12.04.2006

Losing My Religion

My hatred for Virginia continues to grow strong. First, some personal history:

I was baptized Catholic. I went to a Catholic school. That's as far as my Catholic experience goes. Since I was a wee toddler, I was going to Episcopalian masses at St. Mary's Church in West Barnstable. I was confirmed Episcopalian. I was an Episcopalian acolyte. My first experiences with public oration came when I would read long Biblical passages for the Sunday morning mass. I met my first girlfriend through church. Our moms were Sunday school teachers. Norman Rockwell, eat your heart out.

Beyond personal history, St. Mary's was also featured in a few Kurt Vonnegut works. That's pretty sweet. Admit it. Like many disaffected high school and college students, Kurt Vonnegut was an absolute savior. Surely many of you feel the same way.

The church parking lot was the setting for a scene in his 1959 novel The Sirens of Titan. The first passage in Vonnegut's collection of short stories, Welcome to the Monkey House is titled "Where I Live." It's a short non-fiction story about how great Cape Cod is. I don't imagine it being very popular with the people who are annoyed by my insistence that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the bestest place ever. Regardless, I speak of the story with pride since it claims that the St. Mary's church garden is the most beautiful spot on Earth. What author can make a similar claim about a spot in Washington?

So, the general theme of all this is that I was raised Episcopalian and I love it. I'm not the best Christian anymore and I have almost completely stopped going to mass, but, damn it all, Episcopalians are the greatest. I have a vested interest in the strength of the Episcopal community.

Virginia doesn't. Virginia wants out. The Episcopalians in New England are too nice to the gays. Nothing riles up the Virginia folk more than being nice to the queers. It gets their blood boiling. The 2003 promotion of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, an unprecedented position for a gay man within the Church, was the last straw. Virginia will not stand for such tolerance!

Two Fairfax County congregations have certainly had enough. It looks like the Falls Church and Truro parishes are going to vote for secession from the American Episcopal community. Instead, these knuckleheads plan on becoming members of...wait for it....the Nigerian Episcopal community. It came down to whether Virginians would continue their long-standing intolerance of gays or their long-standing intolerance of blacks. Congratulations blacks, you're off the hatred hook.

It's probably very comforting to these Virginian Episcopalians that Nigerian Archbishop Peter J. Akinola is pretty tough on homosexuals in Africa:

...there are questions about a suburban Washington congregation technically under the leadership of Akinola, who has supported a new Nigerian law that penalizes gay activity, whether private or "a public show of same sex amorous relationship," with jail time.

Um. What? That's some Taliban-esque shit right there. Actually, to be fair, the Parable where all the gays are incarcerated has always been my favorite. Fuck the Prodigal Son. Many Biblical historians believe that Jesus himself went door-to-door in Galilee to speak of the homosexual threat.

"They're in our schools and in our churches and they will convert your children," spoke Jesus of Galilee on the Sabbath.

The irony is, I kind of agree with the Virginians that having a homosexual bishop might not be theologically sound.* Of course, throwing gays in jail isn't theologically sound either. And it's not like a bishop in New Hampshire is going to have any effect on Virginia parishioners. Those parishes are like night-and-day. That's one of the things I like about Episcopalians. There are liberal branches and conservative branches, but they're still united for social justice. But now Virginia doesn't want a part of that. They'd rather blindly hate gay people. The gay bogeyman is their new serpent in Eden.

I mentioned the Prodigal Son earlier. Much like the the titular character of this parable, Virginia has lost its way. If these parishes do indeed decide to hitch their wagon to the Nigerian Church, I guess I have to wish them the best of luck. But when they come crawling back, I'd like to think that, much like Jesus's teaching, the Virginia congregations would be welcomed back with open arms. It's the Christian thing to do. Hopefully Falls Church and Truro will live by that example.

*I'd love to debate this in the comments. Hopefully with other Protestants. I'm really on the fence about it and would love to hear what others think.

50 comments:

  1. There is so little in this world that I hate more than Virginia, that the title of your post made me smile.

    F em. F em All!!

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  2. Please, Rusty, don't label two NORTHERN VIRGINIA churches with congregations of a few hundred families as being respresentative of the entire state of Virginia and its Episcopalians.

    And so you know, I know a few very prominent families who had attended Truro for generations, but have left in the last two years because of the church's overreaction to Gene Robinson's election. This move hasn't won Truro a lot of support.

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  3. Nothern Virginia is the only part of VA that I ever think about. Because, really, who cares about what happens in Virginia Beach?

