Local Church Leaders React to Openly Gay Bishop

August 6, 2003 - Posted at: 11:00 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, Ark. -- Rev. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop to be confirmed by the Episcopal Church, is drawing criticism from conservatives in his denomination, calling his election "a pastoral emergency."

The Reverend Daniel Lee Crockett of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Jonesboro says that the decision to confirm Robinson as bishop co-adjutor for the Diocese of New Hampshire, court result in a schism in his denomination.

Unofficially, according to Crockett, his denomination doesn't define people by their sexuality. Officially, however, a resolution passed by the church a few years ago allows for relationships outside traditional marriage, but does not specifically endorse the homosexual lifestyle.

"It specifically states that there are certain monogamous relationships outside the bonds of marriage that the Church will consider holy," said Crockett.

The resolution was reached as a compromise between conservatives and liberal members of the Episcopal Church. Those same two groups are now butting heads over the election of Robinson, who has been openly gay for 17 years.

"Long-term, if there's not some sort of reconciliation, there possibly could be a new province formed within the United States," said Crockett. "Perhaps, not specifically geographic, that could accommodate churches or Christians that feel they are more traditionalists."

The issue of homosexuality is interpreted differently in other Christian denominations. According to Fr. Mark Wood of Blessed Sacrament Church in Jonesboro, Catholicism teaches that having homosexual feelings, tendencies or desires is not a sin in itself, but that it is clear in scripture that any sexual activity outside of marriage is a sin, whether homosexual or heterosexual.

"An openly homosexual man would not be ordained as a priest or deacon," said Wood.

At the Southwest Church of Christ in Jonesboro, they believe homosexuality is contrary to God's will as mentioned in the bible.

"We really should reach out to the homosexual community and offer them a message of hope that things can be different than they are," said minister Jimmy Adcox. "But to lower that standard in the name of political correctness or cultural tolerance, and then to do that in the name of Christianity I think is really unfortunate."

So while other denominations are fundamentally opposed to this homosexual election, St. Mark's Episcopal Church hopes it will not divide them.