An Episcopalian vs. his church

Cincinnati Enquirer, Tuesday, September 2, 2003
By Rev. Kenneth Clarke
Guest columnist

An article in The New York Times once referred to the Episcopal Church as the most political of all the denominations. Recognizing this helps to put the outlandish statements about the war in Iraq by Frank Griswold, presiding-bishop of the Episcopal Church, and Rowan Williams, recently named Archbishop of Canterbury in perspective. Griswold said he was embarrassed to acknowledge his American citizenship when traveling abroad. Williams, who was in New York at the time of Sept. 11, had nothing better to say than, "It was time as a country, we examined ourselves to see what we had done to invite such an attack." The need for national introspection as our recent rampant financial scandals indicate, in no way justifies the barbaric terrorist activities committed on Sept. 11 and now being carried on globally. This "blame the victim" politically correct thinking espoused by exalted leadership is also not surprisingly rampant among rank and file clergy.

Now what has all this to do with the most recent action of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church to proceed with the consecration of Canon Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire? Well as you probably suppose, I strongly disagree with this decision, but my reasons may surprise you. For as I see it, this decision was purely political, and is not representative of what I believe to be the thinking of the majority of the people in the pews. As we have already heard, there are four thousand objectors in just one church in Texas.

The opening paragraph of the marriage service in the Book of Common Prayer contains these memorable words: "The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned and beautified this manner of life at a wedding in Canal of Galilee. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people." Clearly these words apply to the union of man and woman in body, mind and spirit and not to same sex relationships.

Now those who endorsed the election of Canon Robinson never tire of mouthing the canard about Jesus not having said anything about same sex relationships. Well, of course not, he was a Jew speaking to Jews for whom sodomy was an abomination.

Furthermore, unlike St. Paul he did not venture out into the Greco-Roman world where licentious behavior of all kinds was rampant. In his Epistle to the Romans (6:19) St. Paul admonished them not to yield their members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity. Our Bishops serving in the third world face moral conditions just as serious as existed in the early church.

Yet, Canon Robinson has repeatedly said he doesn't feel in any way responsible for people leaving the church because of his election, nor for the impact of his election on Bishops in other parts of the Anglican Communions.

In the order of service for The Ordination of a Bishop, the person to be ordained is reminded that Bishops are distinctly called to "guard the faith, unity and discipline of the church." In England Dr. Jeffrey Johns, an avowed homosexual was also selected to be a Bishop. But unlike Robinson, when Johns realized his being vested in Episcopal robes would possibly lead to a fracture in the Anglican Communion he stepped down. Canon Robinson's disclaim of responsibility and disregard for the worldwide unity of Anglican Communion is in striking contrast to the self-effacing stance of Dr. Johns. Now with the taste of victory still sweet, Robinson has made clear his intent to be an evangelist for the homosexual lifestyle.

A cry frequently sounded by homosexuals is, why do you hate us? No doubt, some Christians, along with more Muslims do harbor such feelings to the detriment of their own soul. But being unwilling to equate same sex relationships with holy matrimony in the historic sense of the union of man and woman in body, mind and soul is certainly not hateful. Nor does it prevent others or me from having relationships with homosexuals, which are as friendly and kind and caring as with others. What adults who have a committed and caring relationship do behind closed doors is not my business, but when they want to promote their private behavior as normative in spite of both church tradition and Biblical teaching that is another matter. Is this unloving? Not at all. What many Bishops forgot, or never knew, is that the demands of love on a one-to-the-many basis are often quite different from the one-to-one basis.

In the case of Canon Robinson the majority of Bishops sentimentally decided in favor of the "we love Gene" advocates. At the same time they frightfully ignored the demands of love for the worldwide Anglican Communion and possibly the majority of heterosexual Episcopalians in the pews. But why should they care? They have the approval of the likes of Harvey Cox and all the other "politically correct" silk stocking liberals.

Rev. Canon Kenneth Clarke, Hyde Park, has been a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio for 51 years.

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