God ‘wants openly gay priests in C of E’

Daily Telegraph (England), July 20, 2003
By Chris Hastings and Elizabeth Day

God wants gay priests in the Church of England, the Anglican communion’s first openly homosexual bishop has claimed.

Canon Gene Robinson, 53, who will today be confirmed as the Bishop of New Hampshire in the United States, told The Telegraph that God was paving the way for the acceptance of homosexuals within the Church just has he had done with women and ethnic minorities.

Earlier this month, Canon Jeffrey John was forced to resign as Bishop of Reading because of his open homosexuality.

Canon Robinson, who has two daughters by a previous marriage, has now been in an active homosexual relationship for 14 years. “We all know that there are homosexuals in senior positions within the Church of England and the wider Anglican communion,” he said. “Traditionalists may like to pretend otherwise and continue to claim that an openly gay man cannot set a wholesome example to his flock. But what sort of wholesome example is the dishonesty that we have fostered over many years?”

The Canon thought the opposition of traditionalists to the ordination of homosexuals would be overcome. “I personally can see a time when there is an openly active gay bishop in the Church of England,” he said.

“It really is a very small step isn’t it, between having someone who everyone knows is gay but no one talks about it to accepting that someone is gay and talking about it?”

He added that the Church’s history of including minorities added weight to this belief: “I think God has taught us something about people of colour, God has taught us something about women, and now God is teaching us something about gay and lesbian people. It will not be too many years before we look back on this recent controversy and think: ‘My goodness, how misled we were.’ “

On the controversy over the appointment of Canon John, he said: “It is very sad what has happened to Jeffrey and his boyfriend. My heart goes out to them. It just seems the Church of England was about to do something that might have helped it break through and take it forward but in the end was not able to do it.”

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday, Canon Robinson added: “We are all going to be in heaven together some day and we are all going to get along because God wouldn’t have it any other way, so we should start practising now.”

Canon Robinson was elected bishop last month by a majority of clergy and laity in his own diocese and is expected to be confirmed in post at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church today, despite continued opposition from evangelicals who have dubbed him “the most dangerous man in the American Church”.

In a broadside against evangelicals on both sides of the Atlantic, he also said: “I must say that we are intent on tearing ourselves apart around the sexuality issues. Young people who have already decided about this issue and moved on with their lives find that ridiculous. For them the Church now looks hopelessly irrelevant.”

Canon Robinson’s comments will infuriate evangelicals because, in their view, they contradict the teaching of the Bible.

However, Canon Robinson insisted that the worldwide communion would not be split if individual provinces – including the Church of England – were to take on the traditionalists by accepting active homosexuals into senior ranks.

He said: “I do not think the current controversies will cause us to come apart. This notion of having to find our unity in unanimity is misplaced and is not the Anglican tradition. We have always been separate, independent provinces that are in some way related to each other, because each of us is related to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

“The Archbishop of Nigeria, who has been very vocal on this issue, has no authority over any province of the Church other than his own. Neither does the meeting of the primates who have spoken out on this issue.”

He added: “We all know we have had gay priests and gay bishops for ever. The only thing new about me is that I have been honest about that. When the other nominees during the contest brought their spouses, I brought my partner along. The experience of people here is: ‘Oh my goodness, there is nothing earth-shattering about this. They are two normal human beings. They seem to be faithful and honest and there is no big deal.’ “

Canon Robinson said recent events in Britain, in particular the resignation of Dr John, had not dented his faith in the Archbishop of Canterbury who, he insisted, commanded support and affirmation in America. He did, however, think there were lessons for the Church in the manner of his own selection in New Hampshire.

“I was chosen as bishop by a totally democratic process which is very different from how things are done in Britain. Not a single bishop had a role to play in my selection.

“The strength of what we do is that we trust the clergy and laity of a diocese to have a sense of vision for where we want the diocese to go and we trust them to choose the person they feel is best able to lead them in that direction.”


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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday July 24, 2003.
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