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RI's Episcopal Bishop Cites Empirical Evidence To Support Marriage Equality

KniselyReligious figures most often extract from their faith when speaking for or against marriage equality. Their spiritual life either confirms or condemns equality.

Bishop Nick Knisely, the Episcopal Bishop for Rhode Island, bucked that trend by citing both faith and science when he declared his support for marriage equality this weekend. He has weighed the empirical evidence and he has seen the light, he says.

"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," he writes in a letter being distributed to parishioners this weekend.

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.

Rhode Island's state House will vote on marriage equality next week. Before that, they - and you - should really read Knisely's letter. I've included it AFTER THE JUMP.

You should also check out Bishop Knisely's blog, Entangled States, where he regularly blurs the lines between religion and science.

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

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Comments

  1. How does a scientist turn into a priest?

    Posted by: Will | Jan 19, 2013 2:00:26 PM


  2. Will, you seem to have bought into some very silly ideas about Christians. making the mistake of thinking that all of us are mindless fundamentalists, when the mindless fundamentalists are only a minority--and a small one--of Christians.

    By the way, the Primate - the chief bishop - of the Episcopal Church was a marine biologist before she became a priest.

    Posted by: DannyEastVillage | Jan 19, 2013 2:10:19 PM


  3. Episcopal Church doesn't have a "holy" Father. Therefore their priests don't have to toe the line.
    Of course not all Catholics are fundamentalists, but their Pope is definitely a bigot.

    Posted by: simon | Jan 19, 2013 2:21:03 PM


  4. Did he call 2 married men 'fruits of the Holy Spirit'?

    Posted by: bravo | Jan 19, 2013 2:43:05 PM


  5. Will: I went to a catholic school and nobody questioned evolution or other cientific advances.
    And by the way, they never give the Bible a literal interpretation, in fact they say that the Bible was right for simple minds two thousand years ago, so the scriptures need an interpretation.
    I'm frankly very surprised when some priest appear on american tv or write in the press saying exactly word by word what Bible tells.
    And of course i'm more surprised when a priest blame the gays for hurricanes.
    Here we had our bunch of bigots, but frankly, nobody is so stupid to say something like that because it will be ridiculed everywhere

    Posted by: jjose712 | Jan 19, 2013 3:10:29 PM


  6. What a wonderful statement for Bishop Knisely to have made. I am not a religious man, but it's terrific to hear someone using the language of the Bible to support equal marriage, rather than to spew hate.

    Posted by: Buster | Jan 19, 2013 3:52:12 PM


  7. @Bravo:
    A certain anti-gay priest in France called Vingt Trois was the fruit of the trinity as depicted in this cartoon.
    http://undertheburningbridge.blogspot.com/2012/11/charlie-hebdo-cartoon-enrages-french.html

    Posted by: simon | Jan 19, 2013 4:53:13 PM


  8. From +Nick's cover leter:
    "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."

    A couple of more notes about scientists and the Anglican priesthood. The Presiding Bishop was not only a marine biologist, she has a PhD and was a professor. (BTW - Her husband was a professor of mathematics.) The best living example is John Polkinghorne, a famous elementary particle physicist, who made a similar shift to become a CofE priest. (BTW - His wife was also a mathematician.) One of my math profs said that it was easy for a scientist to be religious because you spend your entire life having your face rubbed in reality.

    @Bravo: good catch on literalism

    Posted by: Diogenes Arktos | Jan 19, 2013 9:17:03 PM


  9. Awesome guy.....future pope???

    Posted by: Alan Brickman | Jan 20, 2013 9:29:38 AM


  10. From science to religion?Wow that doesn't happen often.

    Posted by: Miguel | Jan 20, 2013 9:53:02 AM


  11. @Will -- I suggest you read some Teilhard de Chardin. He was one hell of a scientist and an even greater man of faith.

    Posted by: thepolarbeast | Jan 20, 2013 11:17:01 AM


  12. The priest's argument wasn't based on science. He merely mentioned he was a scientist to lead into his bible citation about judging the tree by its fruit. That's just "learning from experience" - not science. While science is empirical, it is also just as much an endeavor based on *skepticism* about individual experience. The priest was really just citing traditional wisdom (with which I agree) that you should only judge what you know. The priest knows loving gay couples - that's fairly often all it takes to support marriage equality.

    Posted by: Kipp | Jan 20, 2013 12:23:51 PM


  13. Kipp:
    You are right that science is about *skepticism*.
    A lot of Christian Talibans like the Pope and his running dogs spoke as if they know everything and don't have the humility to say "I don't know" on things they know nothing about.

    Posted by: simon | Jan 20, 2013 4:12:31 PM


  14. A stark distinction between religion and science is their attitude towards the Creation of the Universe. Religions usually base their belief on some prehistoric books while science is based on years of painstaking measurements and observations. Even it is a great accomplishment, most scientists would tell you they don't know what happened before the "BIG BANG". They won't be embarrassed to say so.

    Posted by: simon | Jan 20, 2013 4:24:54 PM


  15. @Alan Brickman: The Anglican Communion has no Pope. Period. The closest we have is the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the *symbolic* head of the Anglican Communion, because he has no authority over the individual provinces, like The Episcopal Church. It is possible that +Knisely, who calls himself a physicist, could become the next Primate of The Episcopal Church, a/k/a the Presiding Bishop, who was an oceanographer. I suspect, however, he won't have enough experience to be considered in the next election.

    @Simon: The majority of Christians got over the issues with evolution and such decades ago. Unfortunately the Religious Right is so terrified that its stranglehold on "truth" may be destroyed by reality that it takes every measure it can to force its worldview on everyone, including, for example, state curricula for K-12. BTW - Just because one has left a Religious Right environment does not mean one has left its anti-scientific prejudices.

    Posted by: Diogenes Arktos | Jan 20, 2013 11:26:07 PM


  16. I'm so excited about the Episcopal faith -- they seem so welcoming. I want to find out how I can get married in the Episcopal church with more than one wife. I'm so glad that they will see the goodness of the fruit and the gifts of the spirit of having and blessing those that are called to have more than one wife for the goodness of God's kingdom.

    Posted by: Rene | Sep 25, 2013 3:47:29 PM


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