Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, now retired, recently wrote a blog publicly announcing his divorce. He talks about how much he still loves his partner, Mark, and how tough it’s going to be.
All sorts of questions arise for me. Why does he feel a need to make such a public declaration? He is a public figure, yes…and what he thinks matters to some people I’m sure. Does he feel a need to defend his own divorce, or divorce in general? He confesses, “the details of our situation will remain appropriately private,” so any defense, if that’s his purpose, has to be general.
He talks about Jesus and the Cross to make his case about how tough life may be, especially his own as he parts from his “lover” of 25 years. If he is going to use Jesus for some sort of teaching and guiding about “marriage and divorce,” I wonder why he does not consider what Jesus said about the subject? Jesus was specific and clear (Matt. 19), and nothing in his teaching supports the bishop.
Jesus connected marriage with the order of creation and God’s intention for man and woman (not any two people who may love each other, but one man and one woman). And he connected marriage and divorce with the man and woman becoming “one flesh” in sexual intercourse, being bound together by God in the complementarity of male and female in creation.
In his article, Robinson talks about his confidence that despite all the “pain of parting company…pain too cruciating to envision,” God will have the last word. Well, yes! That affirmation enlivened memory of an article the bishop wrote right after his consecation as a bishop. He called for a “big tent of love” that would include him and his “practices” and affirm his ordination. He quoted G.K. Chesterton: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”
Back then, he was inviting us to understand and accept a concept of marriage that the Church, in faithfulness to Scripture, could not accept. Now, I suppose, he is inviting us to understand and accept divorce, which we should, but not without reminding ourselves that had we been more faithful to Jesus’ teaching on divorce, marriage and family would be much stronger in our culture today.
I wonder if the bishop has considered G.K. Chesterton’s admonition in relation to the order of creation and the nature of marriage and human sexuality. For most of the Christian family around the world, and through the centuries of the Church’s life, Scripture is clear. The problem is, Scripture has not been “tried and found wanting,” it has “been found difficult and left untried.”