Episcopalians Vote Robinson In, 'Turn Away from Scriptures'
by Fred Jackson, Jody Brown, and Bill Fancher
(AgapePress) Despite warnings of God's judgment, the Episcopal Church USA has voted to confirm the denomination's first openly homosexual bishop. Conservatives are already considering breaking away to form a new group.
By a vote of 62-45, Episcopal bishops made a historic decision Tuesday evening to break with the Bible's teaching on homosexuality and endorse openly homosexual Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Many Episcopal leaders, including Robinson, tried to put a positive face on the decision. He told reporters he is "proud to be in a church which works to be a safe place for all of God's children."
The vote was delayed a day following allegations of misconduct against Robinson, which included a charge that he had inappropriately touched a man and that he was connected to a website that promotes homosexuality to young people. A few hours before the vote was taken, a church committee had decided he was guilty of neither.
Conservative Episcopalians such as Pastor Kendall Harmon were clearly disheartened, as he told CNN.
"What you've got here is a church that's about to leave the apostolic faith," Harmon said, "and in the judgment of the majority of world Anglicans, they're going to leave the Anglican Communion."
Indeed, condemnation from elements of that Communion have already begun to come in. Peter Watson, archbishop of Melbourne, Australia, stated that by approving Robinson as bishop in New Hampshire, the Episcopal Church USA has "turned its back on our unity and must bear responsibility for the pain and disunity that will be felt throughout the Communion."
And Watson's counterpart, Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, described the decision as a watershed for the denomination, adding that the American Anglicans were "turning away from the clear teaching of the scriptures."
Another conservative pastor, David Anderson, says he is organizing an October meeting of fellow conservatives to consider a response to the Robinson decision, which could include the formation of a new U.S. Anglican group.
The Episcopal Church USA, with 2.3 million members, is the U.S. branch of the 77-million-member worldwide Anglican Communion. Associated Press says Robinson's election could "wreak havoc" on the Episcopal Church's relationship with that worldwide Communion.
The Archbishop of Canterbury says it is too soon to know what impact the vote will have on the denomination. But the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Nigeria has condemned Gene Robinson's election as "a Satanic attack on God's church." The church's leader in West Malaysia says his congregation is not in favor of someone being ordained when they are a "practicing homosexual."
Robinson, 56, is a divorced father of two who has been living with his male partner for 13 years.
Choosing 'Gay' Over Gospel
One pro-family group says history indicates that the Episcopal Church, in affirming the lifestyle of Gene Robinson and confirming his appointment as the denomination's bishop of New Hampshire, runs tremendous risk for the church's future.
Dr. Janice Crouse, director of Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute, says elevating a man who celebrates "a sinful lifestyle" will destroy the Episcopal Church as surely as Robinson's homosexuality destroyed his marriage and family. "History clearly shows that any church that departs from the revealed truth of scripture loses vitality -- and members," Crouse says.
Crouse's group points out in a printed statement that studies indicate that churches that remain faithful to the Bible are rapidly gaining members, while liberal denominations that discard biblical truths are seeing an exodus from their pews.
"Those who support having Episcopal bishops who are living a homosexual lifestyle claim that the 'spirit is moving in a new direction,'" Crouse says. "The question is: What 'spirit' is moving? Certainly not the same Holy Spirit who inspired the writing of the scriptures."
Sandy Rios, president of Concerned Women for America (CWA), does not mince words, describing Robinson as "an unrepentant adulterer." She adds that the new Episcopal bishop for New Hampshire has "perpetrated a new level of blasphemy for a once great denomination."
And Peter LaBarbara, a policy analyst with CWA's Culture and Family Institute, says while the truth has not changed, the influence of the homosexual movement in the church has diluted teaching about sin.
"Anyone who openly advocates immoral sexual behavior is unqualified for church leadership, whether it's a Catholic priest who molests boys or an Episcopalian priest who breaks his marriage vows and publicly advocates destructive and sinful homosexual behavior," LaBarbera says.
Ignoring Biblical Truth
Many religious leaders can be found marching for homosexual rights, legalized abortion, euthanasia, and other controversial social issues opposed by many Christians. Lou Sheldon, director of Traditional Values Coalition, tries to explain why he thinks the Episcopalian leaders are ignoring God's Word.
"Because they do not have a Christo-centric, biblically-based understanding of the glorious gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," Sheldon says. "They do not have that hard-core conversion experience that keeps you from going off the track and meandering into error and into false doctrine."
Sheldon says it is easy to ignore God's Word when the culture has spent decades denying, debunking, and challenging the inerrancy of holy scripture.
Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition says he is brokenhearted over what he sees happening in many denominations today. "My hope and prayer is that God awakens us and brings us back to orthodoxy and the basic tenets of faith -- and that church leaders continue to remain strong," he says.
Mahoney says the Church must rise to the defense of scripture and the principles taught within it.