When the Apostle Paul wrote of the "perversion" of men and women who committed "indecent acts" with those of the same sex, he was talking about people he understood to be heterosexuals engaging in same-sex acts, according to The Episcopal Church's first actively-gay bishop.
"It never occurred to anyone in ancient times that a certain minority of us would be born being affectionately-oriented to people of the same sex," Bishop V. Gene Robinson stated this week.
"So it did seem like against their nature to be doing so," he added, referring to the exchange of "natural relations for unnatural ones" by men and women, as Paul recorded in Romans 1:26-27.
Robinson, whose consecration in 2003 strained relations between The Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion to the point of tearing, was responding to a question posed by a reporter for conservative CNSNews.com following a press conference Tuesday at the National Press Club in Washington for "The American Prayer Hour."
Upon engaging Robinson, the reporter had brought out Romans 1:24-27 and asked the New Hampshire bishop if Paul was correct or not in describing homosexual acts as being against nature.
Robinson, in response, said the question would take about two days to answer, but to explain simply, the bishop told the reporter that the passage – like any other in the Bible – needs to be understood in its own context.
"We have to understand that the notion of a homosexual sexual orientation is a notion that's only about 125 years old," he said before asserting that Paul's admonition was to heterosexuals and not homosexuals.
Robinson also claimed that Paul was speaking out against child abuse, noting that in Paul's time, older men were known to take younger boys under their wings and use them "sexually, and so on."
"No one is arguing for that (child abuse) today. We would all be against that," Robinson stated. "We would all agree with St. Paul on that."
That said, Robinson said the "real question" when looking at Scripture involves what the person meant when they wrote what they did, and what it meant for those to whom they wrote it.
"And only then can we ask, 'Is it eternally binding?'" the bishop added. "And in this case, I would say, the things that St. Paul was against, I'm against, too."
As for the question about whether "faithful monogamous lifelong-intentioned relationships between people of the same sex" is right, Robinson asserted that the Bible "simply does not address that," though theological conservatives would fiercely argue otherwise.
"The questions we're asking today are about a completely different set of circumstances," he concluded.
Robinson, who was married and has two daughters, divorced his wife and is now involved in a homosexual relationship.
He currently serves as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in The Episcopal Church.