In a move some say could cause an irreparable rift in the Anglican community, the Episcopal Church USA made history last Sunday as the first Anglican church to ordain an openly-gay bishop. Like branches of the Anglican Communion around the world, the religious community at Yale is feeling the effects of the decision.
The Rev. V. Gene Robinson was inducted as the next bishop of New Hampshire, replacing Bishop Douglas E. Theuner. Several domestic and international branches of the Anglican Communion have already issued statements fundamentally opposing the ordainment of openly-gay ministers. Members of the Yale community represent both sides of the debate.
The Rev. Frederick Streets, Yale University Chaplain, said he recognizes this inherent difficulty, even though he personally welcomes the addition of Robinson to the bishop ranks. He said he thinks this conclusion will be difficult to reach for many religious-minded people.
“Fundamental to the issues is whether or not people are open to the fact that people can be gay and loved by God,” Streets said. “If you don’t think it is inappropriate, then why shouldn’t they have the opportunity to be ordained?”
Streets said he expects the rift to grow in the Anglican Communion for the time being, and he has encountered adverse sentiments to Robinson’s ordainment “in general conversation” with others on campus.
“I think that the Episcopalian community will suffer in the short-run, but in the long-run it will be stronger for it,” Streets said.
According to Streets, Robinson’s ordainment and the subsequent tensions among Anglicans serve to highlight a tenuous trend among churches worldwide: the need to redefine religious morality, particularly in situations without cut-and-dry answers. He said he thinks people tend to look to religion to provide black-and-white answers to the difficult moral quandaries of everyday life.
“A grey area places more responsibility on people to do what is fundamentally right,” he said.
Gifty Kwakye ’05, a member of the Yale Christian Fellowship, said she is more ambivalent about the appointment of Robinson to bishop. Kwakye, who described herself as “mainly Pentecostal,” said her church has both gay and lesbian members, and she does not take issue with gays in general. But she said she is equivocal about a gay man guiding an entire parish.
“The Bible does teach us to love everyone and I will not condemn the man,” Kwakye said. “As to leading a Church, I cannot say.”
Kwakye said she thinks that ultimately, the Church needs to make its own decision.
YCF member Courtney Amos ’06 said she harbors no ill-will toward gays, but she also said the Bible explicitly prohibits homosexuality, and she questions the Church’s decision to ordain an openly gay man.
“It goes against the foundation of what they’re trying to do,” Amos said.
YCF member Christopher Ashley ’05 said he is “embarrassed” by the anti-gay sentiment some branches of the Anglican Communion have expressed, but thinks it is “a real shame” the Episcopal Church USA’s actions “forced the issue” upon the Anglican world.
The Episcopal Church USA contributes 2.3 million members to the 70 million total members of the Anglican Communion, while the Anglican Church of Nigeria — which heads the dissenting branches of the communion, which includes the American Anglican Council — contributes about 17 million, The New York Times reported.