“The Episocpal Church and the Anglican Communion”

From Del Rio Live

If the reader is not an Episcopalian, he might not be aware of the struggle over the past three years within the Episcopal Church of the United States regarding the consecration of a homosexual bishop in the Diocese of New Hampshire. I will first summarize a brief history of the events since the consecration of the Rev. Gene Robinson, and the turmoil that has ensued within the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) and the Anglican Communion globally.

In 2003, the Diocese of New Hampshire chose to elect a homosexual priest who was, and still is, living with his partner in a long term, same-sex relationship. Normal ratification procedure calls for all dioceses in the United States to contribute input as to the suitability of a candidate elected by a diocese. However, if the election occurs within 120 days of General Convention, the ratification of that candidate must take place at the triennial General Convention. It is my opinion that Gene Robinson’s election was intentionally engineered to occur shortly before convention to ensure it came before what was perceived to be a more favorable electorate, rather than the more conservative standing committees at most dioceses. Regardless of the timing, a homosexual bishop was consecrated, with 62 bishops out of 107, just under 58%, voting to ratify his election as bishop. The election immediately distanced ECUSA from many other Anglican dioceses world wide and ECUSA was asked to produce the Scriptural basis for its decision to elect a homosexual bishop.

So why all the fuss? On the surface, this seems to be an issue of homosexuality alone, which is certainly a lightning rod issue. It’s easy to choose sides over homosexuality; it makes for a quick argument and feisty debate, full of sound bites and polarizing opinions. But Gene Robinson’s election painfully and publicly illustrates much deeper issues. Is Scripture really the ultimate authority for Christians? If so, who interprets that Scripture? Is Scripture open to periodic re-interpretation? What does it mean to be Anglican and in communion with other Anglicans world-wide? The “pro-Robinson” camp would have us believe that, yes, Scripture is up for re-interpretation. Scripture evolves as we humans evolve and Scripture must keep up with changing times in order to be relevant in today’s world. All of the clear, unequivocal prohibitions against homosexual behavior in Leviticus, Romans, etc., only referred to abusive or promiscuous homosexual relationships and must be interpreted within the context of their day. Surely the Bible didn’t really mean that a committed, monogamous homosexual relationship was a sin.

Liberal re-interpretations of the Bible don’t only apply to homosexuality. During a Time magazine interview from July 10, 2006, Presiding Bishop-elect of ECUSA Rev. Katharine Jefferts-Schori said, when asked if belief in Jesus were the only way to get into heaven, “We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.”

The opinions of my new Presiding Bishop-elect aside, I believe, among other things, the following. All are welcome in the Episcopal Church, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or any other type of descriptive category one can imagine. Jesus loves all of us and wants us to know the love of God and share in his eternity. Love, however, doesn’t mean ignoring, or celebrating, behaviors that don’t meet God’s ideal for us. While it might be natural (that’s a debate for another time) for a person to be homosexual, continuing to act on those natural feelings separates us from God. The same would apply to a heterosexual man or woman who has feelings for a member of the opposite sex who is not his or her spouse. Those feelings might be totally natural and biological, yet not consistent with God’s plan for us. Leaders of our church should epitomize the struggle to reach God’s standard for us. That certainly does not mean that our leaders should be flawless; they’re human and subject to temptations and weakness as we all are. However, when we fall, we should repent, ask forgiveness and continue toward the goal, not change the goal to meet our very human and selfish desires.

These are difficult times for the Episcopal Church as we struggle to reconcile two very different views of Scripture. Some people have chosen to leave the Episcopal Church, others have affiliated with like-minded groups to signify their beliefs, whether “liberal” or “conservative”. I have chosen to stay because I love the Episcopal Church and the people in it. I don’t want to give up the field; I will stay and make my voice heard as we navigate these stormy waters. I encourage others, no matter what your ideological leanings, to come to the Episcopal Church. You will be welcomed with open arms, regardless of your opinions on recent national events.

Todd Felton

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