(CNSNews.com) - Some Christian activists expressed disappointment Tuesday over the election of the Episcopalian Church's first openly homosexual bishop - a vote that occurred after church officials meeting in Minneapolis, Minn., concluded allegations of past sexual misconduct on the part of Rev. Gene Robinson were baseless.
"It's a sad day for Christians everywhere," Peter LaBarbera, senior policy analyst with Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institute, told CNSNews.com.
The vote by the House of Bishops had been postponed Monday following the 11th-hour allegations that Robinson had engaged in inappropriate touching with another man at a church event. An investigation was quickly launched into that charge, as well as one revolving around whether a website belonging to an organization Robinson founded for homosexual Episcopalian youth also contained a link to Internet pornography.
Robinson was cleared of any wrongdoing, and the final vote by the House of Bishops was 62 to 45 for approval.
"I'm thrilled we're going forward, and I'm very hopeful," Rev. Michael Hopkins, president of
However, not all Episcopalians applauded the decision or agreed with Hopkins on the message being sent. Rev. David Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council (AAC), had previously told reporters that Robinson's confirmation would be a "fatal bullet" to the Anglican Communion, the church of Great Britain that includes the Episcopalian Church in America and has 77 million members worldwide.
"We are on the deck of the Titanic, saying to the captain, the presiding bishop, that there's an iceberg dead ahead. For God's sake, steer us away from it. Don't hit it," Anderson said.
According to a petition on the AAC's website, "to confirm a non-celibate homosexual as a bishop of this Communion or to approve the creation of liturgies for the blessing of relationships outside of marriage would shatter the church," a reference to the decision of some Episcopalian officials to bless civil unions.
According to the AAC petition, the decision to confirm Robinson would:
-- Separate the church from historic Christian faith and teaching;
-- Alienate it from the fellowship and accountability of the worldwide Anglican family; and
-- Confuse the witness of the church to the love and joy of Christian marriage.
According to press reports, the AAC is planning a meeting in October to decide whether to break away from the Episcopalian Church or take some other action. Like-minded Anglicans overseas were also reported as saying they would consider severing ties with the American Episcopalian branch.
The 1998 Lambeth Conference, a once-a-decade gathering of Anglican leaders, approved a resolution calling homosexuality "incompatible with Scripture."
Yet Hopkins and other supporters expressed some doubt about the convictions of those threatening a church split.
"I hope that it's more bluster than reality. We'll see what they decide to do," Hopkins said. "I think in the end, there's more that holds us together than drives us apart."
Hopkins conceded that the church had lost some members when it decided to ordain women as priests, but he noted that then, as now, there were predictions of "a real worldwide split" in the church, which never came to pass.
Susan Russell, director of communications for Integrity, recently told reporters that Robinson's elevation to the position of bishop would increase church membership, which according to press reports has fallen 5.3 percent in the last decade.
"The same threats of schism were all around, and in my experience as an ordained woman in this church, the ordination of women has only strengthened our ministry and enhanced our ability to proclaim the good news of God in Jesus Christ to those yearning to hear it," Russell told reporters. "I think the Episcopal Church is poised on what we call a kairos moment, offering to the world a vision of a progressive, inclusive gospel, which is another step forward."
Critics like LaBarbera disagree. The "saddest thing" about Robinson's ordination, he said, is that it confuses children.
"It tells them that wrong is right, that it doesn't matter if a man has a (sexual) relationship with a woman or a man. It's just tragic that they are choosing to elevate something that is a sin, and all the young people are going to see this. The liberals are teaching the kids that sin is okay, and it's very sad," LaBarbera said.
He stressed that this issue is far from over within the Episcopalian Church and the larger society.
"The funny thing is that these people think they can change immutable standards by a vote. You don't change moral law by some liberal political action. God will not be mocked," LaBarbera said.
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See Earlier Story:
Child Porn Link Delays Vote on Homosexual Bishop (Aug. 5, 2003)
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