New Hampshire Epsicopalians Nominate Openly Gay Bishop

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Discussions' started by Tom Head, Jun 7, 2003.

  1. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member

    I just checked the AP wire this morning, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that the New Hampshire diocese of the Episcopal Church has nominated an openly gay man to serve as bishop:

    He's not out of the woods yet--he'll still have to be confirmed at next month's ECUSA general conference, which will be a milestone in one direction or the other in terms of gay rights (as same-sex unions will be the other hot topic)--but given that the clergy of the very conservative state of New Hampshire supported him by a 58-19 margin, I'd like to think that his chances are good.

    I know some of you probably aren't quite as thrilled to hear this as I am--and I'm sincerely sorry, and wish there could be some way of accommodating everyone--but from my vantage point as someone who is depressed to the point of cynicism at the way gays and lesbians have been rejected by mainline denominations in recent years, this can only be a good thing. In most churches, gays and lesbians will probably be systematically excluded from full participation forever, or at least for many decades to come; it pleases me to know that there might be at least one exception, one place where gays and lesbians can go on Sunday mornings that doesn't have rainbow banners.

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  2. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member

    (*sigh* That headline should read "Episcopalians," not "Epsicopalians"...)

  3. Dennis Ruhl

    Dennis Ruhl member

    I suspect that a lot of churches by showing how liberal they are, just show how irrelevant they are.

    Is it an accident that the United Church of Canada and the Anglican Church of Canada are in a power dive to oblivion while the churches that have a set of rules and expectations for parishoners to follow are growing?

    Do people really seek religion for the anarchy that it could provide or for the order it can provide?
  4. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    This is very good news.
  5. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member

    Dennis --

    I don't think there's anything irrelevant about the ECUSA, but you're certainly welcome to your opinion. For my part, I think it would be a bad move--and very inauthentic--for the ECUSA to consciously move to the right in an effort to become more "relevant" by siphoning off more members from the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC is doing a wonderful job of being the SBC; it doesn't really need imitators.

    There are conservative spinoffs of the ECUSA that are not only a little more traditionalist on social issues, but that also use the 1928 prayer book (which includes beautiful, albeit non-gender-inclusive, language). There's plenty of room for such movements to grow, and plenty of room for the ECUSA to grow, and for any other church (Christian or non-Christian) to grow, among the considerable segment of the population that apparently does not consider any church to be relevant. So I wouldn't worry about the ECUSA getting mothballed and dustbunnied; it's still thriving, and it isn't going anywhere. Heck, last I checked, the president of the United States still attends an Episcopal church (even if he is a Methodist by creed).

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  6. decimon

    decimon Well-Known Member

    Well, I'm a stone heathen and I agree with Dennis. What must be the mentality of these "missionaries of the moment" who would force all into one mold is, thankfully, beyond me.

    Progressive? Move to the right? Meaningless cant, sirs.
  7. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member

    decimon, the mentality of this particular "missionary of the moment" is that he personally believes that discrimination against gays and lesbians is inumane and barbaric. I recognize that there are those who believe that homosexual behavior is morally wrong, and I respect their freedom of conscience and their right to form churches that reflect that belief. But I think that if a church chooses on its own not to discriminate against gays and lesbians, then that is not only acceptable, but commendable. It is an affirmation of Christian love and basic human values, and of course I'll support it, just as I'll support the right of conservatives to dissent.

    The Bishop of Pittsburgh--who has consistently but sympathetically opposed ordination of gays in the past--has released a statement dissenting from the Robinson election. It is a very conciliatory statement that calls on conservatives to understand that the liberals supporting the election are "well-meaning," and calls on liberals to recognize that conservatives are also trying to do right as they see it. If I run across a URL to this statement over the next few days (it was emailed to me), I will link to it here.

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  8. decimon

    decimon Well-Known Member

    Discrimination against Jews, Muslim or atheists would be as wrong. But having Episcopal clergy from among those groups would be preposterous.

