The first openly gay Episcopal bishop, Gene Robinson, made controversial remarks on ABC Australia's popular "Q&A" show on Monday, noting that Jesus lived an "alternative lifestyle" while highlighting how Jesus spent time with male disciples and that he loved them.
"Jesus had a very kind of alternative lifestyle," Robinson said, hinting at a possible sexual orientation for the Savior of the world.
When asked "What did Jesus say about homosexuality?" the Episcopal bishop responded "Jesus said nothing about homosexuality."
"This is a man who remained single for virtually all his lifetime in a culture that demanded marriage. He spent most of his time with twelve men, he singled three of them out for special leadership, and one of them is known as the beloved disciple, the one whom Jesus loved," Robinson said.
But quickly he added,"I'm not saying he was gay. I'm not saying he ever had sex with anyone. I'm just saying this is a man who lived outside the normal boundaries of his own culture and knew about a family of choice."
Fred Nile, president of the Fellowship of Congregational Churches and longest serving member of the New South Wales Parliament, had a quick rejoinder. "He's misrepresenting what Jesus said," Nile asserted. "Jesus did say, for example, what marriage is – where a man shall leave his mother and father and shall cling to his wife. The two shall become one."
"Two men cannot become one. Two women cannot become one. But God has made us biologically so a man and a woman can become one and complement each other," Nile said. He also disagreed with Robinson's suggestion that Jesus "never spoke about homosexuality."
"There is also a code word in the New Testament," Nile added. "Jesus often referred to Sodom. Every Jewish listener knew what Jesus was referring to." Jesus' first century Jewish listeners "all knew what the story was about, where the men wanted to have sex with these two attractive angels – male angels."
In 2003, Nile left the Uniting Church in Australia because the church "threw out the Bible when they decided to adopt a policy that it will be legal for the presbyteries to ordain practicing lesbians or practicing homosexuals, which is clearly against the Bible teaching and the historic teaching of the Church for the last 2,000 years." Niles is known for valuing strict adherence to the Bible.
As President of Australia's Christian Democratic Party, he has advocated for religious freedom, and argues that "antidiscrimination laws should not be used to force a Christian into renting accommodation to a homosexual couple."
But Robinson stands on the other side of the homosexuality issue. One audience member asked him, "how can you encourage the act of homosexuality when it has been condemned numerous times in the Bible, being called unnatural, unrighteous, lawless, an abomination, and shameless?"
"Faithful Christians, Progressive Christians, understand the Bible in its context," Robinson explained. "You can't take a modern-day concept, read it back into an ancient scripture, without doing violence to the scripture." He argued that "the Bible is not talking about what we're talking about today, which is faithful, monogamous, lifelong-intentioned relationships between two people of the same gender."
As a gay bishop, Robinson explained that he is "trying to live a life of integrity, being honest in a way that all the gay bishops before me were not honest."
Nile dismissed this "integrity," saying, "I take as my authority Jesus Christ, the Son of God and also the living word and I believe that God gave to us the written word – the Holy Bible." He explained that, as a bishop, Robinson knows that "the church for 2,000 years has upheld marriage as it is and has also said that homosexuality is immoral, unnatural, and so on."
"You should be ashamed to be a bishop and going against the teaching of the church," he concluded.
Nile also shared a powerful story. "I've met a lot of homosexuals who are no longer homosexual," he noted. "A friend of mine was previously a leader of the gay liberation movement and is now a committed Christian, no longer a homosexual. So I think it is a life choice."
Nile welcomed Robinson to convert and join his church, and offered "a thousand dollars if you can find anywhere where I have said anything that is hateful for vicious about homosexuals."
To see the Q&A video, click here.