Sunday, July 26, 2009


After the New Orleans HOB meeting in 2007, I wrote an article titled “The Dog That Didn’t Bark”, referring to the Sherlock Holmes case solved by asking what did NOT happen. Here is one question from that article which the 2009 General Convention not only did not repent of but reaffirmed with gusto:

Question: Will you continue to ordain priests who are practicing homosexuals?
The Episcopal House of Bishops has been commended in some press reports for “drawing back” from ordaining any more homosexual bishops until at least 2009. What are we to make of this concession? Is it a sign of reassessment of what is required for a bishop to be a “wholesome example to the flock of Christ”? In order to think that such a reassessment is in mind, the moratorium would have to be extended to the ordination of priests and deacons as well, unless one swallows the rather absurd idea that homosexual practice is acceptable for certain offices but not for others. But this is neither mentioned nor contemplated. Indeed, the current Episcopal canons are rather explicit that no candidates for ordination are to be barred on grounds of “sexual orientation,” now interpreted to include sexual practice. And it is really hard to imagine that Episcopal leaders intend to set up a glass ceiling to prevent homosexual priests from becoming bishops.

So then, why did Resolution B033, reaffirmed by the House of Bishops’ Statement, offer to restrain dioceses on the election of another gay bishop? Clearly, it is a temporary accommodation to the hot-button election of Gene Robinson in 2003. Robinson’s election has had the potential to cut both ways in the debate over homosexuality. On the one hand, it has “incarnated” the aims of activists by giving the world a walking, talking embodiment of a gay bishop, whose photo and comments are shot round the world on the internet. Hence, church leaders and even ordinary people in the Anglican Communion react to Gene Robinson in a way they did not react to formal resolutions or other under-the-radar-screen acts within The Episcopal Church.

The other side of Robinson’s notoriety is that attempts to get The Episcopal Church to “repent” have focussed exclusively on the gay bishop question. Sometimes, it seems some Anglican bishops are asking for a kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy to the effect “so long as we don’t have to meet and break bread with a gay bishop, we don’t care what else goes on in your church.” Clearly such a blinkered position is willfully obtuse. The real problem is not Gene Robinson. It is the Episcopal officials who elected, confirmed and consecrated him as bishop. It is the majority of bishops who teach the flock that God’s exclusive design for human sexuality in marriage is optional or wrong and that Scripture is either mistaken on this subject or can be twisted to say something it manifestly does not say.

The problem is not just at the level of public relations. For ordinary people, it is the priest who is the main point of contact with the wider church, who models the holiness of Christ. So to truly gauge a change in the temperature of the Episcopal Church, one has to answer the question: so, what about exercising restraint on the ordination of gay priests leading an openly unrepentant life? And the answer to this question is also a resounding NO: we shall continue to recruit, educate and ordain homosexual clergy for The Episcopal Church and acclaim “They are worthy!”

Whether one thinks Resolution D025 overrules the previous Resolution B033, it is clear that it will not restrain the ordination of practicing homosexuals as priests. Even if TEC restrains itself in consecrating another homosexual bishop – or rather, restrains itself until it doesn’t restrain itself – D025 surely gives a green light to ordination of more homosexual priests and makes opposition to such ordination harder to maintain in moderate and conservative dioceses.

Have a comment? Please send it via email.

Follow-ups from Stephen

There are no follow-ups to this post at this time.