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FIRST-PERSON: Something’s afoul in New Hampshire

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–A kiss from the priest’s “life partner” and wild cheers from a crowd of wayward New Hampshire Episcopalians accompanied the June 7 announcement that the church there had elected its first openly homosexual bishop.

Bishop-elect Gene Robinson, who swears that his sexuality has no effect on his abilities as a bishop, swelled with pride as his lifestyle was lauded by a number of “super-Christians” (those who have ascended beyond the ignorance of the remaining millions who still regard homosexuality as sin).

After all, Robinson — I will not refer to him as “Reverend” because the term denotes holiness — said on NBC’s “Today” show the other day that it grieves the Lord Jesus Christ when Christians do not accept the homosexual lifestyles of their “brethren.”

Christianity Today reported that Robinson said he and his flock would show the world “how to be a Christian community.” He also said that the masses would come to see what the Bible really says about homosexuality.

And what does the Bible say about homosexuality, according to Robinson? Well, it’s simple really. The Bible, he believes, doesn’t address the modern homosexual lifestyle.

“I think we have to push right through those seven brief biblical references or what seem to be references to homosexuality. … What we are talking about today in terms of faithful, monogamous, lifetime-intention relationships between people of the same gender or homosexuality in general is just not addressed in the Bible,” Robinson told the London Daily Telegraph.

If what the Bible says runs contrary to your lifestyle, in other words, just ignore it. Robinson, of course, would say that he is not ignoring the passages, but merely interpreting them in their proper context.

Douglas Theuner, the outgoing bishop, agreed with Robinson. The Bible, he said, has references which refer “to homosexual behavior” between heterosexual people, “not necessarily to homosexuality, homosexual orientation or homosexual life.”

By the way, I had to read the paper from London before I was able to find these nonsensical quotes. American papers didn’t carry them.

This type of biblical interpretation is proof that a white collar in the Episcopal Church does not a theologian make. There are multiple prohibitions against homosexuality in the Bible, all clear-cut and rock solid.

The Apostle Paul’s commentary on homosexual practices in Romans 1:25-26 is but one example. The apostle wrote that both men and women, as a result of willfully ignoring God, had “exchanged” or “changed” their natural sexual desires for what was unnatural. Men lusted after men and women lusted after women.

Robinson believes that Paul was lamenting that some heterosexual people had fallen into homosexual behavior. The Greek word that Paul used for exchanged or changed, “metallasso,” simply does not support his claim. The word means to change conditions, or to convert from one state to another.

Apply the meaning of the word and it is clear that men and women were not created for homosexual lifestyles, monogamous or otherwise. Each gender was created with natural desires, and homosexuality is symptomatic of the disease that infects all human beings — sin. The apostle also wrote that because of their behavior, God eventually gave them over to their lifestyles. The lifestyle of homosexuality was the punishment for the behavior.

There are homosexual activists who claim that Southern Baptists are committing acts of “spiritual violence” for refusing to legitimize homosexuality. These dissenters from biblical truth apparently believe what Robinson said on the Today show.

They also seem to agree that Robinson is speaking for God when he says that we who disagree should listen to “God’s voice instead of our own egos” in this discussion about homosexuality. God has already spoken on the subject of homosexuality in his written Word. We have listened to and heeded His voice. Any voice the bishop’s followers hear that affirms the homosexual lifestyle will not be God’s contradicting His Word. It will be that of their own flesh, doing what the flesh does so well — convincing itself that its lusts and desires are healthy, normal and, worse, implanted by God.

Robinson’s claims make him a false teacher. He is a false teacher because he teaches a different Christian doctrine than the body of Christ, the church. He preaches a different Christ, a Christ who demands no change of those who claim to follow Him.

The bishop’s election this year, after two previous attempts at the office in 1998 and 1999, still must be ratified during the denomination’s general convention in Minneapolis in late July. The stage is set for a battle royal between the bishop’s followers and conservative Anglicans, who in 1998 declared homosexuality “incompatible with Scripture.”

For sure, the 75 million Anglicans in 164 different countries and the 2.5 million Episcopalians in the United States will be watching to see the outcome.

Thankfully, some Episcopalians are already demanding that the bishop not be installed. It will, one South Carolina bishop said, bring about a “radical change in church doctrine.” Should the vote go in Robinson’s favor in July, the same Scriptures that declare homosexuality immoral and sinful declare what action all Bible-believing Anglicans should take.

Paul was clear in 1 Corinthians 5 that believers should not associate with those who refuse to submit to the authority of Christ:

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not mean the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters; for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler — not even to eat with such a one.”

That being said, I do not hate homosexuals. The Southern Baptist Convention does not promote hatred of homosexuals. Do not, however, expect Southern Baptists to validate sin and bring dishonor to Christ in doing so. The message of hope throughout the New Testament is that Christ is in the business of making new creatures. That was evidenced when Paul wrote in a later chapter that whatever the sin, including homosexuality, God could forgive it:

“And such were some of you: but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.”

Can a homosexual become a follower of Christ? Certainly. Can a follower of Christ be a homosexual? If Christ has cleansed the believer, certainly not.
Tomlin is news director at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

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  • Gregory Tomlin