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  4. Rusty, let me make sure I'm on the same page here.

    With your "might not be theologically sound" comment, I assume you are referring to, ultimately, the description of a Bishop in 1 Timothy 3 wherein that person is described as "the husband of one wife (KJV)"

    That does make for an interesting argument, if it is indeed what you were referring to.

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  5. I suppose part of being a hick is overreacting and "gettin' all upity" over bullshit issue intended to stir up conservative hysteria.... like... gay marraige, war on christmas, flag burning, etc.

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  6. I was going old school with Leviticus. I haven't read Timothy 3 in a long time.

    The idea of being in a monogamous homosexual relationship is living in sin...a sin that one can't repent for since it's ongoing. Whether you agree or disagree, one has to admits that TONS of Christians/Episcopals feel that way.

    A true Christian loves and respects all, but to elevate someone who is living in sin to such an important position in a religious community...suddenly we have a significant controversy That was a run-on sentence.

    I supported the elevation of Robinson to bishop status because if New Hampsire is OK with him, that's all that matters. But I understand why people got riled up. Secession is just stupid though. Nigeria!?

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  7. I assume you've heard all of the arguments against Leviticus that fit neatly into one liners -- "but so's eating shellfish" and "but Christ comes with a new law".
    Beyond that, this puts forth some excellent arguments: http://www.libchrist.com/other/homosexual/leviticus.html.

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  8. Oh, I know. But if someone wants to believe that homosexuality is a sin, then they certainly have the ammunition to do so. There's some stuff in Romans that's also anti-homosexual.

    I guess it's hard to draw a line on what is sinful and what isn't. I knew an Episcopalian who thought pre-marital sex wasn't sinful in the eyes of the Anglican Community. Huh? I mean, the line has to be drawn somewhere...otherwise we're no better than the Unitarians. Gross.

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  9. First of all, I go to a Northern Virginian Episcopal Church.

    While many of the Church's decisions over the last couple of years have left me feeling a bit bewildered, I think the idea of joining a Nigerian church that advocates throwing gays in jail is simply asinine. Why oh why can't there be a middle choice??

    That said, my Northern Virginia Episcopalian Church isn't going anywhere.

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  10. Gay people would be wise to avoid contact with Christians of any kind if they have any self-esteem or dignity.

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  11. I disagree. New England Episcopals, United Methodists, and Presbyterians all tend to be very welcoming to homosexuals. It's obviously different from parish to parish, but gays and Christians can easily coexist.

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  12. You people are driving me crazy.
    Episcopal is an adjective. Episcopal church. Episcopal Church. Episcopal ideals.
    Episcopalian is a noun. She is an Episcopalian. New England Episcopalians.

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  13. grand admiral obviousDecember 04, 2006

    Ironic that Nigeria has one of the highest rates of HIV infection because of the ignorant belief that HIV can be cured by heterosexual sex with a virgin.

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  14. Rusty:

    The Prodigal Son is the correct parable, but you have mis-applied it. The Episcopal Church in the US is the son, who has strayed far away from his Father's house.

    The liberal elements in the mainstream Protestant churches have taken up in support of all sorts of "issues of the day" which run contrary to the Bible and the teachings of Christianity for the past 18 or 19 centuries. Sinful acts are now to be celebrated in the name of "tolerance".

    No wonder the pews are empty.

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  15. I was raised a christian and I attended Truro every Sunday from the ages of 0-10. I think its so funny that you mention that church in your post. Anyways...here goes. It's my personal belief that homosexuality should be accepted by the christians. There is no way Jesus would discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation. Jesus preached love and acceptance, not blind hatred and discrimination.

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  16. Anonymous, that's one of those things I kind of know in the back of my head and ignore due to laziness. You're 100% right. I'm usually a grammar snob and that was an unacceptable lapse.

    Archduke, I disagree with your assesment. But I admit that a lot of Christians feel the samw way you do.

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  17. There's a great article about this issue in the Oct/Nov issue of Free Inquiry. It's smartly titled "Anglicans and Idiocy" by Christopher Hitchens. I'd try to summarize it, but I wouldn't do it justice.

    It's great to be agnostic!! I can fully accept gay people and not have to trouble myself trying to square their lifestyle with some crazy hateful dogma. Yippee!

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  18. I had to read about htis for school awhile ago. There are some other schools that have already "defected" to the nigerian church. I'm remembering LA (CA), but it might be somewhere else.

    And that Nigerian church doesnt just throw them in jail. It looks the other way on rape and violence and etc on these people. Very churchy, dont you think?

