The Episcopal Church is at a crossroads.The United States Episcopal Church voted on whether to confirm the Diocese of New Hampshire’s choice for bishop, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson at the Episcopal General Convention in August of 2003. Prior to his election, Robinson had been the assistant to the retiring Bishop Douglas Edwin Theuner, and was seen as the logical successor. What should have been an easy confirmation process, however, was nearly derailed by a minor detail.
Gene Robinson is gay.
Not only that, but he had been living with his partner, Mark Andrews, in an openly acknowledged relationship since the early 1990s. Because of his openness about his homosexuality, Robinson was forced to go through a terrible ordeal during the General Convention. He was subjected to a false accusation of sexual harassment and had his final vote delayed while the claim was investigated. Finally, on Aug. 5, Robinson was confirmed by a vote of 62-45. On Nov. 2, amid continuing objections from conservative leaders in the United States Episcopal Church and the Worldwide Anglican Communion (of which the Episcopal Church is a member), Robinson was ordained as bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire.
Despite the acrimony and the controversy surrounding Robinson’s ordainment, it is undeniably good for the Episcopal Church and for Christianity in general that an openly gay man is now a leader in a major American church. For far too long, members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender community have had few places to turn if they wanted to have a good and fulfilling religious life. They were forced to deny themselves, living trapped inside a closet built by those who are afraid of anything different. If they stopped denying themselves, they risked being shunned by their congregations and cast out like demons.
In doing so, congregations are ignoring the teachings and philosophy of Jesus Christ on the premise of upholding a select few of the Old Testament’s numerous laws. Jesus was alive during the worst excesses of the Roman Empire, and yet he did not feel the need to condemn homosexual behavior. He instead chose to focus on the greater crimes of hypocrisy, pride and taking advantage of the weakest among us. He chastised the Pharisees of his time for doing just what those who oppose gay clergy are doing today: For demanding a strict adherence to the letter of the law instead of promoting a true faith in God. The Pharisees wanted everyone to believe exactly as they did and to observe the rules and laws in exactly the same way that they did. In the same way, those who oppose Robinson’s consecration because of his homosexuality believe that the only way to salvation is to believe and live exactly the same way that they do.
With the consecration of Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church has made a dramatic step toward the acceptance of the GLBT community, but at a substantial risk. In the three years since Robinson’s election, several dioceses in the United States (including the Diocese Fort Worth) have threatened a schism. Conservative bishops in the United States and in the Anglican Communion have said that they cannot be in communion with a church that would allow such an abomination. The Anglican Church is facing an enormous crisis, which may end with the creation of a second Anglican community within the United State s- all because of with whom a man chooses to have sex.
Much like former Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, I don’t see what all the fuss is about.
Rob Grebel is a senior political science major from Fort Worth.