    As a child I wasn't welcomed to religious participation by any of the Jews, Catholics or Protestants of my area of NYC. Nor did I seek any participation. I didn't share their beliefs. But I was just a child, ya know. Those atavistic brutes could have accomodated me to salvage my self-esteem.

    Sarcasm aside, I don't get the impulse to tear down what is rather than building what could be. Why create schisms in an established church when you could start a new one? That's obviously been done many times.
  9. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member

    decimon, how is this "tearing down"? This is the old church at work, and its decision-making structure exists for a reason. Many traditionalists love the beautiful 1928 prayer book, but it would never have existed if traditionalists of the previous generation had insisted on keeping the 1867 edition intact. Yes, there are those in the church who oppose equal rights for gays and lesbians, but there are also the gays and lesbians themselves, and those who support them. Ann Landers used to say that if you had two relatives who each said they wouldn't show up at your wedding if the other did, you should invite them both and see what happens. This is exactly what the ECUSA appears to be doing, and I applaud it. There is no reason why we can't have gay bishops and conservative bishops, provided that they're more interested in being bishops than they are in being gays and conservatives.

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  10. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Sadly, many 'mainline denominations' tried to become relevant by moving to the left and leaving the gospel in the dust. These denominations have nose dived and some of the churches are now mostly empty (there is a huge Christian Church in our city with a few older people & liberals attending). In their search for relevance they have become irrelevant. Chrstianity Today called the Episcopal Church the denominational equivalent of the "Titanic'.

    I do not mind poeple being unitarians but I did when they moved to take over the church. In mainline denominations it was the liberal equivalent of the conservative take over of the Southern Baptist Convention. Studies showed in many cases the hierarchy of the liberal mainline denominations was out of touch with those in the pews and that caused the slide.

    I decided that I did not need to belong to a denomination that was becoming the equivalent of jello when it meant having to stand for biblical principles and firm when it came to political issues. So be it. My denomination was hijacked (probably the same way liberal Baptists felt about the SBC take over by conservatives).

    A gay Bishop would be no surprise as a diocese in BC just decided to affirm gay marriage. I have no animosity just amusement at this point.

  11. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member

    I don't know; I think a good case can be made for gay inclusion as a biblical imperative. I don't recall Christ saying "blessed are the socially acceptable," wining and dining only with the church-approved upper class and so forth. Sure, Paul had some unkind things to say about gays, but he also had some unkind things to say about women who don't wear church hats (1Cor 11).

    That said, I'm just glad that there are churches for all of us. I wouldn't like to see the SBC empty out tomorrow, because I think it serves a vital need. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) could be doing better (my local branch recently sold its property to a local Baptist church and moved to the 'burbs), but it was never that big to begin with, and doesn't really have anything to offer that other denominations can't also offer; it hasn't really kept up with the times. The Episcopal Church is a different story; it has a much stronger infrastructure (the 73-million-strong Anglican Communion), a much more well-established tradition, and a willingness to embrace theological diversity. I don't know that it'll ever be as big as the SBC or the increasingly SBC-ish United Methodist Conference, but I don't think it's "the denominational equivalent to the 'Titanic.'" According to the American Religious Identification Survey, the number of self-described U.S. Episcopalians grew by 13% (from about 3 million to about 3.5 million) from 1990 to 2001--during which time the number of self-described Baptists dropped by 100,000. This ship ain't sinking anytime soon.

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  12. Guest

    Guest Guest

    I enjoy these conversations with you Tom.

    The ECUSA is out of touch with much of the Anglican Communion which is far more conservative than North American Anglicans or the branch in England. This prompted some ECUSA conservatives to seek ordination/epsicopate from African Bishops. Griswold I believe called this the equivalent of ecclesiastical terrorism. The issue also allegedly led to liberal Spong making a racist statement about the African Bishops (being backwards or some such).

    Matters have not been helped by picking Rowan who if I recall from his bio in Christianity Today is into new age type spiritism or something similar (I could be wrong). Third world Bishops would have liked to see a Third World Archbishop of Canterbury (although that is not really the way the election to the See of Canterbury is set up). They are the majority of Anglicans and considerably more conservative than 1st world liberals.

