A Bishop Unveiled God’s Secrets While Keeping His Own

The revelation of his hidden world comes at a time of deep tension within the Episcopal Church of the United States over the issue of homosexuality. Since the church ordained an openly gay bishop in the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003, a dozen congregations in various parts of the country have withdrawn from the American branch of the church and aligned themselves with theologically conservative African or South American branches of the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is a part.

Those African and South American branches have described homosexuality as “an offense to God.”

At St. John the Divine, where inclusiveness toward those of all backgrounds and sexual orientations has long been fundamental to the culture of the congregation ”” in part as a result of Bishop Moore’s leadership ”” the reaction was more complicated.

“I’d like to say that we all have secret lives ”” and that’s why we come here,” said Mary Burrell, a longtime member of the congregation. “We are all sinners, trying to find our way.”

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Parishes

29 comments on “A Bishop Unveiled God’s Secrets While Keeping His Own

  1. The_Elves says:

    Ummm. Huh? The NY Times needs to do better research:

    [i]Since the church ordained an openly gay bishop in the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003, [b]a dozen congregations[/b] in various parts of the country have withdrawn from the American branch of the church[/i]

    Heck, more than a dozen congregations have left in Virginia alone. Or the diocese of Florida. Another dozen between CONSERVATIVE dioceses Dallas and Central Florida.

    Get a clue New York Times.

    –a frustrated elfgirl

    P.S., I know the NY Times has very capable reporters, such as Neela Bannerjee, who have covered the Anglican beat competently and would not have made this mistake.

  2. tired says:

    #1: Apparently puff editorial pieces from the NYT, such as this, do not merit even the shallowest foray into the facts. It gets in the way of the programming.


  3. Jackson says:

    What was so disappointing was that no one interviewed had any sympathy for Bishop’s Moore’s wife and children. The story ought to be about infidelity to marriage vows. It is not about secrets, its about lies.

  4. Kendall Harmon says:

    I discussed the numbers in some detail here:


    It doesn’t help when some national leaders continuously present a false picture.

  5. Br. Michael says:

    I knew an “orthodox” Episcopal priest who took a very strong view on remarriage after divorce. It simply wasn’t permitted. Then he got divorced and he remarried. It was simply amazing how quickly his theology changed.

    This serves to remind my how quickly we can sin and ask the question: “Did God really say…?” It also serves to show me how quickly we can put ourselves and wants ahead of what God want for us.

  6. The_Elves says:

    Jackson, thanks for your comment. I agree 100% with your observation.

    I didn’t mean to direct the thread to a focus on TEC departure figures. It was just that I found that error so glaring as to be highly distracting. Such an error suggests bias or at least such ignorance of the subject matter as to make it hard to take the article seriously.

  7. MarkP says:

    Br. Michael said, “I knew an “orthodox” Episcopal priest who took a very strong view on remarriage after divorce. It simply wasn’t permitted. Then he got divorced and he remarried. It was simply amazing how quickly his theology changed.”

    I want to suggest this story points to two things: first, as you say, it’s amazing how quickly his theology changed. Second, he clearly didn’t “love his neighbor as himself” in the first place — he found it much easier to overlook the pain of other people because “it simply wasn’t permitted” than to overlook his own pain. My point is not to say he was right to change his mind, but that he clearly failed his proclaimed standards on two counts: to hold fast in the second place and to empathize in the first.

  8. Hope says:

    A lot of people go through a blessed life without ever being faced with a really strong temptation or a devilishly difficult choice. Some of them assume their blessed state is a result of their own virtue, and feel a responsibility to tell others how they should behave. But people who have learned the rules the hard way often do a more compassionate and effective job of enforcing them.

  9. Irenaeus says:

    “A Bishop Unveiled God’s Secrets While Keeping His Own”

    More accurate to say . . .
    “A Bishop Assailed God’s Revelations While Withholding His Own”

  10. Bob Maxwell+ says:

    M. Scot Peck’s, [i]The People of the Lie[/i] helped me to understand such behavior.

    In a different time at Seabury-Western a common saying was, [i]”The road to hell is lined with bishop’s mitres.”[/i] Another such saying that I heard there from liberal anglo-catholic’s, as well as from a bishop’s canon later was, [i]”Remember, the church is a whore, She may be a whore but she’s still our mother!”[/i] Not much transformation expected. . .

  11. Pb says:

    He is not the first bishop to have secret knowledge. This has been going on since the second century.

