First Openly Gay Episcopal Bishop Says St. Paul Was Condemning Homosexual Acts by Heterosexuals

February 3, 2010 - 6:25 PM
In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul was only condemning heterosexuals who engage in same-sex acts and not homosexuals, said  the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly homosexual Episcopal bishop.

Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal church. (Wikipedia Commons)

(CNSNews.com) – In a section of his New Testament letter to the Romans (1:22-27) dealing with God’s admonitions against same-sex relations, St. Paul was actually writing about heterosexuals who engage in same-sex acts and not homosexuals, said  the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal church.

“We have to understand that the notion of a homosexual sexual orientation is a notion that’s only about 125 years old," Bishop Robinson told CNSNews.com. "That is to say, St. Paul was talking about people that he understood to be heterosexual engaging in same-sex acts.  It never occurred to anyone in ancient times that a certain minority of us would be born being affectionally oriented to people of the same sex.”
 
At the National Press Club on Tuesday, CNSNews.com asked Bp. Robinson: “St.  Paul wrote in the Book of Romans, ‘Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.  … Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.  … Men committed indecent acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.’  So my question is, was St. Paul right in—about engaging in homosexual acts as being against nature?”
 

 
Bishop Robinson answered: “The question you ask takes about two days to answer, but I’ll try to give you the Cliffs Notes version which is: One of the things we have to understand is that any piece of scripture needs to be understood in its own context.  We have to understand that the notion of a homosexual sexual orientation is a notion that’s only about 125 years old.

“That is to say, St. Paul was talking about people that he understood to be heterosexual engaging in same-sex acts," said Bishop Robinson. "It never occurred to anyone in ancient times that a certain minority of us would be born being affectionally oriented to people of the same sex.  So it did seem like against their nature to be doing so.”
 
“The other thing about St. Paul,” Robinson said, “is that he was also speaking out against a practice known to him and both the Roman and the Greek world, and would have been known in the Palestinian culture there of an older man taking a younger boy under his wing, using him sexually, and so on.  No one’s—that’s child abuse.  No one is arguing for that today.  We would all be against that.  We would all agree with St. Paul on that.”
 
“So the real question when you look at scripture is, ‘What did it mean to the person who wrote it?’” said Bishop Robinson. “’What did it mean for the audience to whom it was written?’  And only then can we ask, ‘Is it eternally binding?’  And in this case, I would say, the things that St. Paul was against, I’m against, too.”
 
Robinson added, “The question is, are there any answers there for what we’re asking today, which is the rightfulness of faithful, monogamous, lifelong-intentioned relationships between people of the same sex, and the Bible simply does not address that.”
 
CNSNews.com asked the follow-up question, “So you would say then that St. Paul is incorrect in this passage?”
 
Bishop Robinson said, “No. I think St. Paul was absolutely correct in his own context given what he knew, and given the behavior which he was describing.  The questions we’re asking today are about a completely different set of circumstances.”
 
Bishop Robinson was asked by President Barack Obama to deliver the invocation at the opening presidential inaugural ceremonies at the Lincoln Memorial on Jan. 18, 2009.
 
Bishop Robinson spoke with CNSNews.com following a press conference to announce the “American Prayer Hour,” a new, multi-city event designed to “affirm inclusive values and call on all nations, including Uganda, to decriminalize the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.”
 
Other panelists at the press conference included Harry Knox, member of Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and director of the religion and faith program at Human Rights Campaign; Bishop Carleton Pearson, senior minister at Christ Universal Temple in Chicago; Frank Schaeffer, author and journalist; Rev. Elder Darlene Garner, pastor at Metropolitan Community Church; Rev. Barry W. Lynn, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State; and Moses, a Ugandan citizen seeking asylum in the United States to escape abuse in his own country based on his sexual orientation.
 
A transcript of CNSNews.com’s exchange with Bp. Robinson follows below:
 
CNSNews.com:  “St.  Paul wrote in the Book of Romans, ‘Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.  … Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.  … Men committed indecent acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.’  So my question is, was St. Paul right in—about engaging in homosexual acts as being against nature?”
 
Bishop Robinson:  “The question you ask takes about two days to answer, but I’ll try to give you the Cliff’s Notes version which is—one of the things we have to understand is that any piece of scripture needs to be understood in its own context.  We have to understand that the notion of a homosexual sexual orientation is a notion that’s only about 125 years old.”
 
Bishop Robinson:  “That is to say, St. Paul was talking about people that he understood to be heterosexual engaging in same-sex acts.  It never occurred to anyone in ancient times that a certain minority of us would be born being affectionally oriented to people of the same sex.  So it did seem like against their nature to be doing so.” 
 
Bishop Robinson:  “The other thing about St. Paul is that he was also speaking out against a practice known to him and both the Roman and the Greek world and would have been known in the Palestinian culture there of an older man taking a younger boy under his wing, using him sexually, and so on.  No one’s -- that’s child abuse.  No one is arguing for that today.  We would all be against that.  We would all agree with St. Paul on that.” 
 
Bishop Robinson:  “So the real question when you look at scripture is, ‘What did it mean to the person who wrote it?  What did it mean for the audience to whom it was written?’  And only then can we ask, ‘Is it eternally binding?’  And in this case, I would say, the things that St. Paul was against, I’m against, too.” 
 
Bishop Robinson:  “The question is, are there any answers there for what we’re asking today, which is the rightfulness of faithful monogamous lifelong-intentioned relationships between people of the same sex, and the bible simply does not address that.
 
CNSNews.com:  “Okay.  So you would say then that St. Paul is incorrect in this passage?”
 
Bishop Robinson:  “No.  I think St. Paul was absolutely correct in his own context given what he knew, and given the behavior which he was describing.  The questions we’re asking today are about a completely different set of circumstances.”