Sunday, December 17, 2006

Hate Strikes a Blow in Anglican Tradition

It's happened. Two major Episcopal Churches in the US (and 6 smaller ones) have voted to disaffiliate from the US denomination and create a rival Anglican branch under the leadership of the Archbishop of Nigeria ( That primate is well known for his archconservative views which include not only opposing gay rights but also demonizing gay people. The use of the word "demonize" is far from hyperbole - he actually called acceptance of same-gender loving relationships a "satanic attack on the church."

Of course, whether its Nigeria, Jamaica, or Virginia, the easiest way to condemn same-gender love and attraction is to dehumanize those who experience that love and attraction. Homophobic leaders have said in effect that they would rather split churches and preach hatred than to allow one out gay bishop in a small rural New England diocese. Apparently, the excuse for all this ecclesiastical gay bashing is that the diocese of New Hampshire consecrated an out gay man three years ago. There have been other gay bishops, some have actually "come out" after retirement, but the Right Reverend Gene Robinson was unique in that he lived his life openly and honestly and as an "out" gay man in a committed, long-term same-gender loving relationship when he was elected and consecrated as the bishop of New Hampshire. Such bold honesty has been more than the worldwide Anglican Communion is willing to tolerate.

The loudest argument against gay marriage, gay ordinations, and/or gay bishops is that acceptance of same-gender loving relationships goes against the teaching of scripture. A more dishonest argument could hardly be waged.

The handful of isolated verses used to promote homohatred to the status of religious virtue come from ancient cultures and seem, in their proper context, to be condemning religious prostitution, rape, and other exploitive behaviors. Genuine love and mutual attraction are not condemned by the bible. One need not be a bible scholar to discover this simple truth.

A second truth about the bible is that if we take it at face value, what it says is often wrong and even immoral. "Slaves obey your masters" is a teaching of the bible. It is an immoral teaching that caused such suffering in our culture that the ramifications are still felt. Even if the bible appeared homophobic, thinking people certainly are free to say, "oppressive passages or passages that lend themselves to oppressive interpretations are NOT for us the word of God."

A scientific, post-modern understanding of same-sex attraction is not found (much less condemned) in the bible, and secondly, the bible is sometimes wrong (as when it advocates for slavery). "The bible says" can no longer be justification for hatred. The bible says Joshua made the sun stand still - a neat trick if the sun actually moves across the sky, but I doubt if any of us really take that cosmology at face value. The biblical literature can be rich when read intelligently, but that seems to be the missing piece in this war on gays and lesbians of faith.

So, a few churches have left the Episcopal Church USA and have decided to affiliate with the most notoriously homophobic bishop in the Anglican world. I don't believe in Satan, but if I did I might be persuaded to see his handiwork in all of this, but it wouldn't be in the acceptance of gay relationships or clergy; it would be in the prejudice that is sold as religion.

The writer is a confirmed Episcopalian who was ordained in the Metropolitan Community Churches and later "incardinated" as an independent priest by an Old Catholic bishop. The writer is also pursuing a doctorate degree from an Episcopal seminary. The comments above are made with sadness and disappointment; they are not anti-Anglican but rather, the remorseful reflections of a disenfranchised Anglican.

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