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  19. Do yourself a favor and read "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. None of this is even worth debating.

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  20. ex-falls church memberDecember 04, 2006

    I was there at Falls Church in 2003ish when John Yates first spoke of his disproval of the gay bishop. At the time I was really surprised.. I ended up walking out of that service. FYI.. Fall Church has quite a bit more than a few hundred families in its congregation.

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  21. I disagree. New England Episcopals, United Methodists, and Presbyterians all tend to be very welcoming to homosexuals. It's obviously different from parish to parish, but gays and Christians can easily coexist.

    Saying someone can join your group but not hold any title or office isn't welcoming. Stating that gay couples are living in sin isn't welcoming. Quoting Leviticus, which endorses extermination of gays (and others) isn't welcoming. It's the spiritual equivalent of saying "Please come into my home but don't soil the furniture or the carpeting."

    Sinful acts are now to be celebrated in the name of "tolerance".

    I bet you miss the good old days of "intolerance."

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  22. Say... after chuch does anyone wanna go out for some meth and male prostitutes?

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  23. Mike, New England Episcopalians did indeed promoted a gay priest to Bishop. United Methodists have gay priests too.

    The statement I was making about "living in sin" was an argument made by those who are against homosexual clergy. It sucks, but there it is. Leviticus, as crazily antiquated as it is, is part of the Judeo-Christian text. Some aren't comfortable picking and choosing what is still sin and what is now normal.

    Think of it like the Constitution but with our souls on the line. The Church has grown but the Bible stays the same. It's hard for some to adapt.

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  24. An Episcolpalian is a Methodist that can't read.
    Ask anyone.
    Go Lutheran, it's the only way to be.
    Protest!-ant.

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  25. Ah the hypocrisy. One gay Bishop causing some much of a ruckus when all the other Bishops are buggering little boys anyway.

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  26. I like Rusty's ideas. I grew up very involved (boys' choir, mens' choir, acolyte, basketball team) in an Epicopal church in Upstate NY. Knew the service (yes, its an Episcopal Service, not Mass) by heart, even after it was changed, but never really listened to sermons or teachings. Probably your average church-going kid. I felt very comfortable in the old service with the lovely old hymns with an excellent organist/choirmaster in that church. I went to St. Timothy's in Catonsville, Maryland and was floored by the holier-than-thou parishioners there. What is it with these South of the Mason-Dixon religious-types. I don't understand it at all. Its like a competition to be more condemning, more "God-fearing", more hating than the Christian-neighbor. Its absolutely freaky.

    I was in London when the New Hampshire dioscese elevated Rev. Robinson to Bishop. The anger toward directed toward the Anglican Church was outrageous. The BBC captured many of the African Anglican elders' bigotry and hatred and put the newly installed Archbishop on the spot on the subject. And I wasn't surprised at all that St. Timothy's in Catonsville was in the news with words of secession.

    It doesn't surprise me at all that the Truro Parish has joined with the Nigerian Anglicans and, like all Conservative uprisings, I'm sure the irony is completely lost on all of them.

    (duke frankencow - Wikipedia claims the Truro Parish has one of the highest average sunday attentendence of any radical Episcopal church in the US with 1400. Sad, isn't it.)

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  27. Perhaps if people took a moment to realize that the Bible was written by many people over time, all of whom had their own agenda; and that religion itself was based on politics and domination as well spiritual beliefs (i.e. the Episcopal Church exists solely because Henry VIII wanted to get a divorce), maybe they wouldn't take it all so seriously and everyone could get along a bit better.

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  28. I was raised Presbyterian and one of my good friends, who is a lesbian, likes to say that she is a Les-byterian.

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  29. BTW, yes it's a service and not technically a Mass. Old habit I picked up from Catholic school.

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  30. I appreciate your blog. I came to the Episcopal Church after being raised Catholic. I initially switched BECAUSE of the liberal social views, but then realized that at some point the ECUSA had lost its "Christian" moorings, and had become a secular social services agency that borrowed the symbolism and legacy social acceptance of a wholly different institution.

    Christianity has always been about, first and foremost, the Gospel-- the idea that, despite our fallen state, God loved humanity so much he sacrificed his only Son to reconcile us to him. Whether you agree with this or not, this is pretty much a non-negotiable aspect of traditional Christianity.

