Sermons 2003-2004

One Priest's Response to the Election of Gene Robinson
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One Priest's Response to the Election of Gene Robinson
The Reverend Dr. W. Frank King
Rector, St Mark's Episcopal Church
Gastonia, NC
10 August 2003
(With his permission)

One Priest,s Response to the Election
of The Rev. Gene Robinson
as a Bishop in the Church

First and foremost, I need to say that the comments that follow are my own opinions, informed by my own journey, theology, and understanding of the cumulative message of Scripture, and are not in any way intended to reflect the opinions or position of the congregation I serve or of its staff or leadership.

I must admit that I dont know The Rev. Gene Robinson. I have never had the pleasure of meeting him. I know very little about him really. I know that his name is Gene Robinson and by his title I surmise that he is a priest in the church. I dont know what color hair or eyes he has, nor what his favorite colors or style of music are. I dont know if he is a good preacher, or whether he visits his parishioners in the hospital when they are sick and feeling alone. I dont know how he dresses, where he lives, or what he drives. I dont know how much he makes or how he chooses to spend it. I know nothing about his theology or his spirituality, and I have never had the opportunity to ask him about his prayer life. I dont know his parents or if he has siblings, and I dont know what family values motivate him. Oh, I do know one other thing about Gene Robinson. I know that he is homosexual in orientation.

It seems a miraculous thing to me that so many of my Christian sisters and brothers have had the opportunity get to know Gene so much better than I have. If I had been given an opportunity to get to know him a little better, I suppose that I would be as well equipped as my Christian siblings seem to be at making a firm and conclusive judgment concerning the sufficiency of his leadership and pastoral abilities to qualify him as a bishop in the church. Remember, I only really know his name, his title, and his sexual orientation.

I was born in the south in the 50s and I remember being a child in the south in the 60s. I remember The Black Panthers, race riots, curfews, fire bombings, and National Guard tanks in our streets. I knew that I was too young to really understand so I didnt really try. I just accepted that I was white and that I was not supposed to like, associate with or trust those who were black.

When I was in high school I met Wayne, another Eagle Scout from another troop. All I knew about him was that he had the name of Wayne, the title of Eagle Scout and that he was black. Perhaps I had reached the age of reason, or perhaps I was allowing myself to be influenced by my high school biology teacher who always asked that we think very carefully through every problem before making any conclusions and that we apply those methods to life in general.

Over the course of the next year, Wayne and I became friends. I went to his house to work on scout projects and would occasionally stay for dinner. Imagine how surprised I was that his family ate the same foods that my family did (even though they called it soul food and we didnt.) Their house was always neat and tidy and their yard perfectly manicured. What happened was no less than a miracle I came to know and then to respect Wayne as a brother Eagle Scout and not as just a black boy from across town. By then it was the early 70s and a new attitude had dawned for many in our town, not for all of course, but for those who were really weary of the old attitude of judgment, hatred, and separation. Funny, but through the whole thing, I had never perceived myself as prejudiced. Never.

How many times I have heard that the Bible is very clear on the issue of homosexuality and that the clear message which is there for all to receive and believe is that homosexuality is a sin and is repugnant in Gods sight. Since there are only eight passages in the entire Bible that make any reference to homosexuality, it has not been an overwhelming task for me to commit a significant amount of careful study to the entire topic as presented in the Bible. Interwoven with studying these passages, I have also studied the numerous passages that forbid Israels relational interaction with peoples of other races. I have studied as well the yet more numerous passages in both the Old and New Testaments about the sinfulness and repugnancy of divorce, drunkenness and idol worship among the people of God. I have also studied that little passage hidden in the words of Jesus inviting the one who is without any sin, to cast the first stone.

Speaking of the words of Jesus, I have spent my entire professional life piecing them together into a mosaic, trying to grasp the larger picture that he was trying to paint for his disciples. It is perhaps the most curious thing to me that Jesus never mentions anything at all about homosexuality, although he has plenty to say about divorce, an institution with which we Americans seem to have become plenty comfortable over the last several decades. Three years of ministry in numerous towns and villages in Palestine and there is not one single record that Jesus chose to concern himself with homosexuality. In four different Gospel accounts by four different people who were there with him and heard his teachings as well as his exorcisms, you would think that at least one of them would have remembered to include his teachings about homosexuality so that the church in future generations might be properly focused on what was really important.

