Rhode Island Episcopal Bishop Falsely Cites Empirical Evidence to Support Marriage Equality
By David W. Virtue
February 4, 2013
Religious figures most often extract from their faith when speaking for or against marriage equality. Their spiritual life either confirms or condemns equality.
Bishop Nick Knisely, the Episcopal Bishop for Rhode Island, bucked that trend recently by citing both faith and science when he declared his support for marriage equality. He weighed the empirical evidence and has seen the light, he says.
"Part of what informs my opinion is that before I became a priest and then a bishop, I was a scientist. So I know the importance of trusting evidence that we see with our own eyes," he wrote in a letter distributed to parishioners this weekend.
VOL: Science demands more than mere observation. It demands that any hypotheses be tested against evidence, evidence that will stand up in a court of law just as DNA does. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as: "a method or procedure that has characterized natural science... consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses." The fact that Knisely says that he has [only] seen with his eyes that gay relationships work (a very small and limited number it should be observed as there are less than 1.5% homosexuals in the nation and even fewer in Rhode Island) does not verify the legitimacy of all (or any) such relationships.
The truth is Knisely is short on science and even shorter on theology. Below is his justification for the legitimacy of same sex relationships from Scripture.
KNISELY: I have seen what St. Paul describes as the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) in the married lives of two men and of two women. I have seen relationships that are loving, mutual, and monogamous and that have lasted a lifetime. Jesus tells us that we must test each tree by looking at the goodness of its fruit (Luke 6:43-45). Across our congregations and communities, I can see the goodness of gay and lesbian couples and their families.
VOL: This is a complete misuse and shameless interpretation of St. Paul's description of the "fruit of the Spirit" in which the apostle says "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."
First of all this interpretation of "fruit" was never uttered in the context of homoerotic relationships. The Apostle would disavow any such use or definition precisely because he condemned such behavior in his epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) - "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (NIV).
In Romans 1:26-27 Paul writes, "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion." (NIV)
There is no parsing of these Scriptures that lends any legitimacy to men and women living in same-sex relationships. Furthermore, there is not a single verse(s) of Scripture from Leviticus to St. Paul that upholds sodomy in any kind of relationship, committed or uncommitted. Knisely conveniently glosses over these Scriptures in favor of a verse that is descriptive of the believer's walk with the Lord. So if two men or two women are in a same sex relationship, they are automatically not exercising the fruit of the (Holy) Spirit because by their behavior they have excluded themselves from the context of St. Paul's exhortation to believers.
Relationships must be weighed against the Bible's specific rejection of sex outside of marriage and Jesus' own words reinforcing Gen. 1 "male and female made he them". That sexual matrix has never been reopened to accommodate post-modern attitudes to sexual behavior, however "loving, mutual, and monogamous" they might be.
Furthermore, the bishop's observation defies the law of non-contradiction. Knisely is making Scripture mean what he wants it to mean and then making it fit the Procrustean bed of homosexual desire that the Apostle Paul eschews.
Knisely cannot have it both ways. He cannot say and affirm what St. Paul does not and then turnaround and use other Scriptures, also written by St. Paul, to affirm something he wants that St. Paul clearly has made no reference. This is a dishonest use of Scripture.
Not only has Knisely blurred the lines between religion and science, he has made a mockery out of Scripture to suit a handful of people, most of whom will never darken the doors of an Episcopal Church. They may applaud what he says, but they are not coming through the Red Doors of an Episcopal Church and dropping large checks in the plate.
Support for marriage equality in Rhode Island is at an all-time high. Knisely is riding the crest of the political (and popular) wave. Rhode Island's House of Representatives passed marriage equality legislation in a 51-19 vote. Its Senate is expected to vote on marriage equality legislation in the spring, after its historic passage in the House last month.
KNISELY: As the Episcopal Bishop of Rhode Island, I support the bill before the General Assembly that would allow same-sex couples to marry in our state, not in spite of my Christian faith, but because of it.
VOL: The Church has been and should be a counter culture. "Be not conformed...but be ye transformed" is the cry of Scripture, specifically St. Paul. By going along with the culture on this very serious issue, he abuses Scripture, compromises the church's stand, a stand not shared incidentally by Roman Catholic Church officials in the state. Evangelicals also eschew the legitimacy of same-sex relationships. Knisely's understanding and interpretation of Scripture is seriously misinformed.
KNISELY: Episcopalians are not unanimous in our views, but in the Episcopal Church we find our unity in common prayer, not in common opinion. Even so, through many years of prayerful discussion, the majority of Christians in the Episcopal Church have come to believe that it is possible, and even common, for two people of the same-sex to live covenanted, faithful lives together in service to God, just as people in traditional marriages do. We have also learned that it is possible to protect the consciences of those who disagree within our church and still live together in community.
VOL: Episcopalians find their unity primarily in Scripture (see Hooker) and not in "common prayer". If that were true, there would be no need for the rise of the Anglican Church in North America, nor would we have seen the flight of some five dioceses from TEC. "Common prayer" does not over-ride heresies and apostasies in which TEC is thigh deep. The Global South, now more than 80% of the Anglican Communion, is united around the authority of Scripture and its clear condemnation of sex outside of marriage. If "common prayer" were the rule, the communion's primates from the Global South would have met in Dublin over "common prayer" with Jefferts Schori. They did not because more was stake than "common prayer" - the very nature of the church and truth itself.
KNISELY: The Episcopal Church has been blessed for many years by the life and ministry of gay and lesbian couples, both lay and ordained. I have seen how they contribute to the common good of a congregation and a community by creating stable, loving homes.
VOL: That is not scientific evidence. It is mere observation at best and pandering at worst. The nature of marriage cannot be changed because a handful of people want it so. It is ontologically impossible and theologically untenable. Bishop Gene Robinson was noted for his narcissism, self-aggrandizement, self-promotion, mucho whining, and a diocese that went nowhere under his administration. He got out early because he saw a way to promote sodomy in Washington DC, get a fat TEC pension, and more money from a think tank. Robinson was ALWAYS about Robinson and never the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
KNISELY to his diocese: "As your Bishop I respect and honor your right to disagree with me. A key part of what it means to be a member of the Episcopal Church is that, as long as we all agree that we believe Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, we can hold varied and diverse opinions on most other issues and still meet each other in Christ at God's altar."
VOL: That will hold till some future General Convention when a resolution is passed making Rites and same-sex marriages mandatory in all dioceses just as it happened with women's ordination. It is spiritual death by a thousand cuts.
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