    The "gay issue" is simply a symptom of a much more objectionable concern. The problem with the current US Episcopal church, and with the current Presiding Bishop especially, is that this truth-claim is simply not discussed. Scripture is a bonus of sorts, but nothing authoritative. Sin, a given constant in the Christian worldview, is downplayed to the point of insignificance. The Holy Spirit, we are told, is the real actor, and it moves in ways that happen to align closely, in both subject matter and timing, with the agenda of urban liberal intellectuals in the United States. The Gospel is lost, and replaced with the United Nations Millenium goals. Now, the Millenium goals are important and good things, but they should not be the focus of a church.

    Akinola is in many ways objectionable, as the earlier commenters have pointed out. But his theological framework is much closer to orthodox Christianity than the Presiding Bishop, and he is willing to extend the episcopal oversight to these parishes that is required for continued membership in the Anglican communion. So much of this has to do with intrachurch politics.

    Traditional Christians simply believe in a sexual morality that is different than today's secular sexual morality. Perhaps a religion can/will be established that accepts today's secular morality, as well as tomorrow's.

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  31. I love Virgina and like reading a blog about bad things about DC. Rename your blog I Hate VA or stick to DC.

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  32. Northern VA is for all intents and purposes DC. These assholes are commuting here!

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  33. Rusty, being a CUA student, I hear this kind of stuff all the time. I've argued this a million times since freshman year, and I'm sick of it. Go back to hating on DC...soon, please!

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  34. wait until these two parishes have to live with the ultra-conservatism of the Anglican church in Africa, which is at the core of their ban on homosexuality. It will not sit well with american men and women who are used to much more freedom of choice and thought. Switching allegiance involves a package deal, but I don't think these folks understand that they are buying the whole package, not just the anti-gay part of it.

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  35. A couple of points here: if the congregations vote to secede, they would be under an American bishop. The Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) is a missionary district of the Church of Nigeria but will eventually be its own province. There are differences here: for one thing, CANA has said that it welcomes applications from women clergy, while the Church of Nigeria does not ordain women.

    Second, the issues here are far beyond sexuality. When the new Presiding Bishop can't even say "no" when Time magazine asks if she's a Unitarian, then a number of very thoughtful people simply come to the conclusion that it's a different faith. Nobody enjoys talking about these issues, and the churches themselves are in the meantime continuing their ministries of helping people and preaching the Gospel.

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  36. This is just another sad triumph for the modern American evangelical movement, which has shamefully chosen to focus on easy moralizing from the Old Law so that their parishoners can keep their McMansions and Lexuses. I imagine Jesus would be astonished to discover that people of such vast wealth, who practice such vulgar and open judgment, think they are following his vision.

    It's true: the message of Jesus is opaque, the historical sources are unreliable, and the canon has been politically perverted. But one thing we do know with about as close to certainty as possible is that "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." 1 Cor 13:2. Any church that has forgotten the message of agape has lost its way indeed.

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  37. "The liberal elements in the mainstream Protestant churches have taken up in support of all sorts of "issues of the day" which run contrary to the Bible and the teachings of Christianity for the past 18 or 19 centuries. Sinful acts are now to be celebrated in the name of "tolerance"."

    That's the most retarded argument I've heard yet. Being an Episcopalian is an ongoing sinful act if you take the 'teachings of christianity for the past 18 or 19 centuries'. Admit it, Christianity is a flexible thing, open to reinterpretation. It's been reinterpreted over and over again. Even the Catholic reiterpreted it as recently as 1976.

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  38. I'm not sure how welcome my comments will be, seeing as I'm one of those 'yucky' Unitarians, but I find it difficult to believe that a savior who spent the bulk of his time with a prostitute is going to take deep issue with homosexual leaders. I know what's in Levicticus, and while it may be part of the Judeo-Christian tradition, you can't deny that most of it (and much of the rest of the old testament) are largely ignored. This is a matter of picking and choosing the scruptures that hold significance for you. I know what Paul said to the Romans, but I also know that Jesus was strangely silent on almost all matters of sexual morality. Doesn't that give anyone pause? In all the churches in all the world, does no one suspect that Jesus didn't comment on this because he deemed it less important than his other teachings? Which begs the question, why do we spend so much time on it?

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  39. Missing SEVERAL of the significant points here guys... I grew up in Truro and am still moderately involved though I've moved out of the DC area. Truro and Falls Church are SIGNIFICANT portions of the Diocese of Virginia and have clearly clearly clearly expressed their opinions on the ordination of gay bishops, the election of Jeffords Schorti to Presiding Bishop and several other national church issues. One of the main issues is the fact that Bishop Peter Lee, despite the clear indication of these churches, who provide a substantial portion of the Diocesan budget, voted blatantly against the wishes of his diocese. As for CANA, it's got about 20 parishes in it already, Truro and Falls Church would just be joining that instead of listening to Lee bitch and moan all the time.

