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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Gays in the Church?

Aired June 15, 2006 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LARRY KING, HOST: Good evening. Like so much of the country, the Episcopal Church is in turmoil over gay rights. It first came to a head three years ago when openly gay Gene Robinson was confirmed as the church's ninth bishop of New Hampshire. His confirmation at an official Episcopal gathering in 2003 triggered a walk out by some conservatives and at the Episcopal General convention now going on in Columbus, Ohio, many church officials are saying that a split is inevitable.
We have a major panel to discuss this. In Columbus is Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. Here in Los Angeles, Reverend Jo Hudson. Joe is pastor of the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, Texas, one of the Texas's largest predominantly gay churches in the United States. She's an ordained member in the United Church of Christ in Washington is Andrew Sullivan, "Time" magazine columnist, openly gay Catholic. His blog site by the way is andrewsullivan.com. In Columbus, Ohio is Reverend Canon David Anderson, president and CEO of the Anglican American Council who opposes gay clergy in the church, in Los Angeles, Father Michael Manning, Roman Catholic priest, host of the Word and the World, and in Roanoke, Virginia, Reverend Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

We're going to spend most of the time in the first segment with Reverend, with Bishop Robinson and Canon Anderson. Bishop Robinson, why do you want to be an official in a church that doesn't want you?

BISHOP GENE ROBINSON: Because the Episcopal Church is an amazing institution, because it so much wants to be a vehicle for God's love in the world. We've struggled with lots of issues before and we have come to know of God's expansive love. We've changed our minds about people of color and women and their places in the church. And we are now in a family struggle to express God's love for all of God's children, include God's gay and lesbian children.

KING: Canon Anderson, is membership dwindling because of this?

REV. CANON DAVID C. ANDERSON, PRES/CEO AMERICAN ANGLICAN COUNCIL: Membership in the Episcopal Church has been dwindling since 1965, progressively at about the rate of 35,000, 36,000 a year and that has continued through the time since Gene Robinson has been a bishop.

KING: So it hasn't increased?

ANDERSON: Up to the latest figures in 2004. We believe that since 2004, the rate has increased but there aren't hard data yet to examine.

KING: Why did you want to be a bishop, Bishop Robinson?

ROBINSON: Actually, at first, I didn't want to be a bishop. God had to chase me for quite a long time before I would say yes. I knew this would be controversial and yet sometimes God asks us to do things that are hard. And in my prayer life, what I discovered was that God was promising to be faithful to me as God had always been faithful to me in my life and would stand by me during this very difficult time if I would just struggle and strive to listen to and for his voice.

KING: Bishop Robinson, were you ever married?

ROBINSON: Yes, I was very happily married and I have two wonderful daughters and two granddaughters.

KING: So you lived a lie?

ROBINSON: No. I wouldn't say I lived a lie. I had a wonderful relationship with the woman that I was married to. I had told her within a month of meeting her that I had struggled with this issue before. I had gotten to therapy to try to change. I had done all the things that gay and lesbian people try to do to fit in, to deny who they are and to change themselves, and I had prayed about it. And yet, this is not something that one does. This is something that one is. And that's what's so important for people to understand. God made me this way and declared me good. And that's, that's something that I have laid claim to.

KING: Canon Anderson, since we're told that God loves everyone, that would have to include gay people. What do you have against Bishop Robinson being a bishop in your church?

ANDERSON: Well, God certainly loves Gene Robinson. Gene Robinson is a child of God just as I am and others are. But the fact is that certain aspects of his life, in particular, his being an open homosexual, disqualify him for leadership in the Christian church, not just the Anglican Church, but in the Christian church, and it's that part that disqualifies him from leadership. God would love to see him transformed. God doesn't create a person homosexual. How they become homosexual or feel that inclination is unclear, but certainly people can be transformed back to a heterosexual life.

KING: If it's a choice, Canon Anderson, did you choose to be heterosexual and if so, how do you choose it?

ANDERSON: I think the heterosexualists, the standard default setting, if you will, and whether you start with scripture and God's account of how things were created or, in fact, if you start with Charles Darwin and evolution, you come to the same point, that men were meant for women and women were meant for men.

