Gene-Robinson-insetOne of the world’s most high-profile gay rights advocates will touch down in Sydney later this month to talk gay marriage – and God.

Former New Hampshire Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson will be welcomed at a reception at St Stephen’s Uniting Church on Wednesday, May 22, co-hosted by Paddington Uniting Church and the NSW Parliament’s cross-party working group for marriage equality.

Robinson was the first priest in a major Christian faith to be consecrated as a bishop while in an openly gay relationship. During his nearly 40-year long tenure as an ordained priest he became a long-time campaigner for gay rights, HIV/AIDS education, anti-racism and abortion rights for women.

Robinson will be touring Australia in late May and June on a public speaking campaign to promote same-sex marriage.

The visit will include a screening of Love Free or Die, a documentary on the bishop’s struggle to be accepted by fellow Christians in the US and around the world.

The Rev. Ben Gilmour, who will host the event, became one of Australia’s first openly gay church leaders when he was inducted as a minister of Paddington Uniting Church in 2011. He said he was “thrilled” to welcome Bishop Robinson.

“I am really looking forward to meeting Gene in person. He has been an inspirational role model for me. All churches will continue to struggle with new honest voices that are no longer hiding or even can hide. Bishop Gene acts as a symbol of this change,” Gilmour said.

Robinson publicly came out as gay and divorced his wife in 1986. In June 2008 he married his partner of 19 years, Mark Andrews, in a private civil union ceremony in New Hampshire.

Robinson was elected as an Episcopalian bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003, drawing praise and condemnation from prominent religious figures and triggering a schism in America’s Episcopalian Church. He received numerous death threats and wore a bullet-proof vest to his own consecration

Robinson delivered the invocations for both of US President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremonies, and has made guest appearances on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report. He retired in February at the age of 65 having received accolades from numerous LGBTI and human rights organisations.

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