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Issued August 6, 2003
Dear People of Western Kansas,
Yesterday, the Episcopal Church sanctioned the ordination and consecration of an openly gay man to the Episcopate. His name is Fr. Gene Robinson and he was ordained a priest when he was married and had a family. Although he has taken an active part in his children's lives he left his family and is now living with what he calls his life partner. By confirming this election by the Diocese of New Hampshire, I believe, the Episcopal Church has erred in this consent and Fr. Robinson's consecration will be extra ordinary. The implications of this consent and subsequent consecration are yet to be seen but I urge each of you to read what follows.
I did not vote for this election. I voted "not" to consent But the fact that the majority of both Houses (Deputies and Bishops) of our General Convention consented to this election means that Fr. Robinson will become Bishop Robinson in the coming months. Theologically and canonically he will be a Bishop in the Church but he will be living a life that has not been recognized by this Church, officially, except by its consent to his consecration. Others, I can assure you, will see this as the Episcopal Church in the United States of America sanctioning all homosexual behavior and will claim this consent as their proof.
What does this mean for our Church? The majority of the worldwide Anglican Communion had asked that this consecration not happen. For many, they saw this as an issue that would split the Church as no other issue has ever done. They may be right. The lack of consensus that exists within the whole of the Church was a signal that the Church was, at least, not ready yet to resolve this issue through legislation. And now, many believe the legislation will only be a formality since they believe this consent said yes to everything, as we ordained, blessed and in effect sanctioned this life for a Bishop of the Church. They ask, "Why not for everyone?" If a Bishop of the Church can live in an open sexual relationship with a person who is not their spouse in Holy Matrimony, why can not two homosexual, or for that matter, heterosexual, people do the same? A good question indeed; which will surely be asked. I fear that the Church has become like society instead of society lea! rning from the Church's faithfulness. It is a sad time indeed for many.
But, what of Western Kansas? As your Bishop I have made my theological and spiritual teachings about these subjects clear. On the subject of homosexuality as a life acceptable to God, the best I could ever do in 25 years of prayer and study, with the evidence at hand, was to admit a "maybe". But a maybe is not sufficient to negate 2,000 years of teaching, doctrine, biblical understanding and tradition. I will not teach or preach this decision as the doctrine or discipline of Christ's Church. I can not sanction the ordination of an openly gay/lesbian individual, in a sexual relationship, to Holy Orders. I can find no evidence that the blessing of same sex relationships could be seen as anything but the Church sanctioning marriage outside the committed heterosexual relationship that is called for in Scripture and in the Church's doctrine on Holy Matrimony.
I will accept Bishop Robinson as a Bishop of the Church. I have no choice, since he was consecrated in a canonical manner and elected and consented to in a "legal" fashion. But I will teach that this is an exception to the norm and was a decision based in secular need by some, rather than because of sound doctrine, or scriptural interpretation and practice.
I know that this will not be received by all of you in a positive manner for at least three reasons:
Some will feel that Bishop Robinson should have been consecrated without question since a Diocese elected him and their decision should be honored. But a Bishop is consecrated for the whole Church and the whole Church, and even the Episcopal Church itself, is no where near consensus.
Some will feel that homosexuality should be accepted as just another way of living one's life in the world and there should be no restrictions. To these people I will just say that not even the "experts" and biggest proponents of the gay/ lesbian movement can agree whether it is a "normal" way of life. So, how can we say it is?
Some will disagree with this letter because they think the Episcopal Church has "gone to hell" and they should leave.
To this last group I say that there is nothing that anyone can say, not even a General Convention, that would drive me away from the Church I love. Do I think what was done at General Convention, in this instance, was against the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Church? Yes I do. I vowed as a bishop to uphold the doctrine, discipline and worship of our Church as I received it, and I believe this vote did not uphold what the Church teaches. But the Church is much more than this one item, whether something is considered sin or not. Why should I let anyone make me leave the Church where I found my Lord and where I know Christ works, even through me: also a sinner. God's call is worth more than any rule or resolution. And I will not deny God's call to me. There is so much to be done in God's Kingdom which so overshadows what was done by this vote in Minneapolis. There is so much to be done in Western Kansas that to quit would be an affront to God Himself.
Pray with me for the Church, a sinful institution that is only an instrument when in the hands and in the Spirit of a loving and faithful God. Pray for me, your Bishop. And pray for this Diocese and our work to be done in this place; in this time: to grow in Love, Truth, Spirit and Body.
If you have questions, opinions or would just like to communicate or converse, please contact me. I will respond to all inquiries.
Blessings and peace to us all,
+James, Western Kansas