An openly homosexual Episcopal bishop from New Hampshire Wednesday asserted that the "500-year experiment in Anglicanism is being tested right now." The election and consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003 prompted some Episcopal parishes in the U.S. to leave the worldwide Anglican Church.
During a panel discussion hosted Wednesday by the Washington Region for Justice and Inclusion in Washington, D.C., Robinson said "you see a mainline denomination risking its life for some people on the margins."
"It is my great privilege to be a small part of that," he added.
Episcopal bishops met in Houston, Texas Wednesday to discuss the schism within the church.
Following Robinson's elevation in 2003, individuals from the Anglican Church worldwide and the Episcopal Church in the U.S. called for a change in leadership if the church intended to continue its support of homosexuality and bless same-sex unions.
But on Wednesday, Robinson noted that "it was the people of New Hampshire that wanted me to be their bishop. Many people beyond the gay and lesbian community found hope in what New Hampshire had done.
"You would get the impression that our church is pretty evenly divided on this great debate," Robinson said. "Of some nearly 8,000 parishes in the Episcopal Church, only 47 of them have sought oversight from some other province of the Anglican Communion."
He also said that social rifts over tradition are not new among Episcopalians, and began with the first female Episcopal bishop. "This debate in the Episcopal Church started 30 years ago ... long before my consecration."
But Rev. Canon David Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council, told Cybercast News Service that "Bishop Robinson has garnered a place in history as the defiant homosexual cleric who preferred to force his sexuality on the larger church at any cost, rather than weigh the costs of what his actions would take on the entire Anglican Communion.
"His name will become synonymous with schism," Anderson said.
"If you want to know my homosexual agenda, it's Jesus," argued Robinson. "I feel that this is a real extension of what I've been called to do in the gospels.
"And I would propose to you that peoples' coming out -- gay and lesbian folk being honest about who they are, what their lives are, what their families are like, their desire to contribute to this culture, to serve in the military, to take their place as full citizens of this country -- is God at work," he added.
"Gene Robinson may say his homosexual agenda is Jesus, but his speaking tours and publicity all point to his fixation on his being homosexual and promoting the approval of homosexual relationships," said Anderson.
"Strangely missing in all of his media encounters is any real evangelization for Jesus as the savior who provides forgiveness for our sins," Anderson added. "Rather we see Gene Robinson's evangelization for the homosexual lifestyle, how normal and positive it is, and missing is any sense of sin or a need for a savior from sin."
Robinson noted that because of the religious right, "It may be easier for gay and lesbian people to come out as gay than for religious people to come out as Christian."
Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues at Concerned Women for America, agreed. "It does take courage in our day and age to admit that you're a Christian.
"It especially takes courage to stand up for biblical truth, most particularly, the truth that the very homosexual lifestyle in which Bishop Robinson chooses to engage is a lifestyle centrally defined by immorality," he told Cybercast News Service.
"In today's twisted pop culture which demands that all morality is entirely relative, being gay is in vogue. Many young people are experimenting with the homosexual lifestyle as a trendy sexual option," Barber said.
"Being 'open-minded' and blindly accepting sexual sin makes you 'tolerant' and popular, while being a Christian makes you reviled and ostracized," he said.