The Gay Divorcé
Robert Hart on the Real Robinson Affair
Last August the Episcopal Church’s General Convention approved the election of V. Gene Robinson to be the bishop of New Hampshire. Many protests have been made, meetings held, resolutions passed, and stands taken by conservative Episcopalians and other Anglicans because of this man’s open and unrepentant life of homosexual sin. In protesting his elevation to the episcopate on these grounds alone, many conservatives have only advanced the agenda of his supporters, and have shown that their understanding of the issue is little better than that of the liberal wing of the Episcopal Church.
I saw this at a meeting held by and for Episcopalians who were trying to deal with the practical effects of this latest crisis. These well-meaning and very sincere people were concerned only about his homosexuality. It is for them the straw that breaks the camel’s back, the point of no return. What I heard that night has been said over and over again: “We cannot allow the consecration of an openly ‘gay’ man to the office of bishop.”
One man told of how he asked his “priest” where she stood on the subject of homosexuality. What a shame that he did not ask her why she vested in men’s clothing every Sunday and that he was not of a mind to ask where she stood on the subject of marital infidelity. In objecting only to Robinson’s open homosexuality, the conservatives are aiding the homosexualist cause.
A Small Part of Chastity
Homosexuality is only one small part of a much larger subject, namely, the Christian teaching on chastity and holy matrimony, the entirety of which is directly relevant to Robinson’s life and to what he therefore represents. He was allowed to remain in his public ministry as a priest even though he had divorced his wife and abandoned his children.
The conservative Episcopalians are upset that an openly “gay” man is now a bishop in their church. They ought to have been furious that he was not defrocked simply for leaving his family. The error and scandal of his remaining in ministerial office after this was made worse, but not changed in substance, by his immoral relationship with a new lover. The fact that this new lover is also a man makes his sin into something perverse and unnatural, but the immorality is established before we get to the fact that this adulterous relationship is also homosexual.
It is not a man’s sinfulness that is at issue here—for we are all “miserable offenders,” as the Book of Common Prayer puts it—but his treating his sin as something good, something to be celebrated rather than repented of. We are all sinners, but we ought to pray that if ever we confuse good and evil, others will tell us and discipline us until we repent—as the Episcopal Church, including its now outraged conservatives, so conspicuously failed to do for Gene Robinson.
Yes, the conservatives have played into the “gay agenda.” The homosexualists are attempting to sell the idea that their status is a matter of their civil rights. In this instance they seek to make it an issue of equality, demanding an equal right to be ordained. They mean, in this way, to give their “lifestyle” yet more public legitimacy and gain for it wider acceptance. It helps their cause if their opponents react against them out of prejudice instead of principle based upon eternal truth, evenly applied to all offenses against chastity.
On what basis do the conservative Episcopalians concentrate their energy and efforts on the one point of Robinson’s homosexuality? Did this man not leave his family? Was he not allowed to remain a priest in active ministry? Where was the objection to these facts, where was the outcry then? Why no outcry about the bishops in the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) who have divorced and remarried, which, by the old canon laws of the Anglican Communion (and the teaching of Christ, I might add) is adultery?
In 1936 the king of England had to abdicate his throne in order to marry the woman he loved because she was a divorced woman. The monarch holds the title, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and therefore must be a member in good standing. By the laws of the Church of England, a marriage to a divorced woman whose husband still lived was adultery. The king could not marry her and remain king, for he would be excommunicated from the church. The Anglicans of that time understood that marriage is to be taken seriously, and that no exceptions to the moral law can be made, not even for the monarch himself.
Robert Hart is rector of St. Benedict's Anglican Catholic Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (Anglican Catholic Church Original Province). He also contributes regularly to the blog The Continuum. He is a contributing editor of Touchstone.
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