Bishop Gene Robinson Appointed Incoming Vice President/Senior Pastor and Chair of President’s Advisory Council on Faith in Society
In anticipation of the departure of Director of Religion the Rev. Dr. Robert Franklin at the conclusion of the 2017 Chautauqua Institution season, President Michael E. Hill today announced plans to reorganize the Department of Religion with an eye toward shaping a national dialogue on faith in society.
Retired Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, formerly of the Diocese of New Hampshire, will assume the new role of Vice President and Senior Pastor of Chautauqua Institution effective September 1, 2017. Bishop Robinson will provide executive leadership for the Department of Religion and will chair a new volunteer advisory group, the President’s Advisory Council on Faith in Society.
Currently a fellow at the Center for American Progress, Bishop Robinson is an internationally recognized interfaith leader. He is among the inaugural group of 13 Senior Fellows at Auburn Seminary, the first leadership development and research institute in the country to launch a fellowship program to cultivate the skills of multi-faith leaders working for justice. Also an outspoken advocate for the rights of marginalized populations, Bishop Robinson is recognized for his groundbreaking work with the LGBT community, youth communities and those suffering from abuse and addiction.
Longtime Associate Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno will be promoted to the role of Director of Religion, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the department and serving as a key programmatic partner to Bishop Robinson.
“Amidst national and international discord within and among faith traditions, Chautauqua Institution has the opportunity to embrace its historic role as a vital convener of interfaith engagement with the goal of shaping a better tomorrow,” Hill said. “This reorganization elevates our cherished history and strengths while widening our reach significantly to boldly say to the world: All are invited to the Chautauqua table, and we not only welcome you, but this dialogue will not be complete without the full spectrum of voices and perspectives.”
Bishop Robinson is no stranger to Chautauqua, having served as a popular and thought-provoking speaker/lecturer and as Chaplain of the Week during the 2011 season.
“Religion is at the center of many of today’s most pressing issues and most difficult challenges,” Robinson said. “Yet in our increasingly polarized society, there are fewer safe places to have meaningful conversation about those challenges. Chautauqua and its Department of Religion has been, and will continue to be, a place where those conversations can happen, where all viewpoints are heard, and where every human being is honored and valued. Through the curated conversations from a religious perspective, our goal is no less than to heal the world.”
“It has been a joy to work with Robert Franklin, and Joan Brown Campbell before him, to enhance Chautauqua’s founding principle to make religion in its broadest manifestations both active and visible here at Chautauqua, extending out into the larger world and growing to include the voices of persons of all faiths and no faith,” Rovegno said. “I treasure the opportunity and privilege now to look forward to working with Gene Robinson to accomplish the enlarged vision that President Hill is empowering us to seek to accomplish. We are embarking on an exciting new era in Chautauqua’s historic and relevant world-bettering presence and mission.”
The President’s Advisory Council on Faith in Society represents a new arm of engagement and advocacy for Chautauqua and will comprise a broad cross-section of nationally recognized religious and lay leaders. The council will serve as a key advisor to Chautauqua’s president and the Department of Religion on matters related to Christian worship and enrichment, interfaith dialogue and understanding, and the interdisciplinary exploration of faith in society.
“As we look forward to celebrating Robert Franklin’s tremendous service and legacy during the coming season, we also prepare for the future of the Department of Religion, a seminal pillar of Chautauqua’s mission,” Hill said. “We aim to build and sustain Chautauqua Institution’s national reputation as a place where thought leaders, artists and game changers come to take on the great issues of the day.”
“I couldn’t be more excited that Bishop Gene will bring his many gifts to the Chautauqua community and that we can concurrently celebrate the long-term leadership of Maureen Rovegno,” Hill said.
About Bishop Robinson
The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson was elected Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire on June 7, 2003, becoming the first openly gay and partnered priest to be elected Bishop in historic Cristendom. He served as IX Bishop of New Hampshire until his retirement in early 2013. A Senior Fellow at both the Center for American Progress and Auburn Seminary, Bishop Robinson is a celebrated interfaith leader whose ministry has focused on helping congregations and clergy, especially in times of conflict, utilizing his skills in congregational dynamics, conflict resolution and mediation. He is the author of In the Eye of the Storm: Swept to the Center by God (Morehouse, 2006) and God Believes in Love: Straight Talk about Gay Marriage (Knopf, 2012). In addition to being a popular speaker in the U.S. and abroad, he writes opinion columns on a variety of topics for The Daily Beast, Huffington Post and Time.com.
