Monday, January 12, 2009

Gay church official to speak of civil rights and religious rites

By Janet I. Tu
Seattle Times staff reporter
Originally published Sunday, January 11, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Since the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson became the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church in 2003, he has come to symbolize different things to different people.

For some, the New Hampshire bishop is a symbol of gay rights, while to others he represents a church gone astray.

No doubt, he's become symbolic of the tensions within the denomination — both nationally and internationally — over issues such as homosexuality and the authority of Scripture. For that very reason, some local Episcopalians are inviting Robinson to Seattle this week.

"He gets talked about in such abstract ways, as a symbol or an icon," said the Rev. Peter Strimer, rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Seattle. St. Andrew's, along with the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia and Integrity Puget Sound, a group for gay and lesbian Episcopalians, are sponsoring Robinson's visit.

But "we don't exist in the abstract," Strimer said. "As people are deciding about the role of gays in the church, rather than simply having an abstract discussion, I thought it was important that we met the person and heard his story."

On Monday afternoon, Robinson will preach at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral and give a talk on civil rights and religion that evening at Town Hall.

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