By confirming the election of an openly homosexual bishop, the Episcopal Church has bowed to political correctness and cast aside the clear teachings of Scripture, several Southern Baptist professors said in statements to Baptist Press.
The Episcopal Church confirmed Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire Aug. 5, making him the first openly homosexual bishop in denominational history. Robinson passed the final hurdle, the House of Bishops, by a vote of 62-43.
Conservatives within the denomination criticized the move, as did other members of the 70-million-plus-member worldwide Anglican Church — of which the Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch. The Episcopal Church has some 2.3 million members.
Threats of schism and separation abound as American conservatives within the church plan for a meeting in October.
Several Southern Baptist theologians and professors condemned the move.
"This is an issue that is absolutely clear in the Bible — that [homosexuality] is immoral," said Daniel Heimbach, professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. "It brings us to the position, 'Do Christians get to do and believe whatever they want? Do Christians define what Christianity is, or does the Bible define what Christianity is?'"
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said the bishops who voted for Robinson "arrogantly denied the authority of Scripture and the clear moral teachings of their own church."
Writing on his Crosswalk.com weblog, Mohler noted that Anglicans affirmed traditional Christian teachings on homosexuality in 1998 during the most recent meeting of the Lambeth Conference — the once-a-decade meeting of worldwide bishops. A non-binding resolution rejecting the blessing of same-sex unions as well as the ordination of priests involved in same-sex relationships was passed at the conference. The Lambeth resolution even stated that homosexuality is "incompatible with Scripture." It passed overwhelmingly, 526-70.
"That was just five years ago," Mohler wrote. "This fact alone demonstrates just how far the homosexual agenda has advanced in recent years. We are witnessing a moral revolution without parallel in Christian history …."
Rodrick Durst, professor of historical theology at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., pointed out that bishops from other regions, such as South America and Africa, were the impetus behind the Lambeth resolution.
"Those leaders from the historical mission fields now represent the majority of [Anglicans] and the future of that denomination, and they do so from a plain sense approach to Scripture," Durst said.
The bishop of the 17.5-million member Nigerian Anglican Church previously had called Robinson's election "a satanic attack on God's church," according to the Associated Press.
Following the House of Bishops vote, several conservatives held a news conference in which Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan called upon all worldwide Anglican primates — who are the head bishops of their respective territories — to "intervene in the pastoral emergency that has overtaken us."
"This body willfully confirming the election of a person sexually active outside of holy matrimony has departed from the historic faith and order of the church of Jesus Christ," Duncan said, according to the AP. "This body has divided itself from millions of Anglican Christians around the world."
One Southern Baptist professor said the action provides orthodox Christians — including conservatives within the Episcopal Church — a biblical reason to separate from the Episcopal Church.
"Virtuous churches will separate themselves from them," said Craig Mitchell, instructor in Christian ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. "They have to."
Any church that gives authority to someone who has "obviously a sinful character…will lose its ability to be a faithful witness for Christ and to effectively evangelize. You cannot be a good witness without virtue."
Terry Wilder, New Testament professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., said that disobeying biblical commands "invites the judgment of God. One cannot flagrantly disregard what God has said in His Word without paying a price."
Furthermore, Wilder said, the Bible calls on pastors and bishops to be "blameless and above reproach."
"According to Scripture, homosexuality is a sin, and thus, those who practice that lifestyle infringe upon biblical standards," Wilder said.
Southeastern Seminary's Heimbach said the Episcopal denomination's decision "will put the church on record declaring that God is a sinner and claiming authority to punish people for obeying things God commands."
Southern Seminary's Mohler called it a "disastrous day for the Episcopal Church," noting that the denomination "effectively declared its independence from the Christian church." Christians must pray for the "thousands of faithful Christians" within the denomination "who fervently love the Word of God and cherish the true gospel," Mohler added.
"All those who love Christ must pray that God will grant them courage and conviction in full measure, and lead them in a faithful path," he wrote.