An Episcopalian Divorce

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TIME: How do you respond to the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire?

Reverend Canon David Anderson: We consider Gene Robinson's election invalid, null and void. It is illegal, in that it violates the moral standards the church has established and uses for the evaluation of who can be a bishop or even a priest. And the time of basically giving a wink and a nod to some people is not acceptable. When those 62 bishops voted, at that moment there was a shattering of the Episcopal church as we know it. The structural disengagement of the church has begun. The question is what will it look like? What will it be? It will evolve over a period of time, with entire dioceses realigning and affiliating with one another. Parishes making their own realignments could potentially involve hundreds and hundreds of lawsuits in courts over property.

TIME: Is there some precedent for this? Episcopalians do not traditionally look for new affiliations within the same geographic area, unlike the Lutherans for instance.

Anderson: That was certainly true before the vote. Things are going to change. The pity is we tried to say this and those on the other side said nothing will happen. The truth is many of them believe nothing will happen. They have made a truly tragic miscalculation and there really isn't anything we can do about it except to recognize the reality of the situation. One perspective we might have is that living in the Episcopal church for the last 25 years has been a theologically abusive life that many of us had endured. The liberal agenda that questioned the authority of scripture, questioned the uniqueness of Jesus really goes back quite a ways. It's just grown and picked up speed. An abusive relationship gets to the point where you just can't live with it anymore?.

TIME: Gene Robinson as a bishop-elect is the straw that broke the camel's back?

Anderson: It is. We've said that and no one has believed us. Just as abusive husbands who beat up on their wives never believe they'll leave and then one morning they're gone.

TIME: Who's coming along with you on this?

Anderson: We're not going to list them. We're going to let them list themselves. We're going to assemble some dioceses. We'll start with a half dozen and anticipate that within 18 or 24 months we can probably double that. All over the country. And we're talking to the international community to make sure that there really is the conviction and the stamina for them to be willing to stand with us. We want to be part of the mainstream of the Anglican Communion.

TIME: How do you do that?

Anderson: We have to prove we can fund ourselves. That's not a problem. We have to certainly prove our theological orthodoxy. There's no question of that. There's really no impediment. Except there is already a province of the United States and of Canada. In the Anglican world, traditionally every country can have its own franchise, its own identity and have as its leader the highest archbishop, called the primate. We do not want to leave the church. We are looking for a new province because in this case the United States and Canada have done such irresponsible actions with regard to the orthodoxy of the Anglican church globally. The communion is tired of American unilateralism. They tell us that. They compare the confirmation of Gene Robinson to George Bush invading Iraq. If we feel it's right we just go and do it and the world be damned.

Kaduna and Jos (both in Nigeria) are places where, this Friday, the Mullahs will download this stuff off the internet and they will read it at Friday prayers at the mosque. About how the Anglican church in the United States is approving homosexuality and has now elevated a homosexual man with a partner to be a bishop of the Anglican community. And Christians will probably die. They may die in Indonesia as well. Sodomy is punishable by death under Sharia law. It's a shame that Islam is that intolerant — that they kill Christians every time there's some wave that comes along. Right on the borders of Christianity and Islam where they're overlapping, there is a tremendous contest for the souls of men and women. Whereas Christianity endeavors to teach peace, Islam often winds up resorting to violence. They tend not to have jails. They cut off a body part or they kill you.

TIME: How is this different from the women's ordination issue?

Anderson: In the Old Testament women had leadership roles — Deborah and others. God created male and female in his image. Come to the New Testament, Jesus seemed to have a ministry that favored women in a culture that did not. On Pentecost morning, the room that had this outpouring happen was filled with women as well as men. God is an equal opportunity employer. But the moral stipulation of how one lives ones life will always be important. The moral code as far as human sexual expression that is blessed is that between a man and a woman. In Genesis God created male and female. He didn't create men and men or women and women. He created male and female with an intention of how their lives and sexuality would be expressed mutually. In the book of Leviticus, it speaks of homosexuality in anything but a favorable light. And that's carried over into the New Testament when Paul talks about homosexuality. Scripture never looks at homosexuality as a freeze frame state of life. It's always the sexual expression of same genders. Scripture does not recognize that anyone has an identity that would be heterosexual or homosexual.

TIME: What's the story of the web site?

Anderson: A reporter went to a mass Gene Robinson spoke at last Thursday and took notes about this ministry he's involved in. The reporter came to me and said you're president of the AAC what do you think of what Gene Robinson said?

