Bishop Knisely’s statement on marriage equality in Rhode Island

Posted Jan 19, 2013

[Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island] A statement by Bishop Knisely, sent this morning to all active Episcopal clergy in Rhode Island, with a cover letter that reiterates:

“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.”

Statement on Marriage Equality Legislation in Rhode Island
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.
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.
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. 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.
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. As a new citizen of Rhode Island, I am eager to see our state legislature join many others across the country in passing legislation to ensure civil marriage equality. I believe it is time for the State of Rhode Island to extend marriage equality to all of its citizens. I urge the legislature to pass House Bill 5015.
The Rt. Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island


Comments (13)

  1. Well spoken, thank you. I have printed this to keep in my purse as to have an intelligent response when needed on this subject. I’m tickled pink to have found your article.
    My dear sweet Mum, Truda Kelly Hansen, God rest her soul; raised us to love everybody because the Bible said so. So we did. As a little girl, I grew up naive and could not fathom one not liking me. Mum and Father raised us to be thoughtful and kind and accepting of disabilities, and people of all kinds end of story. Mum never made a distinction between race, gender or same sex partners. It just was not allowed in our house and all were welcome at the table. Of course a rude awakening when first going to school not until we were 7. I have an identical twin who is my best friend. We were raised in the Anglican church and still belong to the Episcopal Church, St. James in Tigard Oregon that is so loving and supportive of your/our mission.
    Bless you my Brother in Christ, this indeed brings me great hope for us all!
    A refresher course in humanity if it were.

    Have a peaceful day and several moments of “Happy” all Glory to God.


  2. Mark Wells says:

    Well you certainly are at odds with Bishop Tobin, the Diocese of Providence and the Catholic Church!

    1. Brian A. MacFarland says:

      Until the Roman Catholic Church gets its own house in order, they have no business sticking their noises in ours.

      1. Brian A. MacFarland says:


        1. John M Stevenson says:

          “noises” works well, too. 🙂

      2. Michael McCoy, M.Div. says:

        Agreed. If they remove the log from their own eyes then they might see our situation differently as well.

  3. The Rev. Stuart Smith says:

    The Bishop well represents the cultural position of radical, autonomous individuality!
    Yet, a Bishop is supposed to uphold the Faith once delivered to the Saints, not style his
    Christian sexual moral ethics to the perversities of the present age.

    I have met adulterers and fornicators who could be said to have many admirable qualities.
    That this bishop knows LGBT folk who have virtues is to say nothing about the biblical,
    Traditional, and Catholic understanding of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony to which he
    is supposed to be faithful as an overseer. May this bishop, and all who read his teaching
    be sheltered and protected from the spiritual warfare that is raging in them…and all

  4. David Yarbrough says:

    “Episcopalians are not unanimous in our views…”

    But anyone who challenges TEC’s charge down the slippery slope, disregarding the clear teaching of Scripture and acceding to the sinful demands of an increasingly perverse secular society, are aggressively disregarded, and forced to choose between the congregations they and their ancestors built and their integrity and spiritual health – and if their congregations, clergy, and Bishops challenge TEC they are declared anathema and dispossessed.

    Anyone who thinks TEC is tolerant of diverse opinions is blissfully unaware of reality.

    1. Donald Caron says:

      It is not just a matter of opinion. What is at stake is the support of the church for people who, as Bishop Knisely points out, are living lives that are, in fact, as good and as holy as are any other persons. In denying them access to the sacramental support of blessing and marriage, the church is denying them the additional grace to be a model for all married persons, and is empoverishing the Body of Christ. The scientific, scriptural and moral issues were long ago laid to rest in this matter. What remains is the social issue, which, like most social issues, will only be put to rest when there is a human face to encounter.

  5. Chantal Andrews says:

    Bishop W. Nicholas Knisely,
    Beautifully written, compassionate letter.