  12. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Along with the elf-girl in #1, I at first found it quite distracting when I came across the author’s stunning ignorance of the facts with regard to his astonishing claim that only “a dozen” congregations had left TEC since 2003. I don’t know anything about the author, Paul Vitello, but the editors at least ought to have known better. But then I just decided to treat that slip as a red herring and take another look at how he wrote up the reactions of parishioners at St. John the Divine to the stunning revelations disclosed by +Moore’s daughter.

    And the striking thing about the comments cited was the total lack of outrage, or even anger, toward the former bishop. I wasn’t surprised at this, given the extreme liberalism of the NY cathedral, but it’s nonetheless a significant fact worth pondering. Why wasn’t there more criticism of the former bishop who cheated on his wife for years and lived in hidden and unrepentant sin for so long?

    To me, this is a great example of the power of what the great Christian sociologist Peter Berger calls “plausibility sturctures.” Berger is renowned as a founder of the subfield of the sociology of knowledge, and he has demonstrated that our perception of reality is highly conditioned by the filters imposed by the groups we identify with and participate in. Liberals place so much value on social justice causes that they tend to regard matters of personal morality as significantly less important. They focus on the macro scale moral issues and thus defocus the micro scale ones, even though it is on the level of individual behavior that we are most responsible for our own actions. Thus, they cut +Moore a good deal of slack and tend to make comments about how the context of his times influenced +Moore’s options and choices, thus preferring to comment on the macro scale again, rather than on the man and his immoral choices.

    Needless to say, I find this tendency to whitewash the bishop disturbing, since I don’t share the same general viewpoint, since I’m on the conservative side of the culture war. But in both cases, theirs and mine, our opinions and perceptions are strongly shaped and limited by the blinders imposed by the plausibility structures of the groups we align ourselves with, whether liberal or conservative. Liberals will be inclined to judge that +Moore’s social activism (for all the proper progressive causes) and “prophetic” ministry outweighs his personal moral lapses. I do the opposite. In both cases, however, the outcome is virtually predetermined by our prior commitments, our choice of sides in the culture war.

    And this, in the end, is why there is simply no real possibility of real reconciliation between the warring factions in TEC. We live in social worlds that are not only “different,” or even “divergent” (and growing ever father apart). They are in fact mutually exclusive. That is why, even though many in TEC (on both sides) are crying out for “peace, peace,” there is no peace (see Jer. 6 and 8). Nor can there be.

    David Handy+
    Passionate advocate of High Commitment, Post-Christendom style Anglicanism that is doctrinally dogmatic and morally strict, not vague or permissive and lenient.

  13. Pete Haynsworth says:

    I never could figure out what the B in GLBT meant, i.e. what a “bisexual” really was. Now I guess I know: Siring nine children with same-sex intimacies on the side.

    Seriously, was Paul Moore a homosexual, bisexual, both, or something else? Maybe it’s time to nail down the sexuality taxonomy once-and-for-all.

  14. Dale Rye says:

    Re #12: It would be hard to find three communities with more divergent plausibility structures than High Church, Low Church, and Broad Church Anglicans in the 1870s. Clearly, these theologies were (and are) not just different, but mutually exclusive with regard to dozens of theological issues that each of the groups has defined as matters essential to eternal salvation. When these divisions of real theological substance were regarded as an inadequate basis for breaking communion, it seems tragic that we are doing so in response to what is for many people an essentially secular culture war.

  15. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Dale Rye (#14),

    Well, I don’t want to rehash the same types of arguments we’ve just exchanged on another thread. But basically, I think you’ve exaggerated the scope of the matters that the three traditional parties in Anglicanism (the “High and crazy, the Low and lazy, and the Broad and hazy”) have considered matters “necessary to salvation.” But even in the 1870s, although modern biblical criticism was starting to filter into England from Germany, there was agreement among these three groups that the authority of Holy Scripture was an essential doctrine and a conviction “necessary for salvation.” There were radical differences of interpretation and application, yes, but a meaningful consensus that the Bible was indeed “God’s Word written” and, as the later Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1888 put it, the rule and ultimate standard of faith and practice.

    Alas, that is simply no longer the case. Contrary to what the learned ++Rowan Williams has repeatedly said, and many others more emphatically so, including the former PB Frank Griswold, this conflict is NOT simply over a matter of Scriptural interpretation. It is in fact, what we conservatives have always insisted, a matter of sheer disregard for the AUTHORITY of Scripture on the part of the pro-gay activists. There is simply NO biblical justification for the “gay is OK” delusion. Absolutely none whatsoever. That settles the matter. Q.E.D. (Quod erat demonstratum).