I didn't know anything about the Outright ministry. This was Friday afternoon. Saturday late afternoon, somebody brought that ministry up again and I said maybe we should log on and read the stuff and learn about what it is. So we logged on and found ourselves It had a mission statement I didn't particularly care for, but we're not in the same place Gene is. We were bouncing around on the web site and clicked on the top link. It took us to another web site? On that they have multiple windows. We clicked on something called "three pillows" and that's hardcore pornography. The fact that there was a hugely inappropriate direct link to Outright Concord is firmly established. What was not established was Gene's connectedness to that. But he had spoken so glowingly of the Outright Concord chapter that it raised questions and concerns that we didn't have answers for. So anyhow, this is now Sunday in the afternoon. What should we do with this. They're going to be voting pretty quickly. If we put this before the convention it'll look like we deliberately sabotaged everything. On the other hand if we don't do anything, have we served the church? So we asked our bishops to meet with us pretty late Sunday night — about 20 bishops came. We set up a laptop, logged on, got right in. They were astonished. They were flabbergasted. They were speechless. We said we need your counsel. What do we do? No decision was being made. I went back to the hotel and went to bed. They decided to take the information to the chancellor of the church David Booth Beers. Lay it before him and say, what do we do. They gave a DVD to him Monday morning. That was the day after the Deputies had voted for Robinson on Sunday. We had nothing to do with the e-mail from the man in Vermont. The issue for the web site came down to what was the connection of Canon Robinson to the organization, and what was his connection with the web site. He provided answers that proved to be satisfactory. They were checkout. They needed to be checked out. TIME: You're being accused of using a political dirty trick.

Anderson: I'm disappointed , but what do you do? I can say it's not a dirty trick. We didn't set anybody up. TIME: Why did you get involved with the American Anglican Council? What's the organization about for you?

Anderson: It's important for me because I believe in the Bible. I believe in the historic teachings of the Anglican church. I believe the things the church fathers wrote. I believe in the creeds. I feel that a lot of the theological innovation that we have to deal with in the church today is in error. And that the church is modeling itself after the world rather than making an impact to reform the world. I'd like to see the church fulfill the role it did in the apostolic age, when it literally changed the world.

TIME: Does your discomfort with the direction the Episcopal church is going start when you were still a parish priest?

Anderson: Oh yeah. It started probably in the late ?70s. The things I heard priests and bishops saying — well you know, "We have to be understanding of all religions because there are many ways to God, and Christians have Jesus as the Savior. But other religions have their saviors and their ways to God. It really finally doesn't matter so much what you believed as long as you believe something." This isn't right. A bishop came to speak at a church and was doing a Q&A, so I tossed a question out: Are there any groups we should not evangelize? He said certainly there are. Jews and Muslims both have their faith systems. Anybody who belongs to an intact faith community we probably should leave alone. They have their own way to God. People fell out of their pews arguing with the bishop.

TIME: What's the matter with the bishop's answer?

Anderson: What was wrong? It's not true! If you want to be a Buddhist or a polytheist, it would be a wonderful answer. But if you are a Christian and you believe Christian doctrine and you are in the context of 2000 years of Christian understanding of theology, it is flat not correct ? To believe that every religion is equally valid and has its own way to god that works — that's simply not true.

TIME: Isn't this kind of dated arrogance?

Anderson: What is arrogance? Arrogance is if you pretend to know the truth and say someone else's truth isn't truth and it turns out you're not right. That's arrogance. But if you share your truth and say the other person is not true, and it turns out that you are right, then it isn't arrogance.

TIME: There's a certain relief for Gene Robinson and his supporters that this is finally over. You sound the same way to me. Relieved.

Anderson: I am. As I said to start, in a marriage which we might use to characterize the Episcopal church there can be differences, squabbles and fights. But at some point, even though the people may love each other, if violence toward one of them becomes too much it's over. For us it's been a theological violence — of being dismissed, pushed to the margins, our point not recognized, ridiculed. And the things we feel strongly about simply outvoted and pushed over. We've said this is a key issue. Both Gene Robinson and the same sex blessing are two sides of the same coin. Either of these issues is a fatal bullet.

TIME: So why the relief?

Anderson: It's a done deal. We perceive that they have moved to the side to go over Niagara Falls theologically and we're simply going straight down the road where we've been going with the Anglican communion. Here's an interesting thought. Gene Robinson has said there came a point in his marriage where he and his wife still cared for each other but they couldn't live together as man and wife. So they literally went into the church — his words as I understand it — they kept their vows by breaking them. In an open, honest way they released each other from their vows as husband and wife. I have a lot of trouble wrapping my brain around that. Keeping their vows by breaking them. But maybe that's a paradigm for where the Episcopal church is now. I care for my gay friends and colleagues, but I can't live together in union with them anymore.