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August 9, 2003
Column #1,145

Episcopal Church Commits Spiritual Suicide

     The Episcopal Church, once the proud home of 11 U.S. Presidents, committed spiritual suicide this week when its bishops and deputies to a General Convention approved the election of world's first bishop to divorce his wife and enter an open homosexual relationship with a male partner.

     In effect, the church crucified itself on the cross of a behavior condemned in Scripture two millennia before AIDS appeared to kill nearly a million homosexual Americans.

     The House of Bishops voted 62-43 to approve bishop-elect of New Hampshire, V. Gene Robinson, a day after the vote was postponed due to sexual charges filed against him.

     Moments after the vote, 19 conservative bishops, slowly walked to the front of the assembled bishops. "This body has divided itself for millions of Anglican Christians around the world, brothers and sisters who have pleaded with us to maintain the church's traditional teaching on marriage and sexuality," Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan said.  "With grief too deep for words, the bishops who stand before you must reject this action."

     Duncan said that he and his colleagues called upon the top leaders of the Anglican Communion, the 38 primates of 72 million Anglicans to intervene in the "pastoral emergency that has overtaken the church. May God have mercy on this church."

     The next day the schism was plainly visible as 47 bishops were absent and entire delegations were gone from the House of Deputies. Others wore black arm bands or ashes of mourning, such as the Rev. Kendall Harmon, who read a statement, signed by dozens, saying "This church will never be the same again." He denounced  "overturning the unambiguous moral teaching" of the universal church, that he said "must be corrected by the Anglican Communion."

     However, most of the Episcopal Church delegates rejoiced over Robinson's election. "It's a great day for the church," said the Rev. Sandye Wilson of Minnesota. "This is a church which has finally understood that men and women created in the vision of God can be the guardians of the faith - and be gay or lesbian."

     Robinson himself, standing with his grown daughter and partner, Mark Andrew, said, "God is doing a new thing...I am proud to be in a church which works to be a safe place for all of God's children." He predicted that when Episcopalians "go to church on Sunday, it is going to look pretty much like last Sunday."

     Not really. Certainly, the numbers will be thinner. Traditional believers are being driven out of the church. You've seen those rusting signs, "The Episcopal Church welcomes you."

     Since 1965, the church has lost a third of its members, 1.3 million people including this writer. Half of the church's 7,360 congregations have less than 37 souls.  

     "Conservative Episcopalians are threatening to withhold millions of dollars in parish donations and form a separate U.S. church," reports Julia Duin in "The Washington Times."  

     The drive for that move comes from the American Anglican Council, which said  the Episcopal Church "shattered the Anglican family" and "departed from the historic Christian faith." It called for an October meeting in Texas of conservative Episcopalians with representatives of the world Anglican Communion.

     A day after approving Robinson's election, the House of Bishops voted by an overwhelming voice vote to allow individual dioceses to bless same-sex unions. In its only concession to conservatives, the bishops did not call for creating an official church liturgy.  

     "They passed a local option, and a local option translates into anything goes," said  Rev. David C. Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council.

     The vote on Robinson was expected Monday, but was postponed when two charges of sexual impropriety surfaced. One was an email from a Vermont Episcopalian alleging that Robinson "put his hands on me inappropriately."  An investigation revealed that he was touched only on his shoulder and back, which seems innocuous.

     The other allegation came from David Virtue, whose website, virtuosityonline.org, cited OUTRIGHT, an Internet site of a group that Robinson helped create for "young gay, lesbian, bisexual and questioning people ages 22 and under."

     It provided links to Internet sites such as www.threepillows.com with hard core pornography. Virtue charged, "This is youth ministry like you have never seen it. Rather than leading young people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, it offers adolescents a church-affirmed invitation to...perverse sex."

     The hard core links, which Robinson said he was unaware of, were removed within hours. However the site still has perverted material, such as a posting by OLD GOAT "looking for a young/slim attractive/ married male on the femm side for casual sex."

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