In Part 1 and Part 2 I talked about my life in the Episcopal Church. It was my Church, and even though it was not perfect (what church is?), I loved it deeply. But sadly, my time in the Episcopal Church was coming to an end. It is hard to know exactly where to start the story. I could start with Bishop Pike in the 1960s or even Bishop Spong and Bishop Righter in the 1980s. But, for the sake of brevity, we will start with Bishop Robinson. In 2003, Gene Robinson was elected as bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. The novelty of his election was not the fact that the new bishop was gay. There had no doubt been gay bishops before him. What made him unique at the time is the fact that he was the first openly practicing homosexual to be elected bishop. While this is no big deal in today’s Episcopal Church, in 2003 the official policy of the Episcopal Church was that all clergy had to be married and faithful or single and celibate, and at this time neither the state nor the Episcopal Church had officially recognized same sex marriage.
In July of 2003, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, held that year in Minneapolis, consented to Robinson’s election. Traditionalists in the Church were saddened but not surprised. After all, this move came right out of the progressive’s playbook. Officially, changes to things like the liturgy, canons, and official doctrine needed to be approved by General Convention before those changes could be implemented. However, in the 1970s progressives learned that it was easier to just go ahead and make the changes themselves on the parish or diocesan level and then dare the House of Bishops or General Convention to stop them. When that didn’t happen, they would make a case to the General Convention that the changes were now normative and they had to officially approve them. The consecration of Gene Robinson was just such a move. It was a line in the sand. The liberals in the Church said, “This is where the Church is going,” and the leadership consented.
The Rev. Eric Zolner
Father Eric is a 3rd generation Anglican and the Rector of All Saints Anglican Church in Springfield, MO.