    As I say, I enjoy these conversations and I have mentioned before that the priest of my campus ministry church was a liberal into boycotting grapes, advocating for gay rights, almost unitarian but highly political leftist theology, etc. Very thougthful, intelligent man whom I considered to be a friend.

  13. uncle janko

    uncle janko member

    It's the 1892 BCP, not the 1867*, which preceded the 1928 BCP.

    It's the United Methodist Church, not the United Methodist Conference; the United Methodist Church has a General Conference as a national governing organization.

    Decimon, I like your style! As a theological troglodyte, I wouldn't dream of demanding
    (not even with outrage, pain, rights, lefts, quilts, casseroles or any other stock-in-trade of the professionally aggrieved) that liberal churches accommodate me or my views. Grownups ought to be able to stand on their own two feet in religious matters without whining because other grownups won't accede to their demands. Civil people can disagree, disagree utterly, without impugning motives or coming to (?) blows. As that great theologian Robbie Burns put it: "the man of independent mind, he looks and laughs at a' that."

    *No such critter. The Reformed Episcopal Church, a separate organization, had an 1874 BCP, revised in 1932, but that's as close as it gets.
  14. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member

    Thanks, North--same here. They make me think, which is always a good thing.
    There are regional differences; I certainly wouldn't say that they're out of touch. U.S. and British branches of international denominations do tend to be more liberal than the norm, as is also the case with the Roman Catholic Church.
    More on that here (from the conservative Episcopalians United):

    I think this comment was uncalled for, FWIW, but then I've never been madly in love with Bishop Spong's writings. He occasionally writes something incisive, but for the most part I see him as the liberal answer to Pat Robertson--more of a sociopolitical figure than an original theologian. Whatever he might be like as a person, his books don't ooze with love (or, for that matter, with good sense--this ridiculous zero-sum game he's playing with Christianity is far too dramatic and places too much emphasis on having the right opinions; to my mind, he's making exactly the same mistake legalistic fundamentalists make). That said, I wouldn't call his comment racist at all (nor would I if a conservative had said the same); it's provincialist, which is nearly as bad and can sometimes be worse. What he should have said was that African cultures tend to be a little more anti-gay than U.S. and British cultures, because that's obviously true. Extrapolating general statements about Africa not being in the twentieth century is ridiculous, and paints African bishops unjustly with a broad brush (Archbishop Desmond Tutu, for example, is most emphatically not homophobic). I look forward to reading more of new ideas that have come and are bound to come from Africa and South America, which will soon dominate the Christian landscape much as Europe did a few centuries ago. These ideas will no doubt be even more diverse and, in some cases, even more liberal.

    I don't like the overseas ordination situation because of its jurisdictional side-effects. If we set that precedent, any liberal African who wanted to be ordained could fly up to New Jersey and pull the same trick. It seems to be an unpleasant precedent to set, because it interferes with the autonomy of national Anglican churches.
    I don't really believe in the First World/Second World/Third World distinction, but I agree that African bishops tend to be a more conservative than U.S. and British bishops at the moment (though this is subject to ebb and flow there, just as it is here). The See of Canterbury is meant to be a symbolic answer to the See of Rome, but each branch of the Anglican Communion does appear to operate more-or-less autonomously (united in worship, not doctrine). As time goes on, I expect the Archbishop of Canterbury to become less of a doctrinal leader and more of a figurehead.
    Thanks for this. For my part, I used to love it when I had an excuse to visit the (Baptist) Mississippi College library because everybody in the building is so darned nice. Took a course in counseling over there once, and it's hard to imagine a more warm and open group of people--extremely pleasant company. I wouldn't hesitate to do a brick-and-mortar degree there in the future.

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  15. Jeff Hampton

    Jeff Hampton New Member

    There were plenty of churches (at least in the South, where I am from) who made, and continue to make, the same argument.

    Please tell me how your argument against gays is different from their agrument against blacks?