  6. One would think same-sex marriage, since it contravenes the idea that traditional marriage is the only licit union, would be by definition a “diverse opinion,’ … very diverse. And TEC has not asked anyone, who adheres to traditional marriage being the only marriage, to leave TEC. If this is not “tolerant,” then what on earth could be defined as “tolerant?” It is clear that countenancing two views of marriage is a per se diversity. And it is ‘tolerance’ which accommodates ‘diversity.’ And those who are leaving are not leaving empty handed either, their views of traditional marriage riding on the back of considerable real property which in some cases facilitated by the courts. It would appear that at the inspired outpouring of what would become the New Testament, there was little escatological dicta that delineated between what might be sin, what might be a different individual psychology, or a psychology of behavior held by a few; or when neurotic or psychotic behavior left the area of emotionally troubled action and entered into the area of sin. The concept of sin itself is somewhat subjective, to further muddy the water. It is convenient to say same-sex marriage was rejected by the early church, but yet over the years, hundreds of spiritual and liturgical decisions have been made and changes effected, so obviously all the questions that might arise were not answered in the revealed Word. Interestingly, the propagation of the early Church would not have been served by same-sex marriages, so one has to wonder if the basis for the rejection of same-sex marriages was spiritual or practical. It is disappointing that the New Testament offers no mitigation for disturbed behavior, nor a differentiation between that sort of behavior and per se sin! It was humankind which introduced courts of equity and the acceptance of factors which legitimized motivation in harmful actions stemming from mental and emotional distress. Since the Church stresses individual responsibility, it seems we would have the responsibility of purveying a broad spectrum of behavior that is now defined by contemporary enlightenment, which did not exist at the beginning of the development of the Church on earth. It is fairly well accepted that same-sex attraction is a function of genetics, and that whatever sexual inclination is held by an individual is biologically fixed. That should give it some valid rationale and moral validity. And while some are decrying same-sex activity, no one is leaving TEC because of heterosexual activity among the unmarried. And probably there is no one naive enough to believe this doesn’t happen. Should we convene and strip unmarried heterosexually active individuals of certain offices of the Church? Or declare those with blue eyes, biologically fixed, to be anathema?
    “Come let us reason together” is recommended in the New Testament. Continuing to reason tends to forestall division. There is no time limit on reasoning together. There is no corollary which advises us after a season of time, we arise from the venue of reasoning, expropriate what we can from those who stay, and leave. Perhaps we need to reason more. This issue has been insinuating itself for quite a long period of time into a future agenda, and is now in the phase of being acting upon. And one final note: the divorce rate of traditional marriages and the avoidance of marriage by many should suggest that someone … anyone … who would be willing to marry should be encouraged. The strident voices opposed to same-sex marriages perhaps should raise a strident voice about the decline of the traditional marriage also! The issue of marriage, in its contentious and divisive state, seems to be a hint that militancy rather than ministry is the preferred modus operandi of religion in general these days. In the Sermon on the Mount, the peacemakers were mentioned at the beginning of this wonderful sermon. No one has to tell us what this tells us.

  7. Fr. Jay Pierce says:

    The debate within the Episcopal Church of same sex marriage has developed into a subject of such proportions that it will be the center of passionate debate for centuries to come. The question of right or wrong, sin or righteousness ultimately is not the Church’s to decide. The institution will be led / driven to a point of acceptance or rejection by the attitude and behavior of the people that endure and support it. As in the past groups will follow their collective sense of biblical teaching, traditional restrictions and personal. But reunion of this magnitude requires understanding that comes from observation over much time and interaction with differing groups. The unity of the Body of Christ is not defined by clever argument. It’s found in the service of the individual member–not in committee meetings or document written on parchment. Unity is service to the poor, hungry and disenfranchised as the directive of Christ tell us, and remember, he anticipated differing opinions when he commented on dramatic family discord. So, we will live with our opinions, survive occasional arguments and accusations of being “unbelievers” and attempt to live within our understanding of the meaning of Christ–not the aftermath of human creation of rules and regulations.

  8. Thank you Bishop Kelsey for your statement and prophetic spirit. I am reading it after President Obama’s Inauguration with his words of support for gay and lesbian people and after Louis Leon’s benediction, rector of St. John’s, Lafayette Square, the church of the presidents and a gay friendly congregation in a diocese that echoes President Obama’s words of justice and equality for all people. And “Amen” to Bishop’s Kelsey’s word. The church has been – and remains – blessed by the presence, witness, leadership and ministry of our GLBT clergy and lay members.

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