KING: So what, then, does someone like Bishop Robinson do if he has all of these feelings but he's a good Episcopal priest and he wants to be a bishop and he wants to lead a flock, what does he do? ANDERSON: He conforms his life to the scriptural standards and lives a chaste and celibate life honoring God and honoring God's commandments.

KING: Bishop Robinson, how would you respond?

ROBINSON: Well, I would say that none of us are able to conform our lives to scriptural standards. In the gospel of Luke, for instance, Jesus said if you want to be a follower of mine you must give up all your possessions. I don't see many of us doing that. We all fall short in one way or another. The miracle, the good news, is that we're not worthy, but we're made worthy by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That's the good news we have to give to the world and God has said to me and to all of God's children what God said to Jesus at his baptism, you are my beloved. In you, I am well pleased. The world is desperate to know a God like that.

KING: We'll take a break. When we come back, the entire panel will join us. Our two early guests will remain as well. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBINSON: It's time for us to stop talking about being gay and start talking about God and telling the story of how God has acted in your life and in mine. And when we tell that story, people will come to see that the Jesus they know is the Jesus we know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Reverend Jo Hudson, you've heard our two distinguished members of the Episcopal faith. You're with the United Church of Christ.

REV. JO HUDSON, CATHEDRAL OF HOPE, DALLAS: I am.

KING: Where does that denomination stand?

HUDSON: Well, the denomination is radically different than the Episcopal Church in that the denomination lets congregations be self- determining and so they are in relationship by virtue of the fact that they covenant to be in relationship and to honor each other even though we may disagree.

KING: So United Church of Christ in Miami could say no gays?

HUDSON: Right.

KING: And the one in Dallas as yours, could say yes?

HUDSON: Absolutely. And the thinking behind that is where the spirit of God is, where the risen Christ is. Then the people of God can determine what is best and listen for how God would have them be in the world. KING: Are you a lesbian?

HUDSON: I am.

KING: What brought you to the church?

HUDSON: I fell in love with God.

KING: Didn't some of the teachings pretty much harm you, hurt you?

HUDSON: I never really...

KING: That it's a sin?

HUDSON: I never was -- well, they say that, you know, they say that women shouldn't preach in church, too. I have had to wrestle with the scriptures but the reality is is that I have found a relationship with God that I discovered in the church and want to be a part of a community of faith that brings that love to other people.

KING: Father Manning, the Catholic Church is pretty adamant against it, is it not?

FATHER MICHAEL MANNING, CATHOLIC PRIEST: Against -- well, the important thing I think is saying that there is a real sense of love and care for a person that is a homosexual or a lesbian. Deep care, God loves them, God cares for them.

KING: Could they be a priest?

MANNING: They could be a priest, but the thing has to be, and the other - the canon mentioned that, that you would have to reframe from sex. That's kind of the difference that you find.

KING: So you can say you're a homosexual or a gay, be a priest --

MANNING: There is a stronger push right now, the church, the Vatican is coming out with some real negative statements about anyone in the seminary process that's that way, but it's that kind of difference. There is the respect that we give to a person that is moving in that direction, but at the same time, saying, wait, that's not what God made us for.

KING: Andrew Sullivan, what do you make of all of this? You're a Catholic.

ANDREW SULLIVAN, TIME COLUMNIST: I am a Catholic and people often ask me, how can you be openly gay and be a Catholic? And my response is always I'm openly gay, because I'm a Catholic, because God taught me not to bear false witness to who I am and my faith is something that I really have no choice over. I've tried. I've had a terrible struggle with my own faith, but God wouldn't let me go and he keeps bringing me back and he keeps saying to me, in the Eucharist and in the church I love you and you belong here. And I want you to have a loving relationship and I feel that my own relationship is a gift from God. I cannot alone in my conscience before God believe otherwise. So I can do no other. I'm here because I have no choice.

KING: Reverend Mohler, why has the Southern Baptist, and you've been with us before, why does someone being gay bother you? In other words, what does it matter what someone's sexual preference might be when they are good people?

