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HERESY: The Deceptive and Insulting Sermon of Vickie Gene Robinson

Equating racial discrimination with Biblical rejection of homosexuality insults blacks, says black priest and activist layman

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue

The new bishop of New Hampshire V. Gene Robinson said in a sermon in Chicago honoring the 200-year old ordination of Absalom Jones the first African-American priest ordained in the Episcopal Church, that his own oppression as a gay man is equal to that of "people of color."

"The real sin, of course, of any oppression is making an object out of another human being. Treating people as if they were a commodity, an it. Slavery, of course, being the ultimate," said Robinson.

"People of color. Women. Gay and lesbian folk. The physically disabled. The aged. All oppressed and all [are] offered liberation by this great God of ours, declaring the humanity and not the objectification of those people."

Robinson pointed to the Prophet Isaiah and the 61st chapter. "It talks about the kinds of oppressions that we are all dealing with, and what you and I are called to do, along with saints like Absalom Jones, in our own ministries."

"We're having a bit of a controversy in the Episcopal Church right now. I think you probably noticed. It seems to have something to do with an election in New Hampshire, and a consent given by the General Assembly," said a cynical Robinson.

"Could it be, could it be that God is inviting us to go deeper? Could it be that God is asking us to pull our boat out into deeper waters so that we might get to know God better?"

"As surely as Jesus was inviting Peter to stretch his notion of God's will, as surely as Absalom Jones was stretched to believe in his own humanity in a culture poisoned by the sin of slavery, so you and I are called to stretch our notion of God's love to all people, especially and always to those on the margins.

Robinson's invitation to go to a "deeper place" is much favored by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.

But Robinson's mixing of race and sexuality issues outraged several leading Black leaders including Philadelphia Black Anglican priest the Rev. James Johnson.

"I was saddened to read V. Gene Robinson's "sermon" on Isaiah 61:1-3ff. This passage is one of the great "Jubilee" passages of Scripture. It declares that now is the season of reprieve and rest, of pardon and deliverance for penitent sinners and yet it also warns of a final coming day of God's vengeance upon those who let this season of Jubilee pass by."

"What is tragically ironic is that this very passage which Mr. Robinson uses to argue explicitly for gay liberation and implicitly for the "wholesomeness" of at least some homosexual relations, in actuality calls upon him and us all, to repent of our sinful ways while God has let open the floodgates of His mercy. Far from being a rallying cry for homosexual rights, this passage calls for the homosexual to repent of his homosexuality."

Johnson said he found Robinson's contrast of Absolom Jone's being black with his [Robinson's] being gay outrageous.

"This offensive ploy used by Robinson to sway the biblically illiterate, is the equation of being Black (or white) with being gay (or straight); that homosexuality is as non-morally relevant as skin pigmentation in the consideration of justice for all human beings. This is pure sophistry! Skin pigmentation is a small part of the beautiful diversity of the good created order and is to be celebrated as such. Racial prejudice and oppression demean God's created order and as such are part of the effects of the Fall. The error of Mr. Robinson is to consider homosexuality as part of the beautiful diversity of creation and not of the effects of Fall. The false parallel is between the struggle for racial justice and homosexual liberation. The true parallel is between racial oppression and homosexual practice and desires, as both are effects of the Fall which demeans the crowning glory of God's created order - man and woman."

Johnson said that St. Paul in Ephesians 5:31-32 records that from the beginning, manhood and womanhood were created to represent or dramatize God's relation with his people and to Christ's relation to his bride, the Church. "In this drama, the man represents God or Christ and is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. The woman represents God's people or the Church. And sexual union in the covenant of marriage represents pure, undefiled, intense heart-worship. That is, God means for the beauty of worship to be dramatized in the right ordering of our sexual lives."

Johnson said that as a result of The Fall, "we have exchanged the glory of God for images, especially of ourselves. The beauty of heart-worship has been destroyed. Therefore, in judgment, God decrees that this disordering of our relation to him be dramatized in the disordering of our sexual relations with each other. And since the right ordering of our relationship to God in heart-worship was dramatized by heterosexual union in the covenant of marriage, the disordering of our relationship to God is dramatized by the breakdown of that heterosexual union."

Johnson said that homosexuality was the most vivid form of that breakdown. "God and man in covenant worship are represented by male and female in covenant sexual union. Therefore, when man turns from God to images of himself, God hands us over to what we have chosen and dramatizes it by male and female turning to images of themselves for sexual union, namely their own sex. Homosexuality is the judgment of God dramatizing the exchange of the glory of God for images of ourselves." Isaiah 61 is calling upon us all to repent while there is still time, he said.

Dr. Michael Howell a cradle Episcopalian who says he is proud of his black Caribbean heritage, blasted Robinson's sermon saying, "as a black Christian and as a sinner who understands his dire need for redemption through the cross of Jesus, I am deeply appalled over Robinson's attempt to draw parallels between homosexuality and racial justice. It represents a very dangerous combination of ignorance and deceit. I am gravely concerned that sincere people who are struggling to understand why homosexual behavior is never compatible with the Christian faith, will only be drawn further away from the truth by this type of false teaching."

While acts of violence or hatred against any human being can never be condoned, the circumstances that precipitate these acts have different underlying causes and therefore, require different courses of corrective action, said Howell an activist Episcopal layman and professor of marine geology who is active in a wide variety of ministries in the Episcopal Church.

"Race is a characteristic of all human beings which is based on genetic factors which cannot be chosen by individuals. The current preponderance of peer-reviewed scientific research has demonstrated that homosexuality can only be classified as a pattern of behavior. No current evidence supports the hypothesis that people are born "homosexual", in the manner that someone is born with physical attributes that are common to a particular racial group."

Howell said behavior is the result of many complex factors, including interaction with one's environment, and unlike race, behavior can be (consciously or sub-consciously) chosen, modified or eradicated. "The large number of former homosexual practitioners who have successfully undergone reparative therapy to address same-sex attraction clearly supports this."

"We cannot get around the clear fact that scripture always condemns homosexual behavior, both in terms of what is written and what can be inferred from careful and rigorous biblical scholarship. Scripture also presents a clear case against racism in its various forms (e.g., slavery, miscegenation). As Dr. Robert Gagnon points out in "The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Theory, Analogy and Genes", scripture never condones slavery and eventually advocates its curtailment and eradication. Moreover, there are many specific passages and themes that argue against racial discrimination (e.g., Numbers 12), as well as the clear message that people of all races and cultures should be redeemed and reconciled to him through his son, Jesus the one and true Christ. The voice of scripture does not consider race as a condition that requires transformation, while homosexual behavior is clearly against God's created order."


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