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This distinction without a difference comes from a misleading split between being and doing. Would a loving God create a certain portion of humankind to be affectionally drawn to people of the same gender yet deprive them of ever expressing that love, finding intimacy with and commitment to another person and solemnizing that love in the institution of marriage? That surely would be a cruel God, hardly worthy of praise and devotion.
Yet Francis' softening in tone is being reflected elsewhere in the Christian church. Mainline denominations are taking an ever more tolerant approach to homosexuality. Conservative evangelicals, especially younger ones, are looking for a way to affirm gay Christians and the love they come to know with other people. Fuller Theological Seminary, the U.S.'s largest evangelical seminary, has a new OneTable group exploring a biblical way forward in how its members can more deeply accept their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters in Christ. Even evangelicals understand that changing their stance on this issue may be key to attracting young people, whether gay or straight, to the church and keeping them.
Pope Francis' comments may be a baby step toward inclusion--but it is a step that should be greeted with optimism and hope that the church may one day welcome all of God's children. If God is love, as Scripture attests, then surely God is gay love too.
Robinson is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington. He recently retired as the ninth Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire and was the first openly gay bishop elected in the Episcopal Church