Bigotry or Obedience?

colson2As you have, no doubt, read in the newspaper or seen on television, the Episcopal Church in the United States seems to be breaking up. Just last month, several prominent Virginia parishes voted to leave the church.
Why? Well, the media would have you believe that the sole issue driving the split is homosexuality, or even more narrowly, the ordination of a homosexual bishop in New Hampshire: “There they go again, those anti-gay bigots.”
But the issues behind the Episcopal Church’s disintegration are much broader and deeper than just the matter of sexual behavior. They have to do with acceptance of scriptural authority. But characteristically, sexuality is the aspect of the matter on which the media has chosen to focus. On Christmas Day, for example, the New York Times ran a front-page attack on Anglican Bishop Peter Akinola. Bishop Akinola is a Nigerian bishop under whom many former Episcopal churches are now uniting. The Times made its agenda clear in the article’s subhead, which referred to Bishop Akinola as “an anti-gay Nigerian.” Let’s face it: This is not front-page news because the New York Times editors are concerned about church splits. I doubt they would have covered Martin Luther if the Reformation were going on today. This is front-page news because the Times can use it to make Christians look bigoted. Why else would they lead off the article with a description of how Bishop Akinola was once taken aback to find that he had just shaken hands with a homosexual? As one who has ministered to homosexual prisoners and AIDS victims for twenty-five years, I do not endorse his reaction, but it sounds like naïveté and inexperience. What I do take issue with is the Times and other critics telling us we are bigots. I have been in those prisons and seen our people ministering to AIDS victims over the years. I don’t see these critics there. I see our people doing this day in and day out. In any event, it’s telling that the Times would choose to draw attention to something like this rather telling you what is really behind it. In leaving the Episcopal Church, many of these congregations are enduring public scorn and potentially devastating financial loss—including the loss of their church buildings, pastors’ pensions, and so forth. Why? Because, in conscience, they must remain true to Scripture and their convictions. The issue is orthodoxy, not homosexuality. Bishop Akinola gets to the heart of the matter in a profound and thought-provoking essay: “The point here,” he writes, “is not of separating from sinners . . . but objecting strongly to yielding to the . . . worldly spirit of a materialistic, secularist and self-centered age, which seeks to mould everyone into its own tainted image. “Our argument,” the bishop continues, “is that if homosexuals see themselves as deviants who have gone astray, the Christian spirit would plead for patience and prayers to make room for their repentance. When Scripture says something is wrong and some people say that it is right, such people make God a liar.” That’s the real issue here, and that’s the issue Christians must continue to focus on. There’s certainly room for discussion of Bishop Akinola’s views and how he relates to homosexuals. But let’s not forget why he and the U.S. churches now under his oversight are doing what they’re doing: It is because they choose orthodoxy. They believe in the Word of God, and they will obey it. That’s what we all need to be concerned about, whether the media gets it right or not.  
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For Further Reading and Information
Lydia Polgreen and Laurie Goodstein, “At Axis of Episcopal Split, an Anti-Gay Nigerian,” New York Times, 25 December 2006. Peter Akinola, “Why I Object to Homosexuality and Same-Sex Unions,” The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). The Rev. John Yates and Os Guinness, “Why We Left the Episcopal Church,” Washington Post, 8 January 2007, A15. Harold Meyerson, “Episcopals Against Equality,” Washington Post, 20 December 2006, A23. Alan Cooperman and Jacqueline L. Salmon, “Episcopal Churches’ Breakaway in Va. Evolved over 30 Years,” Washington Post, 4 January 2007, A01. Bill Turque and Michelle Boorstein, “7 Va. Episcopal Parishes Vote to Sever Ties,” Washington Post, 18 December 2006, A01. Gina Dalfonzo, “A ‘Self-Inflicted Wound’,” The Point, 19 December 2006. Zoe Sandvig, “The Falls Church Theses,” The Point, 8 January 2006. Mollie Ziegler, “You Take the Good, You Take the Bad,” Get Religion, 19 December 2006. Learn more about The Falls Church and Truro Church. BreakPoint Commentary No. 040505, “As Long as We All Get Along: Selling Truth for Unity.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 050322, “Voted off the Island?: The Southern Christian Struggle against Apostasy.” Allan Dobras, “Awaiting an Episcopal Revolution,” BreakPoint Online, 11 July 2006. Allan Dobras, “A Tale of Two Denominations,” part one and part twoBreakPoint Online, 9-10 January 2006. “Trouble in the Church”—a “BreakPoint” interview with the Rev. John Yates of The Falls Church. This CD includes a talk by Dr. J. Budziszewski on a Christian perspective of homosexuality and marriage.


Chuck Colson


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