REV. ALBERT MOHLER, PRES, SOUTHERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: Well, the first thing should never be what really bothers me but whether or not as Christians, God has set a standard to which we are obligated. The issue is, always has been and always will be, the authority of scripture. The scripture very clearly tells us that our creator has a purpose for our sexuality and that homosexuality among other sins is a violation of that purpose and so love compels us to tell people the truth and also, as we understand the depth of their struggle with this, to tell them that there is a way out. I'm very thankful that Andrew Sullivan feels that pull. I believe that's a pull towards repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and I pray to see that continue all the way until he finds what I believe his purpose to be as God intended.

KING: Reverend Mohler, how could something be a sin if you didn't choose it?

MOHLER: Well, actually, that's just something I can't accept in the sense of choosing. Larry I have to say, first of all, we're choosing all the time. Even in the moments we spend together here, we're making moral choices. I do understand that there are some choices that we make that seem to be prior to anything we can even understand and I understand there are many homosexuals who say I don't even have any impression of having chosen this erotic interest, this sexual orientation. I accept that at face value, but that does not mean that it normalizes and makes acceptable homosexual acts. I want to help them through that struggle regardless of how it came into their lives.

KING: Bishop Robinson, at the conclave that you're at, are they going to vote on this?

ROBINSON: We will, in fact, be taking votes on various sorts of resolutions. But the real question before us right now, which is in our great Anglican and Episcopal tradition, is can we all stay at the table and talk about this while we disagree? Talk of unity is not necessarily talk of unanimity. And the great thing that the Episcopal Church has to offer the world is this great umbrella under which we disagree about lots of things and yet we find our unity when we go to the alter rail and receive the body and blood of Christ as humbly as we possibly can, find our unity there in Jesus Christ and then we go back to the pews and fight about all sorts of things, but we remain a community. We remain a communion and that's what God wants for us.

KING: Canon Anderson, what's the harm? Why is it harmful to the church to have Bishop Robinson have a flock?

ANDERSON: Well, he could have a flock, but it would need to be outside of the Anglican tradition and I think really outside of the historic Christian tradition. If he wants to make his own rules as it were, or come up with an alternate interpretation of scripture, that's his decision. But scripture has been very clear. The witness of the church for 2,000 years has been very clear and it's only recently that the Episcopal Church, if you will, has been, I might use the word, hijacked by those who have a different perspective, a different theology, and they are taking it in a different direction.

SULLIVAN: Larry, may I say the scripture is clear and scripture says that I should be put to death. The very verse that says that shalt not lie with another man as one does with a woman, says that I should face the death penalty. That's clear. Is that the policy of Reverend Mohler and the other gentlemen? Why is that not taken seriously?

KING: Canon Anderson, is he right?

ANDERSON: Scripture has that as a penalty. The fact is --

SULLIVAN: Why do you not support it?

ANDERSON: Because grace, grace can stand in the way, but it doesn't mean you have to be put to death.

SULLIVAN: So you pick and choose? You pick and choose the parts of the Bible you agree with? Clearly.

KING: Let him finish.

ANDERSON: If you want to keep interrupting me, go ahead.

KING: Go ahead. He has a point, though, Canon Anderson. If it says you should be put to death and it's scriptures and you follow scripture, why don't you follow it?

ANDERSON: Well, the old testament law had consequences for the sin and we believe that in Jesus Christ, his death on the cross paid the penalty for sin. So you get a fresh start, but if you keep sinning over and over again, at some point the Lord is going to call into question your sincerity about the grace he's giving you.

KING: We'll take a break and we'll be back with more. We'll be including your phone calls later. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUDSON: I loved that ministry in that church. I loved that church that had had the courage to send me away to seminary and now I was back to serve among them. I was also living with a very deep and chronic fear. I was a closet lesbian.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Reverend Hudson, does the Bible you preach call what you do an abomination?

HUDSON: There are passages in Leviticus that talk about homosexuality or actually an act of sexuality, a man lying with a man is an abomination.

KING: How does that make you feel?

