'It's their choice'

Local Episcopal priest discusses New Hampshire's first gay bishop

In the wake of the affirmation of a gay Episcopal bishop in New Hampshire, Father Tom White of Saint Mark's Episcopal Church in Craig said he's not surprised and not alarmed by the move.

"I agree with what our bishop says, which is that the people of New Hampshire know the man well, and it's their choice," White said.

Furthermore, White said he doesn't feel the issue is a major concern in his congregation.

"I've not addressed that issue in my sermons," White said.

White will distribute a letter to his congregation Sunday from the bishop of Colorado, Jerry Winterrowd.

In the pastoral letter, Winterrowd says, "Since my ordination as your bishop, I have never failed to vote for the confirmation of another bishop believing that the dioceses that elected had followed proper canonical procedures and were entitled to determine the best person to be a 'wholesome example' as the spiritual leader of their diocese. I believe the election in New Hampshire fulfilled that expectation."

The bishop's letter spoke of the emotionally charged convention he attended in Minneapolis. The bishop said he arrived at the 74th General Convention of the church ready to vote against the affirmation of Rev. Canon Gene Robinson, believing it to be a "de facto" approval of the blessing of gay men and lesbians.

"I became convinced through prayer and some serious listening that I should vote for confirmation," Winterrowd said.

White said while some may see Robinson's affirmation as "opening the flood gates for all the issues of homosexuality," he doesn't agree.

The priest said he thinks people who voted for the affirmation of Robinson would not support gay marriage, for example.

But White said he recognizes the importance of addressing sexual issues.

"We intend to do a structured program on the first Sunday in September that deals with human sexuality," White said.

White will present a video, a Lutheran publication, that will precede a discussion about sexual issues.

While cultural change has some influence on the interpretation of the Bible, White said some things in the Bible were influenced by the culture of its time, too.

"We're not locked in to believing that every word in the Bible is spoken by God," White said of the Episcopal Church.

White said his church does not subscribe to a literal interpretation of the Bible.

"I think when you get locked in to that, it gives you more difficulty being able to speak to the issues of the day," White said.

And on the issue of homosexuality, White said the Episcopal Church isn't the only church for which it is a pressing matter.

"We've got a lot of company in this," White said. "The Lutherans are struggling with this, the Presbyterians and the Methodists."

They are all trying to discern what is God's will in this place, White said.

Promiscuity, White said, is not God's will, despite a person's orientation. Counseling gays or lesbians, White said he would focus on promiscuity.

According to White, "I would encourage them not to be promiscuous. That's the best thing I could do for them, really."

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com.

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