The Crisis Is Wider Than the Episcopal Church
Tolerance, said G. K. Chesterton, “is the virtue of men who no longer believe in anything.” If there’s one thing the current controversy over gay bishops in the American Episcopal Church teaches us, it’s that no church in America is immune from compromise. The Episcopal Church is undergoing nothing less than a major cultural and theological revolution, with a new liberal elite now occupying the dizzying heights of power.
The result is that thousands if not millions of Episcopalians and Anglicans feel like strangers in their own denomination. They recoil from a church culture that has become saturated with gay sex and trumpets hedonistic values. The moral code they were raised with has exploded before their eyes. In too many ways the church they love is no longer lovely.
From the outset, the attack on traditional values in the Episcopal Church was an agenda perpetrated by the extreme left that set out to weaken traditional morality. At the top of their hit list were such things as family values, social ethics, and moral restraint. Even the current debate on whether to approve a gay bishop centers, not on the morality of homosexuality per se, but rather on the “appropriate” expression of gay behavior by church leaders. The tacit gay support system in the Episcopal Church has become more open and confident, more defiant of what they view as discredited homophobia. Presumably, this will lead to the injection of more and more gay priests into the ranks of the church.
To the question, How do gay priests justify their lifestyle in the light of Scripture?, there are no clear answers. After all, both Old and New Testaments contain clear condemnations of at least some kind of homosexuality. Judging from two books on the subject—Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition by the Anglican Derrick Sherwin Bailey, and Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality by gay Catholic scholar John Boswell—an attempt is made to reinterpret at least the apostle Paul’s statements in ways that leave homosexuality an open question.
Both Bailey and Boswell claim that Paul’s condemnations of homosexuality were not directed at the homosexual orientation itself—an “inversion” not yet discovered—but against heterosexuals committing the “perversion” of homosexual acts. Robin Scroggs in The New Testament and Homosexuality follows others (including Bailey) and sees Paul condemning only pederasty, which was the characteristic Greek form of homosexuality. Thus Paul does not condemn homosexuality at all, argues Scroggs, and therefore the biblical condemnation of homosexuality as “unnatural” can no longer be assumed.
Whether church leaders will continue to accept such eisegesis, and whether the ethos of the Episcopal Church becomes one that is primarily that of the gay culture, remain to be seen. Yet it seems clear that however the church votes this week on the approval of its first openly gay bishop, it is likely to continue to condone the homosexual subculture. I predict that once homosexuals come into positions of authority in their orders and in their religious houses of formation, it will become difficult to attract even one heterosexual man to the Episcopalian priesthood. In addition, I predict that the atmosphere will become intensely hostile to anyone in the church who does not subscribe to the militantly homosexual agenda.
As I said, the moral revolution is not unique to the Episcopal Church; it has affected every denomination in America and, indeed, our culture as a whole. A civilization rooted in faith and moral order is rapidly passing away and is being replaced by a new civilization and moral order. The question is: Will this cup, too, pass and expose as folly all who said we must drink from it? Just as importantly, how much longer can America continue its shift away from the values affirmed by historic Christianity—fidelity, morality, the sanctify of human life—toward a militant secular individualism without experiencing the judgment of God?
To all appearances, the war against orthodox Christianity and the dumbing down of church-going Americans—to make their minds empty vessels into which the new morality may be poured—is succeeding.
August 5, 2003
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.