Russian Orthodox Church Suspends Ties with the Episcopal Church

Decree Against Robinson is Echoed Across Denominations
( [email protected] ) Nov 18, 2003 09:35 AM EST

MOSCOW – Last week, Gene Robinson began his ministry in New Hampshire amid avid cheers from gay rights supporters who called him a necessary “bridge” for the communion. However, in reality, the consecration of the openly gay Robinson has resulted in anything but unity.

"We have no right to allow even a shadow of agreement with their position, which we consider deeply anti-Christian and blasphemous," the Russian Orthodox Church’s Moscow said as it announced a suspension of ties with the Episcopal Church U.S.A., Monday, November 17.

"Homosexual contact has always been considered a grave sin by the Christian Church," the statement continued. "Biblical passages that condemn homosexuality are clear and unequivocal."

"We see a big danger to modern man in the processes taking place in the American Episcopal Church and in certain other Christian communities of the Western world," the Moscow Patriarchate said. "People are gradually getting used to the idea that homosexuality is not a deviation, not a perversion, but just one form of 'love' that even the Church blesses."

"All this leads to a terrible consequence: people with normal sexual orientation are introduced to homosexuality," it continued.

The Russian Orthodox Church, dominant in Russia and several other Eastern-Block countries, was not the only denomination condemning the consecration and blessings of same-sex unions.

On Nov. 12, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement entitled, “Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers About Marriage and Same Sex Unions,” in which homosexual unions were rejected spiritual, social and legal recognition.

"A same-sex union contradicts the nature of marriage. It is not based on the natural complementarity of male and female; it cannot cooperate with God to create new life; and the natural purpose of sexual union cannot be achieved by a same-sex union,” the statement read.

"Across times, cultures and very different religious beliefs, marriage is the foundation of the family. The family, in turn, is the basic unit of society. Thus, marriage is a personal relationship with public significance,” the statement declared. "The state rightly recognizes this relationship as a public institution in its laws because the relationship makes a unique and essential contribution to the common good."

"This point is essential. Marriage, by being true to its God-given nature and purposes, makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good,” the statement continued. "It is a public institution, not simply a lifestyle choice made by two people who can give it whatever meaning they wish.”

In addition to the interdenominational interjections, cataracts of admonition burst within the Anglican Communion, in which the Episcopal Church U.S.A. takes part.

Immediately following the consecration of Gene Robinson, the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, released a statement that stopped short of declaring a permanent schism within the worldwide communion.

“The overwhelming majority of the primates of the global south cannot and will not recognize the office or ministry of Canon Gene Robinson as a bishop," the statement began.

“We deplore the act of those bishops who have taken part in the consecration which has now divided the Church in violation of their obligation to guard the faith and unity of the Church,” the statement declared. “In addition to violating the clear and consistent teaching of the Bible, the consecration directly challenges the common teaching, common practice and common witness within the one Anglican Communion.”

Within the New Hampshire Diocese, where Gene Robinson presides over, conservative parishes have called for “Episcopal oversight” from neighboring districts. Two churches to date have called upon the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to consider geographical realignments within the region so that they may be released from Robinson’s management.

Meanwhile in Istanbul, Turkey, Williams, who leads the 77 million member Anglican Communion, called for a unity across the churches while acknowledging the "difficult questions" faced within the communion. The liberal Williams remains a keen supporter of Robinson and of gay rights.

Nevertheless, the conservative churches expressed hopes of maintaining friendly relations with the American Episcopalians who “clearly pronounce their adherence to the moral teaching” of Christianity.