    The fact of the matter is that there have been times in the past when we SHOULD have broken communion and we didn’t. But I attribute that laxity and undue leniency to the political demands of a state church, not to any authentic religious comprehensiveness. You may well disagree profoundly with me there. Fine, many people do (including many conservatives).

    Part of the problem is the dilemma posed whenever there has been a period of extreme laxity within any organization. Attempts to reintroduce more strict discipline will likely be strongly resisted by some, and understandably so. For example, let’s suppose that a couple has adopted a very hands-off, lenient style of parenting for many years. But when their oldest child reaches adolesence they realize the error of their ways and they are sorely tempted to suddenly crack down and start laying down the law. What is the likely response from the teenage son or daughter? Right, rebellion and resentment.

    Or suppose a new captain takes command of a naval vessel that has had a couple lax and lenient captains in a row and he realizes that things have gotten out of hand and it’s high time to restore more strict discipline. What’s the likely reaction going to be? Well, maybe not exactly a replay of “Mutiny on the Bounty,” but in an all volunteer Navy there will be lots of men not re-enlisting and morale will suffer for a while etc. This is the kind of challenge we face throughout western Anglicanism. It poses a very difficult dilemma indeed.

    Dale, I hope you’ve read enough of my posts to know that I’m actually a strong advocate of EXPANDING the doctrinal and spiritual boundaries of Anglicanism in at least one crucial way, i.e., going from a two-dimensional religion (a Protestant-Catholic hybrid) to a 3-D or three dimensional kind (evangelical, catholic, and charismatic). I’m not the kind of conservative who is highly resistant to change. Indeed, I am a fervent advocate of radical, sweeping change, i.e., not just gradual, incremental, evolutionary change, but drastic, revolutionary change. But always, always, on a solid biblical basis and in accordance with the consensual teaching of the early Fathers.

    I’m sure you will find much to disagree with in my overall approach. But clarity is always helpful, even when it’s divisive. I hope that helps to clarify where our differences may lie.

    And once again, I thank you for the irenic, thoughtful tone of your replies to my often extreme, provocative, and indeed “hyperbolic” posts.

    David Handy+
    Passionate advocate of High Commitment, Post-Christendom style Anglicanism of a radically Christ AGAINST culture sort

  16. Scott Gunn says:

    #15, you may be right about the differences in the 19th century between High, Low, and Broad. However, the fact remains that there were suits & schisms over things such as vesture and candles on the Altar. These were then viewed as make-or-break issues, and I assure you that scriptural authority was part of the debate. So I’m not sure the present situation is much different.

    I do not intend to gloss over real differences, but I do think we have lost our perspective, much as our forebearers did when they fought over chasubles & surplices.

    With regard to your scriptural notes, it’s much more complicated than Q.E.D., and I think you know that. For example, you’ve typed your reply on what I presume is your own computer. And yet there is no biblical justification for you to own a computer. Cf. Luke 12:33. Absolutely none whatsoever. That settles the matter. Q.E.D.

    You see what I mean?


    P.S. I’m being a little snarky, but just to point out how we all can erect straw men. I do appreciate the tone of your post.

  17. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Scott Gunn+ (#16),

    You weren’t being any more “snarky” than I was, probably less, so I certainly took no offense. I consider your response forceful, but in no way inappropriate. Blogs exist for this kind of vigorous argument, among other things, although they suffer from the inherent problem that we can’t hear each others’ tone of voice or read each other’s body language, and this tends to foster misunderstandings.

    But I fail to see the relevance of the particular example you chose to illustrate your argument that things aren’t as cut and dried as I have claimed. Yes, of course, the latter 19th century did see bitter disputes over things like chasubles, and the use of incense, and even candles on the altar. But the difference is that these disputes didn’t involve issues is which there was the kind of clear, consistent, and emphatic biblical teaching at stake that we have in the case of homosexual behavior. That is, yes, I do submit my posts from my own laptop. But private possession of such things is by no means forbidden by Holy Scripture in a way that uniformly consistent, clear, and emphatic.

    But that IS the case when it comes to the biblical teaching on homosexual behavior. Even though it is a minor issue, dealt with in only a few scattered biblical texts (though more of them than liberals generally think), the biblical teaching on same sex behavior is totally consistent and treats it as particularly abhorrent and unnatural (Romans 1:24-27 etc). Whereas the biblical teaching about the proper use of material possessions is far from clear and consistent. That is the essential difference.

