Magazine article The Christian Century

Documentary on Gay Bishop Featured at Sundance

Magazine article The Christian Century

Documentary on Gay Bishop Featured at Sundance

Article excerpt

IT'S BEEN YEARS since the incident, but Bishop V. Gene Robinson's heart still races when he sees it on film. Robinson, the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop, was preaching in London when a man in the audience stood and began yelling at him. The heckler waved a motorcycle helmet as he ranted. Robinson silently wondered if he was hiding a gun or a bomb beneath it.

Eventually, the heckler was escorted from the church, but the moment reminded everyone, including Robinson, of the risks of taking a stand.

It's one of many moments--some suspenseful, some inspiring, some heartbreaking--captured in Love Free or Die, a documentary about Robinson that premiered at the recent Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

[Robinson was elected in 2003 as the ninth Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire. He has announced his intent to retire the post in 2013 at age 65.]

"As far as we've come in terms of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, we still have a long way to go, particularly in the central part of the country," Robinson said in an interview. "If my story can help a young boy or girl in their teens believe they can have a wonderful and productive life and family, then it's worth my putting up with a film crew following me around for two years in order to comfort and inspire them."

The film follows Robinson as the church grapples with how to handle lesbian and gay issues. Robinson's election brought to a head the divide between liberal and conservative Episcopalians, as well as between the U.S. church and more conservative members of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Filmmakers followed Robinson to England in 2008, where he was excluded from the Anglicans' Lambeth Conference of bishops. And they followed him to the Episcopal Church's 2009 General Convention, where leaders voted to allow blessings of same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships (where legal) and allow gay men and women to become bishops.

Along the way, they interviewed Robinson, his family and other church leaders, many of whom supported his quest for equality and some of whom did not. In one scene, a woman sobs that she is torn between wanting to do what's best for the people around her while also remaining true to scripture.


Filmmakers also interviewed other gay church leaders, including former Utah Episcopal Bishop Otis Charles, who came out after he retired. …

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