showed up on a Sunday. He inherited a plate and pledge of $6,183,000. Nine years later when he turned his crozier over to Bishop Robert Hirschfield (X New Hampshire), there were 12,896 Episcopalians worshipping in 46 congregations with an ASA of 4,027. By 2012 when he left, there was a $6,672,000 plate and pledge.

In 2004 Bishop Robinson was the first openly gay Episcopal priest to be consecrated a bishop. Another Episcopal bishop had come out of the closet 10 years before. The late Bishop Otis Charles (VIII Utah) admitted to the House of Bishops that he was gay after he retired in 1993. He, too, divorced his wife and "married" his gay partner in California. His partner, Felipe Sanchez-Paris, died before him and was honored in an obituary written by Episcopal News Service.

Bishop Charles was the first gay bishop to be "widowed." Bishop Robinson will be the first gay bishop to be "divorced." One other gay Episcopal bishop, Mary Glasspool (Suffragan Los Angeles) is still in her same-sex relationship with her "life partner" Becki Sander. Unlike Bishop Charles and Bishop Robinson, the Los Angeles bishop quietly keeps a low profile.

On June 7, 2008, on the fifth anniversary of his election as the Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson and Mark Andrew "tied the knot" in a civil ceremony. Their "legal" union was "blessed" in a religious service at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Concord, NH.

New Hampshire first allowed civil unions on Jan. 1, 2008. At that time, Bishop Robinson and Mr. Andrew were planning a June "wedding." When their plans came out, Bishop Robinson quipped, " I always wanted to be a June bride." Theirs was one of 600 civil unions to be performed in the Granite State in 2008. An additional 8,700 traditional marriages were also performed that year.

On Jan. 1, 2011 New Hampshire began to allow same-sex marriages -- no new civil unions were performed. One year later, Jan. 1, 2012, all civil unions -- including Bishop Robinson and Mr. Andrew's -- were converted into a "marriage." A divorce or annulment would be needed to break the legal civil union as in the dissolution of any other marital union.

New Hampshire is one of 17 states, the District of Columbia, and eight native American tribes to have legalized same-sex marriage. The New Hampshire Bishop has been at the forefront in pushing for the legalization of same-sex marriage.
New Hampshire divorce laws allow for one partner to get a divorce without the agreement or cooperation of their spouse. The state also allows for “no-fault" divorce when there are “irreconcilable differences that have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.”

Following Bishop Robinson's June "wedding", the new "bride" did not receive an invitation from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to attend the XIV Lambeth Conference later that summer. More than 880 other invitations were issued to Anglican bishops around the world of which 650 attended. Four Anglican primates -- Peter Akinola, Nigeria; Emmanuel Kolini, Rwanda; Benjamin Nzimbi, Kenya; and Henry Orombi, Uganda -- boycotted the event because of The Episcopal Church's stance on same-sex relationships and Bishop Robinson's consecration.

Invitation or not, the Bishop, left his new "husband" at home and headed for England. He hung around the fridges of the 2008 Lambeth Conference getting much media attention. He also preached at London's St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church - Putney where he was heckled.

In 2011 Bishop Robinson announced his retirement. He was tired. He had been in the Diocese of New Hampshire for 35 years, serving 24 on a diocesan level as Canon to the Ordinary and then as Bishop.

"The fact is, the last seven years have taken their toll on me, my family, and you (the Diocese). Death threats, and the now-worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as Bishop, have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark, who has faithfully stood with me every minute of the last seven years, and in some ways, you (the Diocese)," the Bishop explained in his Nov. 6, 2010 retirement announcement. "While I believe that these attitudes, mostly outside the Diocese, have not distracted me from my service to you, I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that they have certainly added a burden and certain anxiety to my episcopate."

After his retirement, and leaving Mr. Andrew behind, Bishop Robinson turned his eyes and thoughts toward Washington, DC where he became the Bishop-in-Resident at St. Thomas Parish - DuPont Circle and helped to found the Center for Non-Violent Communication. He also joined the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank channeling his energy into issues involving “economic justice, immigration, LGBT rights, health care, and the environment.”

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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