Gay Anglican Bishops
Atila S. Guimarães - July 13 2003
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The Anglican “Church,” whose episcopate Leo XIII stated was not valid, recently chose its first two gay bishops. One was Gene Robinson, who was elected as bishop of New Hampshire in the American Anglican sect, also called the Episcopalian Church of the United States (ECUSA). In this confession bishops are designated by public elections, and last June 7 Robinson duly won the ballots of 350 clergy and laity in New Hampshire. He left his wife for a man many years ago, and since then has lived with him in an openly homosexual relationship. His partner, Mark Andrew, is named as such in the diocesan directory and on the ECUSA’s website. Robinson is co-founder of the gay lobby group Concord Outright. In American Anglicanism it is not uncommon to find gay priests, but this is the first time an open homosexual has risen to one of the top positions on the denomination (The Tablet, London, June 7, 2003, pp. 32-3).
Some bishops in the ECUSA object to the election and plan to overturn it at the next General Convention to be held in Minneapolis later this month of July. According to the rules of the denomination, the election of a bishop must be confirmed by the ensemble of its bishops and delegates. If Robinson is confirmed, he will stand as the first elected gay bishop; if he is not, it will be a rare case of annulment, the last being in 1875 (National Catholic Reporter, June 20, 2003).
The second case was the choice of Jeffrey John as bishop of Reading, England. John was appointed by Richard Harries, bishop of Oxford, and should be publicly consecrated in the near future. Jeffrey John has also lived in an openly homosexual relationship for more than 20 years. According to Harries John gave him the guarantee that “in the future he would uphold the church’s teaching on homosexuality.” Sixteen other bishops have responded with a letter of protest, but Harries is not backing down on his appointment, and seems to have sufficient support to sustain his decision. Harries answered the signatories saying that John “had emerged from a rigorous selection process as the best person for the job.”
Rowan Williams, the new primate of the Anglicans, has taken a tolerant position toward homosexual relationships, even though he has recently stated that he upholds the official Anglican position affirming homosexuality as incompatible with Scripture (The Tablet, June 21, 2003, p. 32). Williams is an old friend of Jeffrey John, who worked with him to found an influential liberal movement within the Anglican denomination. “It is thought that Williams was consulted about the appointment of John as bishop of Reading,” affirms the bulletin Adista (Rome, June 28, 2003, p.13).
It is interesting to follow these goings-on with the Anglicans, with whom some Vatican officials claim Catholics have an almost complete communion. If these two Anglican bishops are confirmed in their posts, will this affect the ecumenical relations of the Vatican with its “sister Church”?
Will the Vatican break its links with it and clearly state that Catholic doctrine has always abhorred and prohibited homosexuality? Or will it close its eyes and continue on with the ecumenical dialogue as if nothing had happened? If the latter should be the case, wouldn’t this also represent an implicit admission of homosexuality in the Catholic Episcopate? All one can do right now is wait and see what happens and how it happens.
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