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June 14, 2003
Column #1,137

Episcopalians Elect Openly Gay Bishop

     "A bishop should be must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife..."  I Timothy 3:2

     Scripture is clear. Therefore, many denominations will ask a pastor or priest who breaks his vow of faithfulness "until death do us part," to resign.

     However, last Saturday the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire elected the first openly homosexual bishop in the United States or anywhere in the worldwide Anglican Communion, the Rev. Canon V. Gene Robinson, who divorced his wife years ago. He lives with his partner, Mark Andrew, whom he embraced after his election, along with his two grown daughters.

     Almost simultaneously, Canadian Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster Diocese, authorized the Church's first official ceremony for the blessing of same-sex marriages. And in England, a homosexual theologian, Canon Jeffrey John was named Bishop of Reading, England.

     These events occurred only days after the 38 highest elected leaders of the Anglican Communion, known as "Primates," released this statement: "The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke for us all when he said that it is through liturgy that we express what we believe, and that there is no theological consensus about same sex unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorization of such rites."

     These actions could spark a permanent schism a breaking of relations between  liberal Anglicans of the northern Hemisphere and the orthodox believers of the "Global South," such countries as Nigeria, where there are 18 million Anglicans vs. the 2.3 million in America's Episcopal Church.

     In fact, 15 Global South Primates, representing more than half of world Anglicans, issued a stinging rebuke of Ingham for approving a liturgy: "Bishop Ingham, by deliberately and intentionally abandoning the established Anglican consensus, has placed himself in an automatic state of impaired communion with the majority within the Anglican Communion."

     Days later Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria demanded that the Archbishop of Canterbury disallow the ordination of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading. A South American Primate is heading a group of 20 Primates to meet with the Archbishop next week on Jeffrey John, and doubtless the election of Robinson of New Hampshire, as well.

     That election could, in theory, be derailed next month at the triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church. His election has to be approved by the House of Delegates, composed of half clergy and half lay leaders - and by the House of Bishops. No election of a bishop by a local diocese has ever been rejected.

     Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh called his election "a grievous wound to the Episcopal the worldwide Anglican Communion and to Christians everywhere," and urged that he not be confirmed.

     South Carolina Bishops Edward Salmon and William Skilton noted that "The currently unchanged position of the Episcopal Church is that the only proper context for the expression of sexual intimacy is between a man and a woman who are married to each other. For the last two decades, there has been a debate about whether to alter this teaching."

     Knowing that the issue was coming up at the General Convention, all of the bishops of the Southeast urged that no changes be made. So did a Theology Committee of the denomination, which said that because "we are nowhere near consensus...we cannot recommend authorizing the development of new rites for such blessings."

     Therefore, South Carolina's bishops argued, "If Gene Robinson's election is confirmed by General Convention, it would bring through the back door a practice that the Episcopal Church has never agreed to approve through the front door."

     However, David Virtue, who runs a conservative website,, read by 80,000 Anglicans around the world, estimates that 76 of the 100 members of the House of Bishops will vote to approve Robinson's election.

     "All that remains is for a brief benediction to be said over the corpse of what was once the Anglican Communion and recognize that spiritual anarchy now reins," Virtue writes.

     One man could reverse that anarchy: the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. He once approved the ordination of a gay priest as Primate of Wales. But as Archbishop he has said he would uphold the consensus of world Anglican leaders on the issue

     Thus far, he has been silent. But he could reverse the elevation of Jeffrey John in England and could come to America to address the Episcopal General Convention.

     It is the only way to halt the anarchy.

     An update: the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., another Mainline denomination undergoing  ar turmoil over homosexuality, rejected a major paper on sexuality which asserted "It is in committed relationships that sexual intimacy is best expressed." The delegates did not want to equate marriage with cohabitation and gay sex.

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