PBS aired the documentary on Bishop Gene Robinson this evening. Although there were moments of brilliance, humor, and power, I found it by and large unconvincing. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because by focusing on Bishop Robinson’s story, it failed to examine the larger issues at stake. The Archbishop of Canterbury was a caricature and the focus on the Lambeth Conference (a big chunk of the first half of the film) pitted the lone martyr and prophet (Robinson) against the institutional forces of the Church. There was very little attention to the real tension within the church and within individuals over Bishop Robinson’s election and the deep divisions it caused in the world-wide Anglican Communion. Apart from a couple of quotations from Robert Duncan and from some non-Episcopalian protestors at General Convention in Anaheim, or the protestor at Bishop Robinson’s sermon in England, there was no voice given either to the opposition or to the many people who have struggled with the implications of LGBT inclusion in the Episcopal Church.
I also found Robinson’s theological statements, sermons, et al, less than convincing. But he got in a good line on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show: “There was a queen on the board.”
I’ve never met Bishop Robinson. The documentary did a great job of showing his humanity and the toll the years of controversy took on him. But I doubt he was a single issue bishop, and I would have liked to see more of his ministry in the New Hampshire context. The vignettes from his parish visitations were priceless. Perhaps I would have found a straightforward biography more interesting than the LGBT rights focus of the film.