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Monday, August 04, 2003

On General Convention


What news! The vote of the bishops on the confirmation of Vicky Gene Robinson has been postponed -- due to one concern that should have been raised much earlier and also due to some shocking allegations. The websites of his organization ("Outright"), up until yesterday, were pornographic themselves or linked to the kind of crud you see if you search for cracks on astalavista. This, while claiming to market themselves to people ages 12-22. Suddenly, after the news was made public, the websites have been cleaned up, but I and many others managed to see and be sickened by them before they were cleaned up and all wrongdoing was denied with shocked, angelic faces. In addition, there's an email that would seem more in place in Boston's Catholic church: Mr. Robinson apparently does not understand the concept of "ok and not ok touching" that we all learned when we were four and our parents worried about our well-being.

Purely a smear campaign by a homophobe, right? Well, some people, foreseeing the website whitewashing, cached the pages themselves, and that is being looked at in the investigation into conduct unbecoming of a bishop; and the accuser begins his letter with the argument, "PLEASE DO allow the development of some sort of blessing of committed same-sex relationships. That symbolism is important and overdue."
I know, through emails, a substantial proportion of the higher-ups opposed to this confirmation. A few feel that a man who makes sacramental vows to God and then breaks them is not to be trusted to hold to his sacramental vows to the church as Bishop. Those people do not consider divorced people of any variety to be proper candidates for church headship. Others could care less what someone does on his own time in his own bed but aren't comfortable appointing as a defender of the faith a man who says that the source and tradition of said faith is wrong or subjective. The majority seem to feel, as I do, that, in certain circumstances, someone can do what the church they swear to obey and uphold says is wrong, be it drinking to excess, atheism, dishonesty, or unallowed sexual behavior, and still repent and hold a high position -- but under no circumstances should they hold a high position while saying that what they are doing is not wrong. They can go be unitarians, or they can form their own church, or do whatever they wish, but such hypocrisy is not in keeping with the church. I'm no vegetarian, but I'd certainly question the honesty of an unrepentant meat-eater in charge of PETA.

One thing all those opposed to Robinson's confirmation have in common is that they would never use dishonest means to achieve their goal -- it would be entirely incongruous with the beliefs defining that goal. (Here I do not speak for the average lay member; I know very little about lay and uninvolved Episcopalians. I speak about clergy and those educated laity involved in the confirmation process.) I have heard prayers that the confirmation would not take place, but next to those prayers are resignation that the church will have to be abandoned should it take steps deemed to be heretical. I have also heard prayers that the confirmation would take place in order that it would hasten an inevitable schism. Deviant methods would disgust the same people disgusted by what they believe to be a church affirmation of sin; deviant methods would drive them out as well, albeit not as quickly.

So, I believe the allegations to be worth looking into and not discarding out-of-hand, as some have already done. I know the first to be true, but I hope the second is not -- the last thing we need is yet another priest getting his jollies off of parishioners.

UPDATE: As for the timing of the sexual misconduct allegations: Michael Hopkins, president of the Episcopal homosexual organization Integrity and one of Robinson's strongest supporters, emphasizes that people with such complaints often come forward at the last minute. If he doesn't automatically assume the timing to prove the claim's falsity, others shouldn't either.

Additionally, about the website charges: what's being reported is that, through several (accounts range from 2 to 6; on Sunday, it only took 2) clicks, you could access run-of-the-mill XXX porn sites from the website in question. Many people, fairly sensibly, are saying that you can get to porn from just about any site, if you go enough links away from it. That's not the whole story, though; what concerned me and others more was in the writing directly on said site (and other OutRight sites). Contests for writing "juicy" and "c---alicious" sex stories, people describing in detail their sexual experiences and giving tips, basically somewhat more than the stuff you'll find in playboy if you're reading the fantasy articles or what you'll find on the 18-plus areas of the About.com webpages. And this aimed at twelve-year-olds. As for the timing of the website charges: I can say quite certainly that hardly anyone had even thought to look at his organization's websites before a few days ago. When they did, they were shocked, and they brought it to the attention of the higher-ups immediately. People weren't looking for material reasons to stop the consecration; they were leaning on theological ones, as the church, one would assume, is based on theology. Of course, theology is played out in material ways; but they didn't need any additional reasons beyond those they already had. (See Kendall Harmon's "con" speech for an example of the reasoning most used, although not all expressed it so calmly or so well.)

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