    As for "prominent families" leaving Truro, far far more have left because the stance hasn't been strong enough or fast enough against the movement of the national church. It's hardly an overreaction to be opposing an act within a church that expressly contradicts the ultimate authority that church is supposed to follow.

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  40. To assert that the act "expressly contradicts the ultimate authority that church is supposed to follow" is kind of question-begging, don't you think?

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  41. I like what anonymous said.

    I also like what anonymous said, but I didn't like what anonymous said.

    I don't like anonymous comments.

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  42. I'm an Episcopalian in Oklahoma, and many of the parishioners at the Cathedral here are openly gay men and women who have left less tolerant denominations. They are actively involved in the life of the church. I'm tired of hearing how the"pews are empty" because we've become too liberal. If anything, being welcoming (in accordance with Christ's teachings) has only grown and strengthened our numbers.
    Also, I believe the problem of a committed gay couple "living in sin" could be solved by permitting them to marry.

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  43. I am 100% for gay marriage, but the living in sin was referring to the act of homosexual sex, not the act of being in a homosexual relationship. As long as there is same-sex sex, gays will have trouble finding acceptance into many churches.

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  44. Will the Virginians' precious holiness that they are so determined to defend be okay with the Nigerian church's tolerance for injustice toward women?

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  45. Okay, since you asked... I'll play along.

    First, I'm not an exactly unbiased observer here, I've got a connection to one of the other churches in the VA diocess that is/has/will/might be leaving the Episcopal church.

    One thing that often gets left off is this: Robinson left his wife (and kids) to go shack up with his lover. Forget for a minute that the lover happened to also be a man. That's just not the way bishops are supposed to behave.

    Okay, my take on the "orthodox" view of the matter is that sex outside of marriage is a sin. Period. It doesn't much matter who or when. Since the Bible doesn't sanction gay marriage, gay sex is outside a biblically sanctioned marriage, ergo, it's sinful. Now, I'm sure there are a lot of bishops who conceal their extra-maritial activities. They're at least as bad as Robinson by adding in the dishonesty aspect.

    Also, way deep down, the controversy is about the authority of scripture. There isn't anywhere that I know of in the Bible that mentions homosexuality as anything but sinful. The episcopal church has decided that they can replace scripture when it doesn't agree with what they feel like. That's the real issue. It just happens to involve homosexuality, which, of course, brings in all manner of "ew-that's-ickky/you-bigot!" arguments and gets coverage in the papers.

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  46. Regarding the use of "Mass" for the Episcopal communion service, see below.

    From the First Church of England Prayer Book, Compiled in 1549.
    -------
    THE CONTENTES OF THIS BOOKE.
    [i. through iv., then]
    v. The Supper of the Lorde and holy Communion, commonly called the Masse.

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  47. Gene Robinson left his wife, but not his kids, when he felt he had to. Long, long before he had a lover, his ex-wife was remarried. He maintains an excellent relationship with her and with his children.

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  48. Greg SwartzendruberDecember 07, 2006

    Look, ultimately, Jesus preached love and tolerance, of all people, regardless of their perceived sin. The message of the story of the woman accused of adultery and about to be stoned teaches just that. The stones are metaphors for self-righteous condemnation and remember Jesus' words; "Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone."

    No self righteous leader in a church has the right to condemn anyone for sin. Rather he should; not worry about the speck in his brothers’ eye when there is a log in his own.

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  49. Having seen the writing on the walls years ago - seeing the day coming when this church actually split over gays puts a smile on my lips. And just think - what would be the scene be if the split was over something evil like murder or greed, but because there are some people have sex with members of the same sex?

    The day when religion like what is pushing this split needs to be a museum piece. But to think the southern bigot will put themselves over the rule of black men rather than sit with to a homosexual! Hope we can ALL see the boats come for them.

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  50. Anonymous wrote:

    "One of the main issues is the fact that Bishop Peter Lee, despite the clear indication of these churches, who provide a substantial portion of the Diocesan budget,..."

    These churches have withheld their Diocesan contributions for years. Over the last 5 years all the secessionist churches contributed a total of $41,000 annually to the Diocese with most of that coming from All Saints in Dale City. Besides, why should Bp. Lee take a stand based on how much money those churches contribute? Wouldn't that be extortion or bribery, depending on one's point of view?

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