VirtueOnline reports that Dr. William Warwick Rich, a partnered bishop living in Boston, has been floated as a potential replacement for Gene Robinson (right, in magenta), the openly gay Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire who will be retiring in the near future.
Bishop Rich has quite the history of gay friendliness too—he began to come out at the end of college and then in 1992, he officiated a gay marriage. Writes VirtueOnline:
Like Bishop Robinson, Fr. Rich is very active in the gay community. On July 4, 1992, he presided at what he calls the “holy union” of two lesbian parishioners at Memorial Episcopal Church on Bolton Hill in Baltimore.
“I was careful to obtain all the necessary permissions to do this, including tacit permission to ‘do what you think is best pastorally’ from the bishop, as well as explicit permission from the rector and vestry of the parish,” Rich explained in his dossier to the New Hampshire Search Committee which asked about taking a prophetic stance.
“Several months after the service, The Baltimore Sun got wind of what had happened, and ran a front-page story about me and the service,” Fr. Rich explained. “As you might imagine, an enormous controversy erupted, both in the Diocese … and in the wider Baltimore community. In some ways, I think this was an early catalyst, pushing public opinion to ‘come out’ in support of civil marriage in Maryland.”
A gay priest who considers early adoption of gay-friendliness a prophetic move? Awesome.
Robinson, for his part, is currently heading to London to promote his Sundance doc Love Free Or Die at the BFI Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. It is his first time back since he was excluded from the conference by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, an experience that causes him to shed some tears in the doc.
He laments on the Huffington Post:
It has been four years since I was in England, present but not included in the once-a-decade Lambeth conference of Bishops in 2008. As the Archbishop of Canterbury plans for his retirement, I trust that the decision to exclude me will be one of the low points Rowan Williams reflects upon as he leaves office…
That I am not the first gay bishop should surprise no one. But I am the first gay bishop who has been honest about his orientation. And the punishment for being honest? I have the dubious distinction of being the first duly elected and consecrated Bishop excluded from Lambeth since the event began in the mid-19th century.
Will a gay bishop be allowed into Lambeth in 2018? We’re thinking yes, and we’re hoping it’s Fr. Rich.