While it is true that there is no record of Jesus ever offering his opinion about homosexuality, it is also true that Paul offered his on several occasions. It interests me that Paul appears never to have known Jesus personally and there is no record that Paul ever attended one of Jesus impromptu lectures or had him over for dinner. Paul was not only a Jew but an extremely zealous Jew whose spiritual formation actually came at the feet of other rabbis and appropriately credentialed teachers of the law who would have been very familiar with the teachings attributed to Moses. These were the same teachings which were very specific about such things as homosexuality, divorce, idolatry, incest, not eating pork, not charging interest, forgiving all debts every ten years, and putting out of the city limits any who had touched a dead body and thus defiled themselves, only allowing them to enter again after they had made the appropriate offerings to the priests.

I recall in one of Pauls letters that he expressed his joy that he had baptized very few people, thus very few could ever claim that they were his apostles, as some claimed that they were apostles of Apollos and others who had brought them the good news of Jesus. Paul wanted that those who followed Jesus would claim only their standing as apostles of Jesus himself.

I used to wonder why Jesus never mentioned homosexuality. Surely in all of his travels around Palestine and over a period of some thirty three years, he must have encountered at least a few of the men and women that Moses had encountered many centuries earlier and that Paul would encounter only a decade or so later. I used to wonder why homosexuality was not recorded as a significant issue to Jesus, but I dont any more. I figured it out. He simply had more important things to talk about than what people did with their bodies. Its like this: if I came to your house and found that it was on fire, I would probably not step over your body in the foyer where you had collapsed from smoke inhalation and then go and stand in your living room admiring the trophies on your mantle piece and the awards and diplomas on your living room wall. No, I would address that which was really important, that is dragging you to safety and calling 911 to come rescue your family and put out the fire.

At first it seems to our contemporary minds unbelievable that Jesus could find more important things to talk about than homosexuality. Some days it seems that most of us, who still claim to be his loyal followers can find little else to talk about. Why is that? In a nutshell, our culture, driven by the media is fixated on sex, and not having the courage to be the counter culture as we are called to be, we the church have taken the path of less resistance and have adopted the issues of culture to be our own issues. It would seem to me that the bible has quite a bit to say about that as well. The vision of the early church was that the culture would follow the lead of the church, but instead the church through the centuries has adopted and become bound by the stance of servitude and has followed the lead of its contextual culture. We still do, and not only is this error preventing our culture from seeing the grace of Jesus in us, it is resigning us to a slow and very painful death.

So, if there is no record of Jesus commentary on homosexuality one way or the other, what did he talk about? What could possibly have been more important to the Son of God made flesh? Well, Jesus talked about love, compassion, wholeness, forgiveness, and reconciliation. He talked about things of the heart. My own conclusion is that Jesus was infinitely more concerned with what was in a mans heart and what he did with that than what was in a mans undergarments and what he did with that.

Beloved, we will not find the peace that passes all understanding until we stop following the interests of the media to which we are addicted and begin following the interests of Jesus to whom we desperately need to be addicted. Until we, the church of Jesus Christ, have succeeded in converting the hearts of men and women to the message of love and reconciliation, we have no right whatsoever to commit ourselves to the business of addressing any other part of them. Even so, when we have reached the hearts of all those in our own domestic mission field with the message of love, then we will still have before us the work of reaching their heads, their hands, and their feet for Christ.

Which of us in a lifetime can bring about the conversion of every heart to the grace and mercy of God in Christ? Sadly enough not one has succeeded in the lifespan of the church including our own generation, so in search of something that we can do in the short time we have, we skip over this work and attack something so important, so riveting, that Jesus Christ never found it important enough to address.

Whatever I have been taught about homosexuality is of no importance here. Whatever I have come to personally believe about homosexuality being right or wrong or neither is of no importance here not until I have come to fully understand and appreciate the heart of each and every man and woman I encounter AND have done all in my power to show Christs love in my heart and to encourage the love of Christ in that other persons heart.

In conclusion, I believe that until we have come to know ourselves victorious in the simple yet pivotal command of Jesus to love one another, then we truly have no business committing our interests and energies to any lesser cause. Some years ago it was popular to ask the then new question now an overused cliché what would Jesus do? Perhaps it is time that we ask that question again, seriously ask it, and then listen, truly listen with our hearts, for his reply.

Let us pray. Lord God we know that we are made in your image, yet it is painfully obvious that we are all broken and that we have fallen from that image again and again in numerous ways. Give us your eyes so that we might see as you see, your mind that we might think as you think, and your heart that we might love as you love, for only when we have gained your sight, your thoughts, and your love, will we be like you. Until then, please Lord, give us patience with ourselves, and above all give us the wisdom to know how to love and the courage to really do it. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.