About Maureen Rovegno
Maureen O’Connor Rovegno has provided leadership for programs and initiatives in the Department of Religion at Chautauqua Institution for 12 years. Her work is instrumental in broadening the Institution’s interfaith outreach, actively working on behalf of Chautauqua’s 19-year Abrahamic Program. Trained in Clinical Pastoral Ministry (CPE), Rovegno is a chaplain, having previously served in Hospice, hospital, and prison settings. She earned the Master of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School with a concentration in Comparative Religious Ethics and a ministerial focus in Restorative Justice and the B.A. from Duquesne University. Rovegno served as a Chautauqua Institution Trustee (1996–2004), Chair of the Chautauqua Fund (1996–2002, through the Renewal Campaign), and as Chair of the Religion Advisory Committee.
Accolades and Affirmations for Bishop Gene Robinson
The Rt. Rev. R. William Franklin, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York:
“I am delighted to welcome Bishop Robinson to the Diocese of Western New York. He will bring his gifts as a teacher, preacher, and pastor to this important position. Chautauqua Institution is fortunate to add such a gifted leader to their team.”
Brian McLaren, author, The Great Spiritual Migration:
“Everyone who knows Bishop Gene Robinson knows him as a man of deep faith, an energetic mind, a commitment to justice, and contagious joy. These qualities will serve him well in his new role in the Chautauqua Institution, and we can dare to hope that in this new role, a healthier, wiser, and more just and generous expression of faith can be articulated and modeled for our deeply divided and oft-misguided nation.”
The Rev. Katharine R. Henderson, president, Auburn Theological Seminary:
“We are thrilled that Bishop Gene Robinson is joining forces with Chautauqua Institution to lift up leaders of faith and moral courage to inspire and teach us about what it means to be human and ethical in a time such as this. We are honored to work with Gene as an Auburn Senior Fellow. On his watch and thanks to his witness, the arc of history has bent toward justice. We congratulate Gene — one of the wise prophets of our time, a warrior for LGBTQI rights, an advocate for the most vulnerable among us, and a delight to those of us who call him friend — and we lock arms with Chautauqua Institution, committed to working together to build a world where all may flourish.”
The Rev. Otis Moss III, senior pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago:
“It is my pleasure to offer a few words of joy and excitement about the appointment of Bishop Gene Robinson. Bishop Robinson is a prophetic pastoral force our community desperately needs to hear. In this age of retrograde repackaged confederate rhetoric Bishop Gene offers our nation a powerful witness of what love embodied in action is all about. I have personally witnessed his pastoral sensitivity, quick wit and powerful prophetic voice move stubborn and arrogant individuals to a place of reconciliation and reflection. To have my friend Bishop Gene serve at Chautauqua enhances the institution and widens the table of welcome. What a joy to hear this news!”
The Rev. William Barber II, founder, Moral Mondays North Carolina:
“This is an assignment whose time has come. The scriptures remind us that we are to study to show ourselves approved. Gene, may you you lead others to reflect deeply on things that matter — justice, love and truth.”
Rabbi Sharon Brous, founder/senior rabbi, IKAR:
"Bishop Gene is a rare and precious soul, equal parts brilliant and unassuming, passionate and humble, fierce and gentle. He will share his love, grace and commitment to justice with all who turn to Chautauqua for guidance and inspiration in these challenging days."
The Rev. Jacqui Lewis, senior pastor, Middle Collegiate Church, New York City:
“Gene Robinson is my bishop. We share a birthday and a passion for justice. His life preaches to all who know him. He is kind, warm, whip-smart, and a fearless champion for those on the margins. I can’t wait to see his gifts unfold at Chautauqua.”
Minerva G. Carcaño, first Hispanic woman to be elected to the episcopacy of The United Methodist Church:
“Chautauqua has always been a place of deep learning and even more, a place of deep yearning for the world as it should be. You are the spiritual guide that it has been waiting for in this age. Know that you will have my prayers and my support.”
The Rev. Peter Goodwin Heltzel, director of the Micah Institute, New York Theological Seminary:
“A hearty congratulations to Bishop Gene Robinson who will be the new vice president and senior pastor of Chautauqua Institution. A courageous pioneer for faith-led love and justice, Bishop Robinson will lead the Chautauqua Movement to soaring new heights. Rooted in ancient wisdom and full of warm-hearted wit, Bishop Robinson is a jazz-like improviser for spiritual and social awakening. During dark days, Bishop Robinson will be a gladdening light of infinite, inclusive love for a God’s children.”
Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS, executive director, NETWORK:
"While many know Bishop Gene Robinson's public self, I believe Chautauqua is blessed to have his pastoral heart in residence for the coming years. Bishop Robinson knows how to organize stimulating worship and conversations that touch our spirits in this beleaguered time. What a great choice he is for ministry in a reflective setting! Those who are lucky enough to attend have a treat awaiting them."