I put off writing this column to the last minute this week, waiting to see if the Episcopal Church, whose delegates are currently biting their nails and rending their garments at a convention in Minnesota, would hold its nose and jump into the seething cauldron of "homosexual" rights by confirming the appointment of "the first openly gay Anglican bishop," Canon V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
On Sunday, the Church's House of Deputies, a legislative body composed of both clergy and "lay people" -- forgive the term -- approved Canon Robinson's appointment by a 2-to-1 margin, after an earlier endorsement on Friday by secret ballot. All that remained was a final nod from the Church's House of Bishops, where, among his many supporters, Robinson apparently also has some deadly and determined enemies.
Take, for instance, Bishop Edward Salmon of South Carolina, whose diocese adheres to the conservative American Anglican Council -- a group of "orthodox Episcopalians," as their Web site declares, "called to fulfill the Great Commission, to proclaim Biblical truth and to transform the Episcopal Church from within." Bishop Salmon joins Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh and Bishop Jim Stanton of Dallas in affirming that the Word of God is absolute and beyond appeal: "When you come to the matter of homosexuality, there is no development or change in the Bible."
"We're not going to accept this," Bishop Salmon proclaims about Robinson's candidacy. "We will not accept a change in doctrine. If you're asking whether we're soft on this point, the answer is no."
Sure, the Bible endorses slavery, the subjugation of women, the stoning of adulterers, etc., etc., but these are all matters of textual interpretation. "Old strictures yield to new situations," according to Salmon and the AAC, and "the modern church may not have gone against the will of God in adapting basic principles" to fit the times. "The same might be said to be true in regard to lending money at interest."
Oh, no doubt -- let's not have anything stand in the way of money! And remember, infants, when Jesus absolved the Woman at the Well -- Mary Magdalene, was it, or some other whore? -- it was only to elevate her to a higher plane. "Jesus demonstrates a special concern for the sexually broken," you'll be happy to hear, as He does for the Prodigal Son: "In each case his redeeming power leads to a break with former sinful patterns, and a new life of obedience and genuine love."
Not so, however, with "homosexuals," a class of persons unknown in Biblical times. Don't make me repeat it -- there weren't any such thang, as they say in Dallas, and also in South Carolina, before the end of the 19th century, when some German doctors got together and consigned a particular aspect of human sexuality, unchanging and ever-present, to the rubbish heap of "deviance," "disorder" and "disease."
Now listen to this, from the "Right Reverend" Duncan of the Pittsburgh diocese. These "men of God" have no shame at all.
"We are often told that the Church should bless homosexual relationships because they are, after all, loving," Duncan says. "And it is not my point to question whether there is some love between homosexual and lesbian partners. There can be care, concern and compassion in such a relationship. But just because there is love, is the Church called to bless it?"
Well, Your Idiocy, I wouldn't know. I don't belong to your Church and I'm not going to join. "As is well known," Duncan continues, "promiscuity among homosexual men is not just the majority experience, it is the only experience. And even though divorce and promiscuity in America are rampant, the fact is that heterosexuals remain remarkably monogamous. Eighty percent of heterosexual men and 90 percent of heterosexual women had only one sexual partner last year."
This statistic will surprise anyone who can't get a date, but Bishop Duncan is unperturbed about that: "Monogamy still appears to be the norm."
Now along comes a creature in our own home state, Mr. David Lewis of Manchester, Vermont, who just happens to remember, on the eve of the Christers' "historic" little vote, that Canon Robinson of New Hampshire used to touch him "inappropriately" at bake sales or something. Maybe it was one of those Sensitive Straight Man's weekend retreats, where they sit around hugging each other and beating on drums. They can express their emotions because they're men, you see, and it doesn't mean that they're queer. What a relief!
"PLEASE DO allow the development of some sort of blessing of committed same-sex relationships," David suggested on Monday, in an email now circling the globe. "However, PLEASE DO NOT consent to the consecration of Gene Robinson as a bishop."
Why? Because, David says, "my personal experience of him is that he has does (sic) not maintain appropriate boundaries with men. If you knew that a married straight priest... was also a grab-assing skirt-chaser... would you even hesitate to withhold consent for such a priest to be consecrated a bishop in the apostolic succession?"
By the time you read this, we'll all likely know the answer. Whether or not this "email de cachet" wins the day, may David's sorry ass remain safe from predators, and may Robinson find dignity, faith and truth in a wholly "appropriate" silence.