Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Wider Anglican Church, will visit the UC Auditorium tonight at 7 p.m.
Elected Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003, Robinson caused a schism within the Episcopalian Church. Openly gay for more than 20 years, Robinson and his partner entered a civil union in 2008.
"There is the stereotype that all LGBT people have to denounce their faith or are run out of their churches," Donna Braquet, director of the OUTreach Center, said. "That simply is not true. . .I think that Robinson brings a message of love and inclusion to the conversation, which is what I would want from my faith, if I were a religious person."
Thomas Carpenter, Issues Committee member and sophomore in classics, invited Robinson to campus. A member of the Episcopalian church, Carpenter believes the intersection between faith and sexuality is an important topic for UT students. According to Carpenter, Robinson will discuss his relationship with faith and sexuality, as well as the impact of the church's stance on homosexuality.
"I hope students gain a better understanding of the role churches play in our society and how their progression, or lack thereof, on current issues affects communities and the country," Carpenter said.
Also Episcopalian, Wade Scofield, senior in religious studies, recalled hearing about Robinson in high school when friends left his church after Robinson's ordination.
"I think it's pretty sad the way the Episcopal Church has split because of LGBT issues," Scofield said. "I mean, all of Protestantism exists because it's one church splitting from another church, but it's 2014, and we should probably get over the fact that some people are gay."
For Robin Lovett, a member of the Issues Committee and OUTreach Center and junior in Hispanic studies and Spanish, Bishop Robinson's story holds personal and social importance.
"On a personal level, so many students have been rejected from social support groups that are important to them because of things out of their control," Lovett said. "Many LGBTQ students have experienced rejection based on their sexuality, and Robinson offers his personal story as a way to reconcile this pain."
Although she does not identify as a religious person, Braquet also remembered the controversy surrounding Robinson's ordination.
"I feel that unfortunately sometimes religion is interpreted by folks to mean what they want it to mean and sometimes it is used to harm others," she said, noting a history of racism and LGBT discrimination in the religious community.
Admiring his refusal to "waiver," Braquet cited Robsinson as evidence that reconciliation between sexuality and religion is possible.
"[Discrimination in religion] is starting to get better, but I really worry about that gay or questioning kid who hears how terrible he is in church," said Braquet. "It sets them up to question their feelings, or question their faith, or hate themselves."