    Now I grant that I was being a little facetious with the Q.E.D. line. I recognize that exegesis to determine the original meaning as best we can is not enough. We must also determine the contemporary relevance and applicability of the ancient biblical texts, which is not always a straightforward and simple matter. As someone with a Ph.D. in New Testament, I freely grant that point, as you rightly guessed. Just to pick a well-known example, Paul is very clear in 1 Cor. 11 that women are required to wear some sort of covering over their hair when they attend worship, yet no one in modern Anglicanism is seriously arguing that this is universally binding on us today.

    But one of the problems with blogs is that you are very limited in the amount of space you can use to argue your case. And this naturally tends to lead to oversimplifications of complex issues, and especially when you are trying to write with laypeople in mind, and not just fellow seminary-trained clergy.

    So I welcome your post, Scott+, since you have forced me to clarify my position. And let me return the favor: I welcome the amicable, respectful tone of your retort to my quite provocative #15. I admit that I sometimes write in the style I do in order to be more entertaining so as to get and keep people’s attention. But I’m also trying to make serious points in so doing.

    David Handy+
    Passionate advocate of MODERATE biblical scholarship, along with the New Reformation

  18. rudydog says:

    #13 I agree that it’s time to nail down the sexuality taxonomy once-and-for-all because I, for one, am as confused as you are about a man who could perform sufficiently as a hetrosexual to father 9 children and likewise perform satisfactorily as a homosexual to keep a longtime lover. Given the fact that physical performance at both extremes was possible with the bishop, it would appear to me there is a strong element of choice in the world of bisexuality.

  19. rob k says:

    NRA – Am I beating a dead horse? Certainly the Protestant/Catholic divide in the Church is much for fundamental than the sexual question. Thx.

  20. Vincent Lerins says:

    As Paul told Timothy:

    Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. (1 Tim 5:24)

    These “revelations” should cause people to examine their own lives and the areas in which they are hypocritical. We are no different than Moore. Sexuality may not be our issue, but we all have issues. Bishop Moore is currently pondering his eternal fate, as it was fixed at his death. However, for us, the living, we still have the opportunity to repent and get right with Lord.

    Revival and transformation begins with each individual person. Only then can it spread and transform a community.


  21. New Reformation Advocate says:

    rob k (#19),

    I’m sorry but your post was so brief I’m not sure what point you were trying to make. Yes, the Protestant versus Catholic divide goes to the very heart of Anglicanism and in that sense is much more fundamental to our hybrid and distinctive character as Anglicans than any matter of sexual ethics (which we share with the rest of the Christian Church; there is no special Anglican form of sexual ethics, or hasn’t been up until recently). My point above rather had to do with the fact that both the Protestant and the Catholic elements in Anglicanism can rightly claim a plausible biblical basis and support from the patristic tradition. The pro-gay position can do neither. It is totally contrary to both Scripture and Tradition. That’s why it can’t be tolerated.

    If that’s not relevant to your concerns, please restate your question.

    David Handy+

  22. MarkP says:

    David Handy said: “My point above rather had to do with the fact that both the Protestant and the Catholic elements in Anglicanism can rightly claim a plausible biblical basis and support from the patristic tradition. ”

    I’m not sure people who were in the battle at the time would have shared this perspective. The use of images in church, prayers to the saints, prayers for the dead, even whether to call a priest “father” — to the people in the throes of battle, these were fundamental issues of scriptural authority and interpretation.

  23. New Reformation Advocate says:

    MarkP (#22),

    Yes, of course, historically you are certainly right. It’s with the distance of hindsight that we can see things more objectively and accurately. But if you are suggesting that the same applies to the vexed controversy over homosexual behavior, I can only reply that I think you are quite wrong.

    I have tried all along to emphasize that when it comes to same sex activity, we are dealing with an issue that is different in KIND, not degree from those earlier disputes. And the reason is precisely that in the case of homosexual behavior the teaching of both Scripture and Tradition is absolutely consistent, clear, and emphatic. That just is not the case with those other divisive issues, such as the propriety of using images of Christ and the saints (where Lutherans disagreed with Calvinists etc., not to mention the earlier issue of iconoclasm in the 7th and 8th centureis etc.). Yes, there were Christians before and especially after the Reformation who have interpreted the Second Commandment as forbidding Christians, as well as Jews, to use art in the service of God. Alas, the Second Council of Nicea in AD 787 didn’t settle that matter; it remains a subject of dispute to this day.

