Episcopal priest disagrees with gay bishop confirmation
While personally disappointed with the Episcopal Church's decision to confirm an openly gay bishop, the Rev. John Rasmus, pastor of St. Paul's Episcopal Church of Hudson, isn't ready to break from the church over the issue.
"There has always been a wrestle about truth in the church," Rasmus said in an interview Tuesday morning. "I think we need to be patient with one another, because God seems to sort these things out over time."
Rasmus was one of eight delegates from the Diocese of Eau Claire who voted in the House of Deputies at the denomination's general convention last week in Minneapolis on whether to recommend the Rev. Gene Robinson as the bishop of Vermont.
While Rasmus voted against Robinson's appointment, the House of Deputies recommended him by a roughly 2-to-1 margin. The House of Bishops then confirmed the appointment by a 62-to-45 vote.
The bishop of the Diocese of Eau Claire voted against confirmation while Minnesota's bishop supported it.
Some pastors and parishes have threatened to break with the Episcopal Church over the issue.
Rasmus said he voted against Robinson's confirmation because in his opinion the Bible clearly identifies gay sex as a sin.
"As members of the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion, we've always used Scripture as our base for authority," he said.
He added that Episcopalians traditionally have believed that Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
"The Holy Spirit is consistent in his voice, I believe," Rasmus said. "I don't believe the Holy Spirit disagrees with what has been spoken before... We're not free to disregard it."
He added that Christianity is about Jesus Christ. "It's not about me... I have to surrender my wishes, my desires, my yearnings, my preferences, my habits, or be willing to, because of the overwhelming call of Christ."
Rasmus also noted that Jesus commanded his followers to love all people.
"But when we're called to love somebody, we're not called to bless their sin, but to embrace them in care," he said.
Rasmus also called for welcoming gay individuals into the church, however, and having tolerance for people with differing opinions.
"It's absolutely critical that the church do a better job of reaching out to our brothers and sisters in Christ who find themselves homosexual persons," he said. "As a church, we probably haven't done a very good job of that. I think to a certain extent we're reaping some of what we sowed there. But at the same time, the answer isn't for us to suddenly overturn Scripture because of that. We have to find ways to be loving and caring to people. And we can't love and care for people if we don't speak the truth in love; where there is sin, to challenge and encourage others to enter into a life of holiness."
Rasmus said that unlike some Episcopal priests who are ready to leave the church, he favors remaining in the body.
A meeting of leaders of the wider 80 million-member Anglican Communion has been called to address the issue, and Rasmus is hopeful that a resolution more satisfactory to conservatives might come out of that gathering.
"I think there may be some repercussions," he said. "I don't know what they will be, but I'm interested to know because the wider Anglican Communion still holds, in my opinion, the traditional faith of the church. I feel very connected to the Anglican Communion. I feel very connected to this wider church."
Rasmus said his message for his 220- to 250-member congregation is to continue to be about the work of Christ.
"We have seen in Hudson a tremendous coming together of various denominations working together for the mission of Jesus Christ," he said. "If we can do that between denominations, then Episcopalians ought to be able to do that within their denomination, even if there is error."
He invited anyone who wonders what the recent decision means to St. Paul's Episcopal to "come and see."
"Come and see that we are people who worship and love God, and will love the stranger in our midst and receive him or her as a brother or sister in Christ."
The church is located at 502 County UU east of Hudson. Sunday services are at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.