Who's on Trial - The Heretic or the Church?

April 7, 1996

by  Bruce Bawer

.... In the afternoon, Rehill begins his case by challenging Blankenship's opening references to order, authority and "family values." "None of them," Rehill states, "is what this case is about. This case is about whether there is doctrine in the Episcopla Church prohibiting this ordination." A narrow constructionist, Rehill argues that "doctrine is the fundamental tenets that must be believed in order to be a member of this church." In the Episcopal Church, he says, the accepted sources of doctrine are Scripture, the Book of Common Prayer and the historic creeds. "If it isn't there," he states, "it isn't doctrine." The line recalls Johnnie Cochran's mantra, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit." ...

Rehill, in his rebuttal asks: "Does the Episcopal Church have a doctrine on sexual morality? Yes. I believe it has to do with love, with consent, with caring, with commitment." [Bishop] White asks Rehill to cite the Scripture and tradition that supports this view.Rehill replies that he has read the Gospels over and over. "I wanted to find out what our Lord had to say about homosexuality. And it isn't there." Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, Rehill notes.Neither did Jesus uphold heterosexual marriage as the only acceptable human condition. But he did pronounce the second great commandment: "Love your neighbor as yourself." "What Jesus is talking about," Rehill says, "is love and compassion. He teaches us about loving and caring relationships. And then I look at these relationships" - committed same-sex unions - "and say, 'Is there something about these relationships that's inconsistent with the message Jesus brought us?'" No, he says.

In these few words, Rehill has summed up my own understanding of the essential meaning of Christianity...

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