The Devil in Disguise
By Wendy Griffith
Editor's Note: CBN News reporter Wendy Griffith recently covered the Episcopal National Convention where homosexual cleric, the Rev. Gene Robinson, was confirmed as the denomination's first openly-gay bishop. In this article, Wendy gives us her perspective from the front-row of this divisive controversy.
I think Dr. Kendall Harmon, a conservative deputy with the Episcopal Church in South Carolina summed it up best. "Homosexuals are in relationships in search of a theology."
It appears their search may be over.
Earlier this month, the Episcopal Church U.S.A. turned its back on two thousand years of Christian teaching and broke with the majority of 77 million Anglicans across the world, by confirming its first openly-gay Bishop to the Episcopal Church. In another historic vote, the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, meeting at their convention in Minneapolis, also approved a measure to allow churches to bless same-sex unions -- a practice that is already somewhat common in some Episcopal dioceses across the nation. The vote in the House of Bishops was 62 to 43 in favor of confirming the Rev. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.
The 56-year-old Robinson is a divorced father of two and has been living with his male partner for 13 years.
Before the vote, I had a chance to sit down with Rev. Robinson and I asked him about the scriptures that clearly condemn homosexuality. I read to him the passage from Romans 1:26 that says, "For this reason, God gave them up to their vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful..." I said to him, "How do you reconcile this with the Bible?"
Robinson, who seemed unmoved by the Scripture, simply told me, "When those scriptures were written in both the Old and New Testaments everyone was presumed to be heterosexual, so to act in any other manner would be against ones' natural inclinations. The whole notion of sexual orientation is only about 100 years old, so to take a concept like homosexuality as a sexual orientation and to read it back into an ancient text is very shaky ground to be on. It never occurred to anyone during the writing of those texts that someone might naturally be inclined to a person of the same sex," Robinson said.
"Yes, that's the argument they use," said American Anglican Council President David Anderson. That argument "conveniently overlooks the fact that people have had same-gender attractions, and Scripture says don't act on them. It would presume that God didn't know about men and women that He created, and now God has somehow gotten His master's degree and knows more. Both in the Old Testament, the Book of Leviticus for example, it's very clear that this is not something you're to do. So, how can someone be a leader in the church and function as a bishop, and be living a lifestyle that the Old and the New Testament together say is not permissible?"
The Rev. Thomas Hightower, a conservative Episcopal Deputy from Texas agrees. "I think it's a slap on the face of Scripture, of the Gospel message. I think it subtly sends the message out that Jesus Christ can't change lives. I think it attacks marriage and I believe that it will be the major factor of the break-up of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican community, which, I must tell you, saddens me tremendously."
Robinson's confirmation was profoundly sad, not just for the Episcopal Church but for Bible-believing Christians everywhere. Some of the 19 conservative Bishops were visibly shaken as they addressed the House of Bishops immediately following the vote:
"With grief too deep for words, the bishops who stand before you must reject this action of the 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church," said Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh. "This body willfully confirming the election of a person sexually active outside of holy matrimony has departed from the historic faith and order of the Church of Jesus Christ. As faithful Episcopalians and members of this house, we are calling upon the Primates of the Anglican Communion, under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury to intervene in the pastoral emergency that has overtaken us. May God have mercy on his church."
At a press conference following the controversial vote, I asked Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold if the confirmation of Robinson, who is living with a man, creates a special standard for homosexuals. "If a heterosexual man was in a committed relationship with a woman outside of marriage, would he be eligible for bishop? Or, is being outside of marriage only OK if you are gay?"
"The Episcopal Church honors holy matrimony," Griswold responded. "And certainly if a male were elected bishop and was living with a woman without benefit of clergy, that would be a significant problem."
"So there is a double standard, then?" I asked. At that point the press conference was abruptly ended with no response from Griswold.
But Anderson says the gay issue plaguing the church is really just a symptom of a much more serious illness. "The underlying disease is the significant difference of opinion on the authority of Scripture and the person and uniqueness of Jesus Christ."
Dr. Peter Jones who teaches on neo-paganism and church apostasy agrees. "The battle today is over the nature and the person of God. If you redefine God you can do anything you want. As you know, this is what the liberal Episcopalians are doing."
And from my own conversations with several gay and lesbian clergy, that appears to be the case. When asked about the Scripture that condemns homosexuality in Romans chapter one, the Rev. Susan Russell, a lesbian and Executive Director of Claiming the Blessing told me that it is one of several of what she called the "clobber passages -- the seven or so times that homosexual acts are actually named in Scripture. What Paul and others were writing about had nothing to do with faithful, monogamous, committed relationship of people of the same gender."
Another gay priest, the Rev. Michael Hopkins, President of Integrity, a group that works for the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons in the Episcopal Church said, "I have to believe if (the Apostle) Paul could spend some time with us, he'd revise Romans chapter one."
Sadly, gays and lesbians, many of whom have deep desires to serve and be involved in the church, are judging Scripture instead of being judged by Scripture. But as Gene Robinson ironically told me, "The Church is God's. It's not ours to win or lose. But God will have God's way with this."
Yes, many conservatives believe God will have His way, and no vote by mere mortals can change or make invalid the Word of God. Some say God has used this historic vote in the church to draw a line in the sand -- and perhaps He's saying to His Church, "OK, choose. Which side are you on?"
No one knows for sure what the weeks and months following this vote will bring. Will it split the Episcopal Church in the U.S., or bring some sort of realignment? Time will tell. But the Bible is clear about what will happen to those who pervert God's word:
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel -- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!" (Galatians 1:6-9).
(The 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the 77 million-member global Anglican Communion. And some overseas groups are threatening to cut ties with the American church. Conservative Episcopalian leaders will meet in Plano, Texas, in early October to discuss their options in response to this controversial confirmation. The Archbishop of Canterbury has also called a meeting of Anglican Church leaders later in October to consider the impact of the decision. )
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Wendy Griffith reports on a wide range of issues for CBN News. She also co-anchors CBN Newswatch and Christian World News.
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