The first openly homosexual Episcopal bishop, V. Gene Robinson, has claimed that the Bible does not address the ethics of “monogamous, lifelong” homosexual relationships. He suggested that the people of St. Paul’s times did not realize that some people were “affectionally oriented” to their own sex.
On Tuesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., CNSNews.com spoke to Bishop Robinson about St. Paul’s condemnation in the Book of Romans of “unnatural” relations and “indecent acts” between members of the same sex. CNSNews.com asked if St. Paul was right to say homosexual acts were against nature.
The bishop said Scripture needed to be understood “in its own context.”
“We have to understand that the notion of a homosexual sexual orientation is a notion that’s only about 125 years old,” he added.
“That is to say, St. Paul was talking about people that he understood to be heterosexual engaging in same-sex acts," said Bishop Robinson.
The concept “heterosexual” also only dates to the nineteenth century, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
"It never occurred to anyone in ancient times that a certain minority of us would be born being affectionally oriented to people of the same sex,” the bishop told CNSNews.com “So it did seem like against their nature to be doing so.”
He also claimed that St. Paul was condemning the practice of his times, in which older men sexually used younger boys.
“So the real question when you look at Scripture is, ‘What did it mean to the person who wrote it?’” said Bishop Robinson. “‘What did it mean for the audience to whom it was written?’ And only then can we ask, ‘Is it eternally binding?’ And in this case, I would say, the things that St. Paul was against, I’m against, too.”
He said the question today should be the rightfulness of “faithful, monogamous, lifelong-intentioned relationships between people of the same sex.’”
According to the Episcopal bishop, the Bible “simply does not address that.”
Robinson, who was married and has two daughters, divorced his wife and is now involved in a homosexual relationship. His ordination heightened conflict between the Episcopal Church and the global Anglican Communion of which it is a part.
Bishop Robinson delivered the invocation at the presidential inaugural’s opening ceremonies at the Lincoln Memorial on Jan. 18, 2009.
The bishop’s interpretation of Scripture is shared by some homosexual activists but not adhered to by most Christians. Homosexual tendencies are described as “objectively disordered” by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, while homosexual acts are “contrary to the natural law” and can “under no circumstances” be approved.
Biblical scholar and Anglican Bishop of Durham N.T. Wright has also criticized some Episcopalians’ theology for treating chastity as “optional.”
“Jewish, Christian and Muslim teachers have always insisted that lifelong man-plus-woman marriage is the proper context for sexual intercourse,” he explained in the London Times.
“This is not (as is frequently suggested) an arbitrary rule, dualistic in overtone and killjoy in intention. It is a deep structural reflection of the belief in a creator God who has entered into covenant both with his creation and with his people.”
This understanding is “the uniform teaching of the whole Bible, of Jesus himself, and of the entire Christian tradition,” he wrote.