Prominent biblical scholar and Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright has said the Episcopal Church’s recent decision to allow homosexuals to be ordained as bishops will mark a “clear break” with the Anglican Communion and formalizes a “schism.” He also insisted that chastity is not “optional” for Christians.
On Tuesday the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (TEC) voted by wide margins to pass a resolution allowing homosexuals to enter “any ordained ministry” in the church.
Responding to the news was Anglican Bishop of Durham Nicholas Thomas Wright, a scholar of the New Testament who has authored both scholarly works on the historicity of the Resurrection and popular works for the lay reader.
Comparing international Anglicanism to a “slow-moving train crash,” he wrote in a Wednesday column for The Times that the Episcopal Church’s vote marks “a clear break” with the rest of the Anglican Communion.
Saying the Episcopal bishops “knew exactly what they were doing,” he characterized the move as a rejection of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s and other Anglicans’ moratorium on consecrating practicing homosexuals as bishops.
“They were formalizing the schism they initiated six years ago when they consecrated as bishop a divorced man in an active same-sex relationship, against the [Anglican] Primates’ unanimous statement that this would ‘tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level.’”
V. Gene Robinson was installed as Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire in 2004.
Using the words of the 2004 Anglican Windsor Report on Anglican controversies, he said the Episcopal Church has chosen to “walk apart.”
He then described TEC’s claims that they are willing to remain in the Anglican Communion as “cynical double-think.”
He noted that the controversy began even before the consecration of Bishop Robinson, naming a church court’s 1996 acquittal of a bishop who had ordained active homosexuals as a key moment.
“Many in TEC have long embraced a theology in which chastity, as universally understood by the wider Christian tradition, has been optional,” Bishop Wright wrote in The Times.
“Jewish, Christian and Muslim teachers have always insisted that lifelong man-plus-woman marriage is the proper context for sexual intercourse,” he explained. “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 (who carry forward his purposes for that creation).”
Saying that ancient and modern paganism has always found this “ridiculous and incredible,” he said the biblical witness is consistent and “the uniform teaching of the whole Bible, of Jesus himself, and of the entire Christian tradition.”
TEC supporters’ appeal to justice, he said, is misguided. “Nobody has a right to be ordained: it is always a gift of sheer and unmerited grace.” Further, justice means not “treating people the same way” but “treating people appropriately” and making distinctions.
“Justice has never meant ‘the right to give active expression to any and every sexual desire’,” he added.
Noting that everyone has “deep-rooted inclinations and desires,” he said Christians should love what God has commanded and desired, rather than ask God to command what they already love and desire.
Turning to divisions within TEC, he said that while breakaway traditionalist Episcopalians’ motives can be sympathetic, Anglicans should not forget the Episcopalian bishops who voted against the resolution and worshippers who share their beliefs.
TEC is now “distancing itself” from the fellowship of the Anglican Communion, Bishop Wright warned.
“Ways must be found for all in America who want to be loyal to it, and to scripture, tradition and Jesus, to have that loyalty recognized and affirmed at the highest level.”