    Bigotry is bigotry as far as I'm conerned.
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  16. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member

    Feh! Good catch; reason I got that number was that I'd run across a bookseller's "1867 edition" BCP that was actually (I'm now certain) an 1867 printing of the 1789 BCP. I really should pay more attention to this sort of thing, or I'll find myself with a lot of identical prayer books.
    And state Conferences (e.g., the Mississippi Methodist Conference), which function as dioceses. Typed the wrong word because I was much too busy gawking at (darned fun site, by the way, for those of you who might not have visited it yet).

    And you're no troglodyte; very much enjoying your contributions to these threads.

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  17. decimon

    decimon Well-Known Member


    I must cede the point as I know nothing of the structure.


    The use of political terms that, IMO, have little meaning may be why you folk are losing.


    I'm stylely challenged. And a religious outsider.

    My take on this is that we enjoy the freedom (well, mostly) to break with an established order to build our better mousetraps. Those mousetraps may be within a business, religion...whatever. That, I believe, makes us all better off for increasing our options. To make all businesses, religions...whatever into one indistinguishable entity with but one mind is to relegate us all to the tarpit.


    It's not an argument against gays. I have no argument against gays excluding me from gay organizations as I have no argument against religious folk excluding me from religious organizations.

    If I wished access to gay organizations, and were so allowed, I would still never expect to be made an official of those organizations. Ditto for religious organizations.
  18. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member

    So if a religious organization chooses to include gays, or a gay organization chooses to include religion, this is problematic? I'm not clear on what you mean; I can think of no argument in favor of segregating gays from religion that couldn't also be applied to ethnic minorities or any other identifiable group of people. This isn't the Department of Labor ordering the ECUSA to elect a gay bishop; this is the ECUSA choosing, through its own internal decision-making process, to elect a gay bishop. What's wrong with that? Doesn't every church body have a right to choose its own ministry requirements?

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  19. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member

    From the looks of things, I see three arguments folks are using in response to the ECUSA's gay bishop election:

    (1) Homosexuality is not compatible with biblically sound principles of pastoral leadership.
    My response: This is a matter of belief and interpretation, but since the ECUSA has not committed to a literalist hermeneutic on other issues--creation vs. evolution, for example--I see no reason why it should be expected to start doing so here.

    (2) The issue of homosexuality will bring about a schism in the church.
    My response: Churches aren't in the politics business, and don't generally make decisions based on whether or not it will offend people. That said, I suspect anyone who really cares about the homosexuality issue has already long since left the church, as it has made no secret of supporting gay inclusion.

    (3) Any church that moves too far to the left will collapse.
    My response: Some liberal churches have fallen apart, but so have some conservative churches. Correlation does not equal causation. The fact that the ECUSA gained over 400,000 members during the nineties indicates to me that its shift to the left may actually boost membership in the long run.

  20. wfready

    wfready New Member

    Now, please be gentle. You guys obviously know more about church, religion, and politics than I will ever know; however, I will attempt to put my two cents in:

    Why do the gays have to be open about it at church? Because of the discrimination in gays? How about NOT being open about anything at church (except your faith in God)? Who cares if you are gay when your at church. You're not there to pick up men or women. You're there for church services right? I don't want a bishop, priest, quiorboy, etc. telling me he/she is gay. I also don't want the same people telling me their straight either! Gay or straight why would he/she be telling me? That sends me a message that religion is not on this guy/gals mind. Keep your sexual preference outside the church....... for Christ Sake! (JUST KIDDING sorry :D)

    Seriously, if I am going to church and a preacher tells me that he is openly gay OR straight while conducting services I am going to think, "Well, this guy is wierd.. I think I will go somewhere else". It has nothing to do with church. Granted, there are some that think its "incompatible" to religion; however, how many church goers DON'T do things outside of church that are "incompatible"? "Hello, I am Bishop so and so, and I'm also a crack addict and have a crap fetish.." It's stuff we don't need to know at church. Doesn't mean the guy has no right to be at church or anything.

    Just my two cents.


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