The controversial vote on the election of the Episcopal Church's first openly-gay bishop was scheduled for Monday afternoon, but a most unscheduled and unexpected development left most observers dazed and confused as last-minute accusations against bishop-elect Gene Robinson took center stage. Before the day was over, the bishops had launched a full-scale investigation and the vote was on indefinite hold. [see the official ECUSA website]
The allegations involved Canon Robinson's relationship to a web site for homosexual youth which had links to at least one pornographic web site. Sources close to Robinson, who claims to be the founder of the "Outright" web site as a support for gay youth, denied that Robinson has any ongoing responsibility for the site--and disavowed any links to the pornographic site.
Officials seemed to be more concerned about an e-mailed accusation made by David A. Lewis of Manchester, VT, who charged that Canon Robinson had inappropriately touched him in a pastoral context. In his e-mail, Lewis claimed that Robinson "does not maintain appropriate boundaries with men. I believe this is an alarming weakness of character that alone makes Gene unsuitable for the office of bishop." [see article--registration required]
Advocacy groups for and against Robinson's election tried to regain their balance after the entire meeting was thrown into confusion. Susan Russell, director of communications for Integrity, a homosexual advocacy group within the Episcopal Church, said that she has "complete confidence in Gene Robinson and in this church process." Groups opposing Robinson's election called for a fair but thorough investigation.
The investigation, to be led by Bishop Gordon P. Scruton of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts, could last longer than the church's General Convention, scheduled to end Friday. If the vote is not taken at the convention, bishops could vote by mail. In any event, the delay frustrates all parties concerned.
More importantly, it also obscures the basic issue at stake--which is not so much the content of these charges but the acknowledged fact of Canon Robinson's homosexuality, his divorce from his wife, and his homosexual relationship with his partner of 13 years. The real danger in this confusion is that the moral status of homosexuality will be confused by an investigation and debate over "appropriate" and "inappropriate" homosexual behavior. The Scripture is unequivocal--all homosexual activity is immoral and unethical. It would be tragic for this debate to devolve into a question of homosexual pastoral etiquette. The central issue in regard to Canon Robinson's election as a bishop of the church is not whether or not he touched David Lewis in an inappropriate manner or supports a web site with a link to pornography, but that he lives in open rebellion against the Word of God with his homosexual partner. That fact requires no investigation.