LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The approval of a homosexual bishop within the Episcopal Church would represent a “tragic turning point” in church history as well as an abdication of biblical authority, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said on CNNfn Aug. 4.
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president appeared on the cable network’s “Market Call” to discuss the possible approval of open homosexual Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.
His approval at the ongoing Episcopal Church General Convention could lead to a split in the worldwide Anglican Church, of which the Episcopal Church is a member. Robinson, a divorced father of two, was elected bishop of New Hampshire in June but needs the approval of the national body. A vote in the denomination’s House of Bishops Aug. 4 — which would have been the final hurdle — was delayed because of allegations of pornography and inappropriate conduct.
“For a church to move to … elect a homosexual bishop is to abdicate biblical authority in such an extreme way that it raises questions about the whole integrity of the church,” Mohler said.
He called it a “tremendously tragic turning point” in both American and worldwide church history, adding that Robinson’s approval could lead to “schism not only in the Episcopal Church” but also to splits “across many denominational lines.”
Mohler appeared via satellite alongside Susan Russell, director of communications for Integrity USA, an organized group of Episcopal homosexuals.
Robinson’s approval by the national body would represent the “church compromising to the currents of the day,” he said.
“This is exactly what the Scripture itself warns that the church must not do — to be tossed to and fro by every passing wind of cultural change,” Mohler said. “In this case, the culture has [been] set against the Word of God. Most tragically, we see a church moving to join the culture over against clear biblical authority.”
The Bible is “absolutely clear” that homosexuality is a sin, he added.
“[F]or a church to endorse homosexuality it has to turn its back on Scripture [and] it has to set itself against biblical authority,” Mohler said.
Russell, though, said she believes that Robinson’s approval would help grow the denomination. According to studies, the Episcopal Church lost 5.3 percent of its members in the 1990s and approximately 28 percent of its members from 1961 to 1998. Saying the Episcopal Church has always been “a people of compromise,” she acknowledged that she approaches Scripture differently from Southern Baptists and other conservative denominations.
“I think the Episcopal Church is poised on what we call a kairos moment, offering to the world a vision of a progressive inclusive gospel, which is another step forward,” she said, asserting that a schism is not imminent. Russell pointed to the threat of schism in the 1970s when the Episcopal Church approved women priests.
“The same threats of schism were all around, and in my experience as an ordained woman in this church, the ordination of women has only strengthened our ministry and enhanced our ability to proclaim the good news of God in Christ Jesus to those yearning to hear it,” she said.
“I believe this step forward on behalf of gay and lesbian people will do the same thing.”
But Mohler said the two issues — women’s ordination and homosexual bishops — are related.
“An argument can be made that the decision to ordain women and the decisions the church has made concerning divorce have led very, very clearly to this decision concerning homosexuality,” he said. “I do not believe those issues are unrelated. They are tragically related in this case, and I think what we see is a breaking down of this church’s defenses against compromise on biblical authority.”
It is “very sad” as an outsider to watch what the Episcopal Church is doing “in the name of Christianity,” Mohler said, adding that “millions” of Christians are watching with “great concern.”
“This is a tragic break, not only with the moral and theological tradition of this church, but with Christian teaching based in scriptural authority throughout 2,000 years of Christian history,” he said.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: TURNING POINT?