The Church of England would be close to shutting down if it wasn’t for its gay clergy, said the Anglican Communion’s first openly gay bishop in an interview with The Times of London.
Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who lives with his partner, said he finds it "mystifying" that the Church of England is unable to be honest about the number of gay clergy in its ranks.
“If all the gay people stayed away from church on a given Sunday, the Church of England would be close to shut-down between its organists, its clergy, its wardens … it just seems less than humble not to admit that," he was quoted as saying.
He said many clergy live with gay partners, with the full knowledge of their bishops. But their bishops warn against their relationships becoming public.
"It’s a terrible way to live your life and I think it’s a terrible way to be a church. I think integrity is so important. What does it mean for a clergy person to be in a pulpit calling the parishioners to a life of integrity when they can’t even live a life of integrity with their own bishop and their own church?” Robinson said.
He said the Episcopal Church has been ordaining gay priests "for many, many years" and the Church of England should admit that gay clergy is not just an American issue.
Speaking of his recent meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, Bishop Robinson said: "It was very private and I was eager and willing to accommodate him and when he asked me not to function liturgically or to preach I was saddened by that, but I want to help him as much as I can. I’m limited in what I can do and I won’t step down, but other than that I am eager to try and help him any way that I can. I certainly would not do so (celebrate or preach) without his permission."
He said he has the support of several bishops in the Church of England, but he declined to name them.
He criticized proposals to discipline The Episcopal Church for its actions in consecrating him. "The whole notion of punishment being meted out to provinces of the Anglican Communion that are somehow non-compliant is somehow antithetical to the whole Anglican tradition, positing some sort of centralized Curia that has the ability and the authority to do such a thing, is about as un-Anglican as you can imagine. After all, our church was founded in resistance to a centralized authority in Rome," he was quoted as saying.
If the Episcopal Church were to be expelled eventually from the Communion, it would be "diminished" by its lack of connection to the church in the rest of the world,” he stated.
He added, however, that “no matter what happens to the Communion” the Episcopal Church will keep the connections it has in Africa, Asia and South America.