The Episcopal Church in the USA has voted to accept Gene Robinson, a minister living in a long-term homosexual relationship, as a bishop. GEORGE CONGER, a conservative minister and journalist from Florida, reports exclusively for Southern Cross from Minneapolis.
The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA) broke apart last month at its General Convention in Minneapolis, over the question of homosexuality.
Since 1985, gay advocates have sought to pass legislation at General Conventions altering Church teaching on the morality of homosexual conduct. Despite losing a vote that would have authorised the study of rites for same-sex blessings or marriages, the gay lobby succeeded in its quest to ‘normalise’ homosexual behavior with the affirmation of Canon Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.
Robinson’s affirmation as Bishop put the Church on record as stating that his physical homosexual relationship with his partner of 14 years, Mark Andrews, was a ‘wholesome example’ for the Church, thus putting itself at odds with the majority of Anglicans worldwide.
The three days proceeding Robinson’s election were overtly polite, but extraordinarily fractious and tumultuous. On August 3 the lay and clerical deputies affirmed Robinson’s election by a 3-2 margin after 45 minutes of debate and several days of committee hearings.
The debate over Robinson’s suitability to be Bishop high-lighted the deep divide between liberals and conservatives.
Liberal argument stressed four points: As a matter of theology, Jesus did not condemn homosexuality, the ‘sin’ of Sodom was inhospitality, and the ‘sin’ of the Epistles was acting contrary to one’s God-given sexual nature; as a matter of biology, homo-sexuality is a genetically determined aspect of the human body; as a matter of psychology, homosexuality is irreversible; as a matter of sociology, homo-sexuality is normal – a social category akin to gender or race. God, it was argued, made Gene Robinson the way he was, and God loves him as he is.
Conservatives opposed all of these liberal points, saying homosexuality was not innate, but a choice. As a matter of psychology, homosexuality was a reversible condition. And as a matter of sociology, homo-sexuality was not normal, but an illness or perverse choice.
The centre of the conservative argument, however, was an appeal to Scripture and to the traditions of the Church.
However this appeal to Scripture and to Church teachings by conservatives fell on deaf ears. Bonnie Anderson, a lay deputy from the diocese of Michigan, argued that ‘fear is the absence of faith’. Not to elect Gene Robinson would be an ‘act of fear curable by faith,’ she said. A second deputy claimed that the Spirit, not the Bible nor the Church, was the arbiter of faith. When votes were counted, the Holy Spirit trumped Scripture.
On August 4, an hour before the Bishops were to consider Robinson’s election, the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA, Frank Griswold, stunned the Convention by announcing an investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment leveled against Robinson. The charges fell apart the next day.
After Robinson was cleared, the Bishops voted 63 to 45 in favor of affirmation. Following the vote, Bishop Griswold recognised Pittsburgh’s conser-vative bishop, Robert Duncan, and invited him to address the House. Bishop Duncan and 22 other bishops rose and announced their disassociation with the vote. Bishop Duncan stated that he and his colleagues were appealing to the Primates of the Anglican Communion to intervene in the affairs of the American Church and rescue it from apostasy and heresy.
Bishop Duncan stated: “You cannot imagine my grief … Understand what has been stolen from us: unity with the one holy catholic and apostolic church ecumenically; unity with our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion across the globe; unity with the faith once delivered to the saints.”
Bishop Griswold dismissed concerns of schism or ruptured communion. A Primates’ Meeting to discuss this issue could only be called by the Archbishop of Canterbury, he observed.
However, during Bishop Griswold’s news conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury announced a special meeting of the Primates to be held on October 15-16 in London, ‘to discuss recent developments in ECUSA.’ Archbishop Williams’s letter asked for calm in the wake of the Convention.
The calm the next day in the House of Bishops was not one fostered by spiritual reflection but by physical absence. At 11am as the House of Bishops was called, approximately a third of the bishops were absent. Of the 23 bishops who stood to voice their opposition, 20 were absent from the House.