- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2014

The openly gay bishop whose ordination was the catalyst for division among the Episcopal Church announced he is getting a divorce.

Gene Robinson, said in a column published by the Daily Beast that he and husband Mark Andrew were parting ways after five years of marriage.

The cause for the divorce would remain private, he said, but “the reasons for ending a marriage fall on the shoulders of both parties: the missed opportunities for saying and doing the things that might have made a difference, the roads not taken, the disappointments endured but not confronted.”


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Mr. Robinson made history and headlines when the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire elected him as the denomination’s first openly gay priest. His ordination created a deep divide in the faith, causing a number of U.S. churches to break away from the Episcopal Church and for a number of more conservative national churches in the Anglican Communion to break ties with the U.S. denomination.

“It is at least a small comfort to me, as a gay rights and marriage equality advocate, to know that like any marriage, gay and lesbian couples are subject to the same complications and hardships that afflict marriages between heterosexual couples,” Mr. Robinson said.

Mr. Robinson has retired from the diocese and currently works as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in the District.

GOD HATES DEFECTORS TOO

The Westboro Baptist Church has lost another member to the outside world.

In an interview with the Topeka Capital-Journal on Monday, Zach Phelps-Roper, grandson of anti-gay pastor Fred Phelps, said he left his Westboro Baptist Church because of a “general lack of empathy.”

Mr. Phelps-Roper, 23, said he left the anti-gay church in late February, about a month before his grandfather’s death, but he’d been considering a move since he was 18.

“I had thoughts about getting so angry that I wanted to leave the church,” Mr. Phelps-Roper said in a videotaped interview. “I felt I wasn’t being listened to, being given the benefit of the doubt.”

The church is well known for its anti-gay protests at military and other funerals. In March, founder Fred Phelps died at 84, leaving some to wonder about the future of the church without its patriarch.

Church officials do not provide membership information, but a 2011 interview posted on the church’s blog site said it has 40 members, a decline from about 80 members a few years earlier. According to media reports, the church mostly is comprised of Phelps‘ extended family. Last year, four of Phelps‘ grandchildren reportedly left the church and four of his 13 children also have reportedly left.

Despite reports that the late Phelps was abusive — rumors his grandson said he’d heard as well — Mr. Phelps-Roper said his grandfather was “one of the kindest people I ever knew.”

“He cut my hair every two months and he always used those opportunities to teach me things about the Bible, about life,” he said. “Every birthday he’d call me up, he sang this little song to me, and he’d always end it with ‘how do you like that?’”

NCAA SUBMITS

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has permitted a Muslim wrestler to keep his beard during competition.

Muhamed McBryde may keep his beard during the 2014-15 season, the NCAA said, as long as he wears a face mask and chin strap.

Mr. McBryde, a 17-year-old formerly home-schooled junior at the University at Buffalo, is a practicing Muslim who says Islam requires that he not shave.

The Buffalo News reported that Mr. McBryde had missed roughly 20 matches since December after his coach informed him he could not compete in tournaments because of his beard.

According to NCAA wrestling rules, the limits on facial hair are done for hygienic reasons. Beards are permitted in international wrestling competitions, including the Olympics.

Mr. McBryde’s father, Mustafa, told the Buffalo News that the request for a waiver was a “reasonable” accommodation. “A lot of Muslims, we just bend to these sorts of things, primarily because we’re not aware of our rights,” he said.

The Buffalo paper reported that NCAA Secretary-Rules Editor Ron Beaschler requested feedback on the use of the face mask to consider for future issues regarding facial hair.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, which lobbied on behalf of Mr. McBryde, shared the news on its website, and pledged to work with the NCAA to change the overall policy on beards.

“We welcome this reasonable religious accommodation by the NCAA, which will enable Muslim athletes to participate in wrestling without violating their religious beliefs,” said Council on American-Islamic Relations staff attorney Gadeir Abbas, who worked on getting the waiver.

HUMANIST PREACHERS-R-US

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that a New York town could open its government meetings with prayer, the American Humanist Association has launched a program offering resources for those wishing to deliver their own secular sermon.

The Humanist Society, an adjunct to the American Humanist Association, has a list of secular celebrants for each state, as well as sample invocations on its site.

“Non-religious people are often asked to contribute to a ceremonial event, but some struggle to find an alternative to religious wording,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “We want to make it easier for anyone who wants to give a secular invocation so that legislative meetings can be nondiscriminatory.”

Humanism, according to the American Humanist Association, is “non-theistic.”

The case of Town of Greece v. Galloway was decided in a 5-4 vote in favor of the town, which has a long-standing practice of opening its government meetings with a prayer. Opponents said town officials were endorsing Christianity and thus violating the Constitution’s Establishment Clause barring the government from establishing a religion.

“While we would have preferred the Supreme Court to rule against any kind of prayer during government meetings the Supreme Court’s ruling emphasizes that local governments must be inclusive in their prayer policies, meaning that humanists must be allowed to deliver secular invocations whenever a government allows citizens of other faiths to deliver prayers at its meetings,” said Monica Miller, attorney for the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

The association’s resource page can be found at Humanist-Society.org/invocations

Meredith Somers covers issues of faith and religion. She can be reached at msomers@washingtontimes.com.