Homosexual History

The victory for gay rights in the Episcopal Church is almost complete.

Continued from page 2

In December 1989, I ordained the first homosexual male living openly with his partner of five years in Hoboken, New Jersey. My church's leaders recoiled, but the debate raised consciousness and even the attempts to disassociate the leaders of the Episcopal Church from my actions and those of the Diocese of Newark failed to reveal a consensus. By 1994, 88 bishops had signed a document called "A Statement of Koinonia," affirming support for gays and lesbians in the church and in the ranks of the ordained. That was not yet a majority, but a critical mass had formed that could not be denied.

Next, the conservatives sought to halt this movement in the Episcopal Church by bringing charges of heresy against Bishop Walter Righter, an assistant Bishop of Newark. (Righter had ordained a gay man as a deacon in my diocese; I later ordained him to the priesthood.) These charges were dismissed by a 7-1 vote in a court trial.

In 2000, the national convention of the Episcopal Church voted to commend "non-traditional" couples to the pastoral care of the church. No one questioned who was meant by this phrase. The convention also recognized that the choice of whom to be ordained must be left to each diocese. The victory for gay rights in the Episcopal Church was all but complete.

Now the Diocese of New Hampshire, in an open election with four nominees, has chosen the Rev. Canon Eugene Robinson, an openly gay man, living in a committed partnership of many years, to be its new bishop. It was not an accident. It was not even a strange aberration in an otherwise unprepared church. It was rather the next step in an ongoing process.

The Episcopal Church requires that the whole church confirm New Hampshire's election. That is normally a routine procedure. A vote will be taken at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Minneapolis at the end of this month. It will be the last stand for the people who hold the dying view that homosexuality is either a sickness or depraved behavior. We'll hear threats of schism. We'll hear violent words. Every effort will be tried to stop this action.

But the election will be confirmed. And the Episcopal Church will be more whole, more honest and more Christlike than it was before. I welcome the day. I welcome Gene Robinson. I am proud to be part of this church.

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