12. Gay Lifestyle Bishops - It's no big deal...? by Peter Moore
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Thu Oct 23 23:50:12 EDT 2003
Gay Lifestyle Bishops - It's no big deal ... ?
by Peter Moore
Anyone who has picked up a newspaper recently knows that the House of
Bishops of the Episcopal Church has confirmed the election of the Rev.
V. Gene Robinson as a bishop by the Diocese of New Hampshire. Robinson
is an "openly gay" man who left his wife and now lives in a sexual
relationship with a male partner.
As the furor over his election became an international incident, Canon
Robinson justified his decision not to step down saying, "The Church
has been ordaining gay bishops and clergy for years. It's just that one
finally has had the honesty to say that he is gay. Why shouldn't this
be something the Church celebrates?"
Well, Bishop Robinson, I don't believe this is something for the church
to celebrate, and here's why:
"The Church has been ordaining gay bishops and clergy for years." Okay.
But it has also been ordaining sinners of every type for years. It's
been ordaining sinners because no other type of human being is
available or, I should add, suitable. The Church has never thought that
sexual orientation toward one's own sex should automatically prevent
the ordination of people who are clearly called and gifted - if they
The issue before us is not one of sexual orientation. Rather, it's a
matter of practice. Even more, it is about what bishops teach, preach,
and practice. Robinson, by focusing on sexual orientation, wants us to
think that, as long as he is honest about his practice, it should be
accepted. But a lot more than honesty is at stake. The majority of
bishops of the Episcopal Church have made a decision that radically
changes the church's relationship to Scripture, the universal church,
and the global Anglican Church. It enshrines the assumptions of secular
culture, siding with a small liberal elite against the majority of the
First and foremost, they have decided to act against the clear teaching
of Holy Scripture. Article XX of the Thirty-Nine Articles says that the
Church "ought not to decree any thing against (the Scripture)," nor can
the Church "expound one place of Scripture (in a way that is) repugnant
to another." The bishops have done just that. Many would like us to
think that they are merely doing what the Church has already done in
the matters of divorce, women's ordination, and slavery - that is, that
they have simply amended earlier misunderstandings of Scripture. But
there is no comparison. On these issues, as many have shown, the
overall witness of Scripture moves in the direction in which the Church
has moved. However, the witness of Scripture on homosexuality is
straightforward condemnation. Homosexual behavior is wrong; plain and
simple. It violates the order of creation and conflicts with the
biblical teaching that sex belongs within the covenant of marriage. Nor
can Jesus' silence on homosexual sin be taken as a reason to believe
that He would accept it. His teaching was shaped by the Old Testament,
and by a conviction that marriage between a man and a woman was God's
plan from the beginning.
Second, they have decided to ignore the teaching of the universal
church. Ever since the Jews brought the unruly sex drive of fallen
humanity into the framework of marriage, the "church" of the Old
Testament and the church of the New Testament, as well as the church of
subsequent history, has believed that homosexual behavior is a sin. The
bishops of the Anglican Communion declared as recently as 1998, in a
vote of 526 to 70, that "homosexuality is contrary to Scripture." The
Primates of all the Anglican Churches met this past spring in Brazil
and reaffirmed that same-sex blessings were not acceptable. However, in
a stunning reversal, the bishops of the American Episcopal Church have
decided to go their own way. In doing so, the bishops have acted more
like a sect or a cult than the representatives of the church catholic
that they claim to be.
**Third, they have shown their contempt for the most vibrant part of
the Anglican Communion - the Global South.** Diocese after diocese,
Province after Province around the world, but especially in the Global
South where the Church is growing at a furious pace, has now declared
itself "out of communion" with New Hampshire and with those dioceses
that voted to affirm Robinson. More will undoubtedly do so in the
coming months. Is this no big deal? These are the missionary-minded
parts of our Communion who live out their discipleship in often hostile
surroundings. For them, and for those of us who are in communion and in
sympathy with them, this is a very big deal. Vast sections of our
Communion now find our Episcopal Church to be a profound embarrassment.