    But my point is that in cases like this a “PLAUSIBLE” case could be made from Scripture and Tradition on both sides. That is simply not the case with homosexual behavior. There is NO biblical basis for the pro-gay position. Zip, zilch, nada, none. The frequent liberal claim that the earnest call for social justice in the prophets of the OT or the Great Commandment to “love our neighbors as ourselves” justifies the pro-gay position simply begs the question as to whether this applies to homosexual behavior. It doesn’t.

    That’s the difference, Mark. There isn’t even any plausible biblical support for the “gay is OK” delusion. None whatsoever. And the passing of time won’t change that one bit. Not in the slightest.

    David Handy+

  24. Pete Haynsworth says:

    Re #18 and my #13: There has been an endorsement of the need for a clear, understandable classification of the range of sexuality expressions … from Elizabeth Keaton. In a typically breathless, self-absorbed post at her blog, she asks 10 Questions about the Paul Moore matter, number 9 of which is:

    [i]Why should anyone’s sexuality be a secret?[/i]

    Since his parish might be hiring an assistant rector soon, this pewsitter has attempted a little (an hour or so) research into nailing down a sexuality taxonomy:

    ** There’s, of course, the officially blessed (in a broad sense) GLBT, for:

    … but what about the two Qs that pop up sometimes?:

    ** Then there is the “social networking” phenomenon –

    The Facebook Profile has a “Relationship Status” with the following options:
    In a relationship
    It’s Complicated
    In an Open Relationship[/i]

    The MySpace Profile simply has an “Orientation” category into which one enters [i]Straight[/i] … or some other descriptor.

    Oh heck. Maybe the search committee can pass on the sexuality question this time ’round.

  25. rob k says:

    NRA – Thx. for responding. I do mean, indeed, that the Protestant/Catholic divided is much more fundamental than the single moral question of Homosexual behavior. Especially since each side of the Protestant/Catholic question does not see Scriptural justification for the other side (I realize this is crudely put and too broad a characterization). Just to take one or two examples – Is there a Real Presence or not? Does the Anglican Church have a sacrificing priesthood? I do fear that you might not understand me – We’d need to sit down for an evening or more so that I could express myself in something better than these “soundbites”. Thx.

  26. rob k says:

    NRA – I might add that Anglicanism’s believing that it can comprehend contradictory positions is a great weakness. Still, if you are interested, I could try to nuance my position. Thx.

  27. New Reformation Advocate says:

    rob k (#25 & 26),

    Well, yes, I wish we could sit down together for an evening to talk things through. We might well find that we have a lot more in common than you think. But just to prime the pump in the meantime, I would agree with you wholeheartedly that the common conviction of many in TEC today that “diversity” is our great strength, along with a non-dogmatic spirit that can include “contradictory” positions (as you call them) is truly a “great weakness” and sheer folly.

    My own way of putting it would be rather different. I believe the great strength of Anglicanism in that regard is that it can counterbalance complementary positions in a paradoxical fashion (similar to the paradoxical dogma of the Trinity, with God being three and yet one, or Christ being fully human and yet fully divine). But not all doctrines that are opposed to each other as genuinely complementary. Some really are contradictory and mutually exclusive. Thus, for example, I would not hesitate to dogmatically declare that a denial of the Real Presence is actually a “contradiction” of authentic Anglican belief, even though it appears likely that Thomas Cranmer himself did (alas!) reject it, as the 1552 BCP seems to make all too clear. Some in Sydney, of course, would strongly disagree. And yes, that is very much part of our problem as Anglicans. We have no central authority to adjudicate those sorts of issues. And THAT is our greatest weakeness of all, the lack of such a central authority.

    David Handy+

  28. rob k says:

    NRA – Thx. for your reply. I, too, think that in several ways we probably would be in accord. I hope you will understand that I don’t think that everything is “either/or”. Thanks for your continued dialogue with me. I add that there will be lots of questions that I might have that will not be answered in this life.

  29. New Reformation Advocate says:

    rob k (#28),

    We should probably stop monopolizing this thread, but you’re welcome, and thanks yourself. Of course there are many, many questions that we will probably not get answers to in this life. That’s part of what it means to walk by faith, and not by sight. God bless you.

    David Handy+