Bishop V. Gene Robinson - One Year Later

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 15 September 2004 0 Comments
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In regard to your column on the resignation of James McGreevey in New Jersey, a bigger question is how New Jersey will deal with corruption - it is generally accepted that it is the most corrupt state in the United States. I met a couple one time that had been living in New Jersey for 23 years and she said her mother would still not tell her friends that she had moved to New Jersey. A Political Science professor at Rutgers said yesterday on T.V., "We have known the problem for years - now let's see it we can deal with it."


Bashing New Jersey is a popular pastime in many parts of the United States. Of course, this state has problems but they are no worse than problems in any other state. The Mafia connection with this state is quite overblown. New Jersey's beauty is generally unknown but the beaches of South Jersey and the mountains of West Jersey are among the most beautiful in the world. I find it interesting to note that the murder rate in Richmond, Virginia, where I once lived is actually higher than it is in Newark. I have lived in New Jersey for 29 years and I would not want to live anywhere else in this nation.

Are you aware that New Jersey is the wealthiest per capita state in the United States? We passed Connecticut to move into first place several years ago. We also have some of the poorest urban areas in America in Newark, Trenton, Camden, Paterson and Jersey City. We have produced national political leaders in both parties. I think of Republican Tom Kean, who is heading the 9/11 Commission and Democrat Bill Bradley, who sought the Democratic nomination for president of the United States in the year 2000, losing to Al Gore. We seem to have minimum levels of racism, sexism and homophobia. I did not find that to be so in the southern states where I once lived. Minorities always find a place in this state. I am proud to be a citizen of New Jersey. You might want to visit this state and let it challenge your stereotype.

When I was an active bishop, once a year the governor and the two senators in New Jersey would spend a day with the state's religious leaders: Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran and Roman Catholic bishops and archbishops, the judicatory heads of the other Churches, the chief Rabbi of the state and later with Muslim leaders. The conversations were off the record and, I believe, helped the climate of our state on a number of issues. These meetings were first convened by Democratic Governor Brendan Byrne and were continued from that time on by the political leaders of both parties. I do not believe this is replicated in many other states of this union.

So, Bill, you know how much I treasure our friends in Highland, North Carolina, but I hope you also know how much I treasure New Jersey. Governor McGreevey has obviously made some mistakes, but being an honest gay man is not one of them. He is the first to acknowledge his shortcomings and his serious misjudgment in appointing his partner to a position for which he had no qualifications. The best antidote to corruption is, however, honesty and confession. New Jersey will do well and so will our still-growing Governor McGreevey.

-- John Shelby Spong




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