Is a fractured, divided Communion worth the price of one "openly gay"
bishop? Fortunately, the Archbishop of Canterbury thought not. Last
month he asked the Rev. Jeffrey John, another openly gay advocate of
homosexual partnerships, to step down from election as suffragan bishop
in Oxford. But the American Episcopal bishops thought they knew better
Fourth, they have enshrined the dubious assumptions of a secularized
and sensualized culture. Contrary to all the evidence, many of these
bishops believe that homosexuality is an innate, natural, manageable,
and healthy alternative to heterosexual marriage. It is important to
state some truths here, at the risk of offending sensitive parties. Not
one study has confirmed a genetic source for homosexuality. Even
studies done by homosexuals seeking support from science for this view
have not confirmed it. This is not surprising; modern human genetics no
longer even looks for a single gene that controls a complex behavior
pattern. The natural arrangement of human sex organs makes it clear
that neither the anus nor the mouth were made for penetration. The
duration of homosexual liaisons - contrary to the myth of "long-term"
relationships - is much shorter than advocates would like us to
believe. At any time 75% of all practicing homosexuals carry a sexually
transmitted disease, and 40% get sick in a given year.
The bishops have chosen to believe that the unruly sex drive that, in
one way or another, both blesses and besets us all can be domesticated
without lifelong commitment, procreation, and the responsibilities of
family. They hope that the gay lifestyle can somehow be finessed into
the suburban world of private schools, Volvo station wagons, and
champagne cocktails over brunch at the club.
Fifth, they have chosen to side with a small liberal element in their
dioceses against the vast majority of lay people who pay the bills
through parochial assessments. To understand why they would make such a
choice, we must consider the fear in which they live. The wrath of an
aroused liberal can be devastating. Imagine newspaper articles decrying
the homophobia, fundamentalism, exclusivity, and oppressiveness of
their local Episcopal bishop, if he is faithful to Scriptures and the
universal church. Episcopal bishops are not used to negative publicity.
Roman Catholic bishops, by contrast, are used to it. This is not just
because of the recent bad press they have received over their poor
handling of sexual abuse by clergy, but also because they have
consistently affirmed a "pro-life" stance against the liberal cultural
consensus for abortion and euthanasia.
Most Episcopal bishops want to be welcome at the Christmas parties of
their affluent members. They want the approval of the local university
president. And they fear an angry, aroused media. So, rather than take
the moral high road and stand with Holy Scripture and their fellow
Christians throughout the centuries, they have sided with those who
have the power to make their lives miserable. I have seen what the
media can do to a bishop who dares to stand against the homosexual
lobby. It was not pretty, and in the case I have in mind, the bishop
succumbed. Clearly, in the Episcopal Church we have "two churches under
one roof." These two churches think differently, feel differently,
believe differently, and come to very different conclusions. Is it time
to face these facts, and find a way to walk separately, rather than
prolong an ugly family fight?
As we consider our alternatives, our special concern should be the
homosexuals caught in the middle. Many have lived quiet, mostly
celibate lives, but are now identified and pressured to "come out."
Some have sought counseling, only to be told by liberal clerics that
they should "accept the inevitable" and find a same-sex partner. Others
have been mistreated by promoters of rigorous self-discipline, or even
exorcism, as a quick fix. Who will love these people with the love of
Christ, and walk with them in hope for a future in Christ, as fellow
sinners redeemed by grace?
For those clergy and laity in dioceses where opposition to the
homosexual agenda means social ostracism, there can be only one
response: courage. Consider the implications the homosexual agenda will
have for the teaching of your children at the hands of youth leaders,
clergy, diocesan officials, and bishops. Future clergy must now pledge
obedience to bishops whose views are at variance with the Bible and the
entire Christian tradition. Can they in good conscience do so? We must
all find a way to be Christian that does not compromise our witness to
the truths of salvation, and that will allow us to bring our children
up to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Let us pray for one another.
The Rev. Dr. Peter Moore is President of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry
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