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Gay Bishop, Rabbi Discuss Religion, Sex

December 05, 2003|Larry B. Stammer | Times Staff Writer

The first openly gay Episcopal priest to become a bishop and the first Orthodox rabbi to publicly declare his homosexuality met at a Los Angeles home Thursday night for an evening of conversation with 50 guests.

The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, whose consecration last month as Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire sent a tremor throughout the worldwide Anglican Communion, and Rabbi Steven Greenberg of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership in New York, met for a wide-ranging discussion about sex and religion.

The men said they shared similar struggles in attempting to reconcile traditional religious taboos against homosexuality with their once secret sexual attraction to men.

"Neither of us set out to do something historical," Robinson said. "I think God is doing the historic thing, something new in the culture and with religious people."

They first met several weeks ago and again at dinner Wednesday night before the larger Thursday night gathering.

"When Gene and I talk we keep shaking our heads, 'Yes! That's right!' There's a real sharing on both our sides of the sense that this issue is a much larger issue in reality than the specific concerns of gay and lesbian people," Greenberg said in an interview Thursday.

"What we're really aiming toward is a picture of religious life that in itself is more responsive to the human condition, and yet takes religious tradition very seriously." After years of internal struggle, Greenberg, 47, disclosed his sexual orientation in 1999. A year later, he was prominently featured in a documentary film, "Trembling Before God," about gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews.

Robinson, 56, a priest for 30 years who is the father of two grown daughters, met his male partner a year after Robinson and his wife divorced. He and Mark Andrew have been together for 14 years.

Thursday's meeting was arranged by the creators of an upcoming film documentary, "For the Bible Tells Me So," about religion and homosexuality in America.

It was held at the Westside home of Stephen Reissman, chief executive officer of Country Villa Health Services, which operates skilled nursing homes in Southern California.

Robinson told the group that he has "been called the most dangerous man in the Anglican Communion. I'm told I'm dangerous because I can't be written off."

Greenberg said it is clear to him that "we are at a transformation in Western culture. The fact that the opposition seems so irrational says to me we are in the last gasp of patriarchy."

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