HUDSON: I wrestle with it, but the reality is, that's part of a Levitical holiness code that few people actually adhere to today and follow every point of and so I think it's important to take it within the context in which it was written.

KING: How do you deal, Father Manning, with what is written and what you disagree with. You can't agree with everything.

MANNING: Correct. When you read through Deuteronomy, you come up with some really harsh things about the death penalty and what not and yet, when you come to an experience of Christ, you find that there is a look that almost speaks of a progressive understanding of God's love.

KING: Your church is opposed to?

MANNING: Very much so, so that we can move with Christ much closer to an understanding to oppose the death penalty rather than go --

KING: In Deuteronomy, there are passages in the scripture.

MANNING: I have to come in my mind. I have to say that there is a progressive growth that can enable me to say, hey, wait a minute, we can't just go out, some of the instances of death in Deuteronomy are, for example, if a child is unruly or what not you can take him out and stone him. That's not the spirit of Jesus.

KING: Reverend Mohler, isn't a lot of this your interpretation of it?

MOHLER: There is always the danger that we will read our interpretation of it. That's why for one thing we're dependent upon how Christians have read the scriptures for centuries in which there has been a universal consensus about what the scriptures had to say about sexuality. The old testament text you mentioned were addressed to the ancient theocracy of Israel. If we were the ancient theocracy of Israel, we would be obligated to those texts, but we are Christians here talking about the church in the new testament and there we find the amazing teaching from the apostle Paul that we're made up as the church as those who come from many different kinds of sins, all of us, as sinners, speaking of homosexuality, as well as swindlers and others, Paul said such were some of you, speaking to Christians.

KING: Reverend Mohler, are you a sinner? Are you a sinner?

MOHLER: That's the power of the transformation. You bet I am, Larry, absolutely.

KING: Since you are, why rail out against homosexuals since you have your own sins?

MOHLER: Well, I don't believe I do rail out against homosexuals. I'm obligated to teach the whole council of God about everything that God declares to be sin. It is however, as Canon Anderson said earlier, when we're talking about qualifications for leadership in the church, God has revealed certain particular issues that are of great importance to him and thus for the church and we are obligated to those things. It's not a matter of talk about sinners or those who are not sinners. It's a matter of talking about sinners who are saved by grace, sinners who have repented of their sin and the message of the gospel is that all who repent of their sin and come by faith to the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. That's the (INAUDIBLE) each of us comes with our own story.

KING: Bishop Robinson?

ROBINSON: Yes, Larry, I think it's really important to understand that being certain about something does not necessarily -- even if you're certain about it for 2,000 years doesn't make it right. The church was pretty certain that scripture justified slavery and that only changed about 150 years ago. We were pretty certain for 2,000 years that women had no place in the leadership of the church. But we worship a God who is not locked up in scripture 2,000 years ago, but continues to reveal God's self to us. It's not God that's changing. It's our understanding. We're being led by the Holy Spirit to understand in a new way what God was intending. The question before us right now is, might God be intending something different in our welcome of gay and lesbian people that's not been true for the last 2,000 years? And would that not be God's will for us?

KING: Father Manning?

MANNING: One of the things that we find as Catholics, it's a word we use, the natural law. It gets down to the basics of who we are as male and female and what was the orientation of male and female, its orientation of male and female to generate children. That's where we're called to and there is a real desire to try to make sure that we're continually keeping in line with that, that call.

KING: Gays can't do that?

MANNING: They can. They can love and they can have friendship. But when you get --

KING: Can't have children?

MANNING: When you get into the children reality, you're all of a sudden finding yourself in a kind of no man's land or no woman's land.

KING: Andrew Sullivan, do you feel tormented by it?

