Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Among the lesser known facts of my existence, is the fact that I’m technically, in that very loose high church sense of things, an Episcopalian. And being an Episcopalian today, and living in a family which is also loosely Episcopalian, means hearing about the newly elected gay Bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson.

Like all conservative types, I’m hardly pleased over his election. The Episcopal Church is supposed to be a Protestant Church, meaning that it’s one of those churches which draws it’s authority from the Bible, or at least that it claims to. The gay thing is only the most obvious way in which this guy violates obvious biblical command. He’s also a divorcee, with two children, who left his family to live with his partner. He’s not only a “gay” priest; much more disturbingly he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t mind leaving his flock, if it means a little pleasure. The Bible requires that a bishop be someone of strong moral character; the kind of guy with a family that’s in well-order at all times. This guy does not fit that description.

Let me get this straight first: I don’t dislike gay people. I am not a bigot, nor do I spend my time picketing funerals, nor do I believe that “God hates fags.” But anyone who’s ever read the Bible knows that homosexual sex is kind of a big no-no. You can try to semantic your way out of it, but there are pretty clear references in Genesis, Leviticus, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Timothy and Peter. I’ve seen people jumping through hoops to explain how this is “temple sex, not a committed homosexual relationship,” but frankly, I find these people full of it.

Once again, I’m not a bigot. I think the Bible is very clear on homosexual sex. But I also think the Bible’s pretty clear on gossips and gluttons. And insofar as I celebrate both sins all over my blog, I am never over-quick to proclaim condemnations on people who pick some other sin. I think it’s entirely possible to be a homosexual and a Christian. I don’t think homosexuality defines you as a sinner; your status as human being does that for you. Calling ones self a homosexual merely means defining a particular tendency toward sin in the individual. The actual sin is in the act of copulation, not in the identification of the tendency, nor in the tendency itself.

I’ll be clear on it; I don’t think homosexuality is the best way to go. But neither do I think that people really have a conscious choice that they can make about it. You can’t decide one day that homosexuality is wrong, snap your fingers and suddenly cease to be gay. Homosexuality reflects a somewhat disordered spiritual state. But a disordered spiritual state is the usual status of man. We must act according to our conscience, and according to Tradition, and become perfect in spite of our disordered states.

In any case, to return to the topic of soon-to-be Bishop Robinson. The election and ordination of this man exemplifies quite well why I am only most loosely defined as an Episcopalian (that is to say, that I’m considered one because I’ve never formally broke relations with the church, nor formally entered into relations with another church). The Episcopal Church has been being eaten away at from the interior for a long time. While I would never call the entire Anglican Community a church built on the most sturdy of theological or ethical grounds, the Episcopal Church in particular has always been quick to embrace everything liberal in the stead of anything Traditional. This is why many of our bishops, like Bishop Robinson, deny the authority of the scripture. This is why one of our bishops famously preached on Easter that the resurrection was a strictly metaphorical happening, and that a bodily resurrection was mere superstition.

The election of Bishop Robinson is not necessarily the worst thing that could happen to the Episcopal Church. We’re a church of outrage, or at least we have been in the past century, and it’s been only quiet outrage which has been broiling in the pews since our last big row over women’s ordination. The truth is that the people should be outraged. There’s no reason to be happy with a Protestant Church which shrugs off the Bible. And all of the quiet rage which has been building up among the laity, and even the honest clergy, about the growing Unitarianism of the Episcopal Church, may be about to set off. And it may be very, very good.

The Church will only send us bishops of the quality we demand; and as we’ve demanded no quality thus far, the bishops we’ve been sent have been of no quality. After this fight, we must begin to do one of two things. We must begin to demand a better class of bishop and fight the growing heresy in the ranks. Or, we must leave the church. We must become Orthodox, Catholic, Methodist and Lutheran. Either we must make the church the Church again, or we must abandon it, and let all of Anglicanism become nothing but a national church of some passing historical interest. Of course, there is really, a third option. And it’s the option we’re most likely to take. Do nothing, remain quietly outraged, and only take up bitching again when it comes to the next big public event. It’s a very English thing to do: “Grin and bear it.”

And what will the next big thing be? The Church formally renouncing the trinity, the virgin birth, salvation itself? It could be any of those things. Because once a church discards Holy Tradition, even unto shrugging off the Bible, you have no guarantees.

My Catholic friends often sneer at the state we Episcopalians are in. But I’m telling you guys, watch out. Because this controversy hasn’t seen its last day yet. It’s gained steam from its victory over the Episcopal Church, and it’s heading your way next.