(in response to comments & queries & accusations that I support "gay" sex, I offer this as a discussion paper)
Homosexuality & Divorce - with special reference to retired Bishop Righter & Canon Gene Robinson to be consecrated November 2, 2003.
It is true to say that the three major Monotheistic Religions - Judaism, Christianity & Islam - teach that homosexual relations are wrong in the eyes and judgment of God.
It is also true to say that divorce & divorce with later remarriage are permitted but not encouraged by Judaism, Islam and by Christianity -- and in most branches of Christianity remarriage after divorce is actively discouraged & even forbidden.
Further, it is true to say that in modern western society divorce & divorce and remarriage are very common and are acceptable in all strata of society. Also in modern western society it is true to say that a majority think that certain rights for homosexual persons should be recognized. Nevertheless there is a sizeable minority which, though it thinks of divorce with remarriage as acceptable, also thinks of active homosexuality as an offence that far surpasses those of adultery and fornication.
Not very long ago, the ECUSA had the trial of retired Bishop Righter on the charge that he had ordained an openly gay man. I sat through that trial a foot from this Bishop's third wife! The ten "orthodox" bishops who brought this trial seemed not to judge that this bishop's major fault against God and canon law was the fact that he had three wives alive and was living with the third after two divorces. His great sin was to have ordained a "gay" man. Lawyers at this trial defending Righter said publicly and to me personally that they could not understand why divorce with remarriage was acceptable to these bishops (most of whom are now in the AAC) if the teaching of Jesus is to be taken literally (for the Bishops argued from literal reading of the biblical texts that homosexual activism was wrong).
Today when the case of Gene Robinson is raised, conservative elements in church and society see only as relevant the fact that he is a homosexual and living in a "gay" relationship with a male partner. This is alone what stands out.
However, in terms of the Church of God and the Anglican Jurisdiction of the same it has been the case that a clergyman who is divorced is thereby prohibited from being consecrated a bishop. It matters not whether he is the innocent or guilty party of a divorce. And it matters not what kind of lifestyle he follow after divorce - holy & blameless or the opposite. Divorce means that there can be no elevation to the higher office in this case. However, divorce does not prevent his salvation and sharing in the life of the Church if he lives in faith, hope and charity.
Yet, because of the laxity in discipline within the ECUSA since the 1960s, the prohibition against a divorced man being elevated is rarely considered and applied. Thus the fact that Robinson is a divorced man is noted only in passing and his present life-style is proclaimed to the world (which is exactly what gay activists want to occur for it certainly helps their case).
BUT surely those who claim to be orthodox and to uphold biblical doctrine and traditional norms had a duty to point out at the 2003 General Convention, if not before, that the fact of his being divorced was in and of itself the end of the matter as far as the law of God is concerned. His behavior afterwards merely underlined in this instance what was already the case. The fact of the matter is that whatever his virtues or vices he is a divorced person and so is ineligible for confirmation as bishop elect. Thus to concentrate solely upon his lifestyle after the divorce was in a strict sense irrelevant. And to look only at that lifestyle and see that alone as the means of disqualification for elevation was to be guided by the norms of part of conservative society (wherein homosexual activity is seen as totally outside the pale and not by the received canon law.
Let us be clear. All sexual relations outside the strict norms taught by the Lord Jesus and his apostles are sinful, and the nature of the sin as sin is no different be it heterosexual or homosexual. The calling to Christians is to chastity inside and outside of marriage. Thus in writing what I have above I am not condoning "gay" sex. I am merely and only pointing out that to major on it in the Righter and Robinson affairs was a major mistake and proclaimed to the world (a) that divorce & divorce with remarriage is now wholly acceptable in Christian moral theology and practice in the Anglican world, and (b) that "gay" sex is seen by conservatives as the real sexual sin and carries from heaven a greater guilt than fornication and adultery. Further, massive free publicity has been given to the LesBiGay cause which cannot but benefit it in a society where human rights are given pride of place in moral reasoning.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)