'Profound Arrogance' Rules US Episcopal Church, Critic Alleges

By Steve Brown | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com ) - The Episcopal Church's leadership came under more verbal attack Monday following the consecration of New Hampshire's V. Gene Robinson as the church's first openly homosexual bishop.

The conservative American Anglican Council (AAC) said the decision by leaders of the Diocese of New Hampshire and the Episcopal Church to conduct Sunday's ceremony and escalate their rift with worldwide Anglican leaders, smacked of arrogance and pop-culture driven elitism.

Robinson divorced his wife, with whom he had two daughters, in 1986 and declared himself homosexual. He has been with his male partner for 13 years. Robinson was elected bishop of New Hampshire earlier this year and formally elevated to the position in August at the 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Minneapolis, Minn.

"Obviously, we're grieved by the steps that the Episcopal Church took. We're grieved by the actions of the General Convention, we're grieved by the confirmation [Sunday]," Bruce Mason, AAC media officer, told CNSNews.com. "It was the wrong direction for the church and it sets a horrible example for families and for children that somehow the church has basically elevated a sin and called it a blessing."

The global Anglican Church covers 77 million members throughout its 38 churches spread over 160 countries from Africa to Australia. Mason said the fallout would extend well beyond the U.S. Episcopal Church to the Anglican Church worldwide.

Mason decried the "profound arrogance of the Episcopal Church to go ahead and do this after all the Anglican leaders, the Anglicans worldwide, the Archbishop of Canterbury...everyone said don't do it, you're going to tear us apart, and they went ahead and did it anyway."

According to an Episcopal Church release, on the New Hampshire ceremony, presiding U.S. Bishop Frank Griswold asked whether anyone in the congregation "know any reason why we should not proceed." Detailing what he considered the vagaries of the homosexual lifestyle, Rev. Earle Fox of Pittsburgh said, "It breaks my heart to be here," to which Griswold replied, "Please spare us the details and come to the substance."

The same release noted that Bishop David Bena of Albany, N.Y., had read a statement of admonition signed by 36 bishops. "To press forward with this consecration will be to turn our backs on Almighty God," the letter stated. "This is the defiant and divisive act of a deaf church. The clear teaching of Holy Scripture in both testaments without exception is that sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong for the people of God, yet we are deaf to the Bible."

While saying he welcomed the objections, Griswold proceeded with the ceremony anyway. Upon Griswold asking the congregation whether it was "your will that we ordain Gene a bishop," the release said the response was loud and clear. "That is our will," congregants shouted, according to the Episcopal Church release.

Neither the U.S. Episcopal Church nor the New Hampshire Diocese returned phone calls to CNSNews.com Monday.

Mason said Griswold's behavior illustrates what AAC means when it says "arrogance."

Rev. Rob Schenck, an executive officer with the National Clergy Council, a self-described network of Christian leaders dedicated to "classical Christian moral instruction," agreed.

"Sadly, it is true that the majority of the bishops in the Episcopal Church have chosen to take their cue from popular culture rather than from the historic tradition of the church," Schenck told CNSNews.com . "And it's the historic tradition of the church that defeated slavery and assisted with giving women an equal place in society. It's always because the church has been different, not the same, as popular culture. Now the church has decided to be the same as popular culture and embrace its moral innovations and adventurism. That is not the role of the church."

Schenck said the Episcopalians' decision to accept a homosexual bishop was nothing more than a "trend" of moving away from the Bible, fueled by an "intellectual elite" out of touch with the majority of their congregation. It's a trend, Schenck believes, that parallels the U.S. Supreme Court's movement away from the U.S. Constitution.

Schenck also reopened a five-year-old controversy dealing with the U.S. Episcopal Church's views about their Anglican Church brethren in other parts of the world.

"They (the U.S. Episcopalian bishops) defined themselves as a snobby elite when they spoke very demeaningly of their African brothers," Schenck said, referring to a 1998 incident at a gathering of global Anglican leaders to discuss the issue of homosexuality.

A July 10, 1998 Church of England Newspaper interview quoted then New Jersey Bishop John Spong referring to African Anglicans opposed to homosexual marriage and homosexual clerics.

"They've moved out of animism into a very superstitious kind of Christianity. They've yet to face the intellectual revolution of Copernicus and Einstein that we've had to face in the developing world. That's just not on their radar screen," Spong said. "Scientific advances have given us a new way of understanding homosexual people...In dealings with the Third World this knowledge hasn't percolated down and it's not going to change overnight."

Unapologetic, Spong later cast aside any notion that he might have patronized the African bishops with his comments. "If they feel patronized, that's too bad. I'm not going to cease being a 20th century person for fear of offending someone in the Third World," Spong told the Church of England Newspaper in 1998.

Mason said Spong's comments in 1998 were typical of the Episcopal Church's reaction to dissent over homosexuality felt by "a majority" of American and global Anglicans.

"It's suggesting that the Episcopal Church somehow had this revelation from God that those in Africa are too simplistic or too ignorant to possibly understand," Mason said. "It really borders on racism if you think about it...that somehow they are superior and have a greater wisdom and the West has some kind of right to import all of its sexual mores on the rest of the world."

It also shows that the Episcopal Church leaders have departed from the Christian concept of humility, Mason said.

"The leaders of our church are arrogant, are wrapped up in an ideological agenda. This is not about Christian witness as much as they might say it is. This is about wielding power," Mason said. "The proof of that is the fact that anybody who dissents with them either gets crushed or greatly harassed at a variety of different levels...This isn't open, tolerant or diverse. This is our way or the highway."

Mason added that Robinson's consecration could prove life threatening to Anglicans in the Middle East. Mason said he had personally seen news reports from the region about the Robinson selection that "distorted" the situation by giving the impression the "majority of Americans" supported the decision.

"The spin is that we in the West are corrupt and Islam is not tolerant of homosexuality," Mason said. "From African missions we've heard that the Muslim clerics have been talking about this stuff and that people's lives could be at risk because of the actions of the Episcopal Church. But they don't care. The leaders of the church just don't care about anybody other than themselves and this sexual politics that they're playing."

But Mason said he was hopeful that a realignment might take place in the American church, giving rise to a new province that would be recognized by the Anglican Primates as the official branch of the United States. While he noted that everything was in the early planning stages, he said there was a great "outpouring of support" from the Anglican community worldwide, including in England for such a move.

"While we're sad about what happened, it actually has opened a lot of doors and created a lot of potential and a lot of hope for creating something new here in America...without having to deal with all of the garbage and baggage of the Episcopal Church," Mason said.

After his consecration Sunday, Robinson said any who left the church over his being a bishop would always be welcomed back.

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