SULLIVAN: I have in the past to be perfectly honest with you, of course. When you're told as a child that what you know to be yourself is somehow evil and wrong, it's a terrible wound that the church places in the souls of so many young people and it continues to torment those souls and one of the things that one can do as a believing person of faith, who is also gay, is to tell those kids out there, do not despair. God does loves you. Do not believe some of the things that are taught to you. Know in your heart who you are and that God loves you and don't listen to this. One thing I want to say is that being gay is not about sex as such, although that's part of it. It's a tiny part of it. What it's about, my relationship is about love and friendship and commitment and fidelity and all the virtues that we're called for and called to in our tradition. And God's creation is more diverse than we understand and I think we should have a little bit more humility in the face of God's creation than some of the things we've been hearing about tonight. We don't know what God necessarily means by nature. We're learning all sorts of things about what nature is. Maybe homosexuality as it's part of so many other species, is a part of nature, part of what God created and he want us to be whole and part of that human family.

KING: We'll take a break. We'll come right back. I got to take a break and then we'll come right back with lots more to go including phone calls. We'll also check in with Bishop Frank Griswold. He's the chief pastor of the Episcopal Church of the United States. He's at the convention center in Columbus and we'll spend a few moments with his thoughts. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a very serious situation in the Anglican community. This is a marriage which is in separation and it is in danger of heading to divorce and the Anglican community has brought in a marriage counselor who has given us very specific pleas to do what we need to do to create the space necessary to create reconciliation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. Bishop Griswold will be joining us probably in the next segment. He's tied up on other things at that busy convention in Columbus.

Let's take some calls. Cleveland, Ohio, hello.

CALLER: Hello, this is Mike. I'm confused by this biblical conversation. It seems to me that, I wonder if we shouldn't be interpreting the scripture the way Jesus interpreted scripture. I mean he, he healed on the sabbath, he met with people who weren't clean in this society. When you look at what Peter and Paul did in welcoming the gentiles, what was their rubric or way of understanding whether the gentiles should come in? That was against the book as well. So I really don't get this way of interpreting the scripture that is so literal. It seems that it requires a double standard.

KING: All right, Canon Anderson, would you respond?

ANDERSON: Well, when we read scripture, for example, the Gospel of John, Jesus says that he's doing the work that his father has given him to do, and the words of his father are his words, so the fact, for example, that Jesus doesn't say a lot himself about homosexuality, nevertheless, Jesus is teaching us what is on the heart of his father and his father's thoughts are written in scripture already. So, you know, I think that as long as we stay to what is in print and has been taught by the church for 2,000 years, we're not inventing new interpretations, but others are.

SULLIVAN: Can I correct that? It's not that Jesus said little about homosexuality, he said nothing about homosexuality. The only thing he did say was that divorce was impossible and, of course, without a divorce, the Episcopalian church would not exist at all.

KING: Bishop Robinson, do you think Jesus would embrace you today?

ROBINSON: Absolutely. Let's be very clear and Canon Anderson knows this, in fact, Jesus violated his scriptures quite often. That's why he got into such trouble. He was always associating with those who had been pushed to the margins of his society, looked down upon as being sinful and unclean. He spent time with them. And he drove the religious authorities of his day crazy because he was not following scripture as he had learned it as a child, but, in fact, was reinterpreting it through the lens of God's love. And, we follow a person who was always reinterpreting scripture and letting people know that it's the spirit of what's going on in one's heart that is the real key and when he said love one another as I have loved you, it means that we need to be moving to the margins, doing justice work, working against racism. All kinds of things that Jesus would be doing in this day and time. I have no question in my mind that Jesus considers me beloved. Just as I am.

KING: Do you think we're moving toward marriage of gays, Reverend Hudson?

HUDSON: I think it's going to be ...

KING: ... Going to happen?

HUDSON: I think ultimately it will happen. Actually, the reality is, that gay and lesbian people have been standing in holy places for centuries with priests present, surrounded by family and friends, being blessed in their covenant relationships. What is at work here, it's not about marriage, it is about taxpayers who are being denied their civil rights.

KING: Atlanta, hello?

CALLER: Hi, Larry. I have a question for the panel. Romans 25, 26, and 27 clearly states about homosexuality and them changing god's word into a lie. Who gave anyone the authority to change the word of God and interpret it the way you want, when the scriptures, Romans 25, 26 and 27, clearly state about homosexuality.

KING: Clearly stating what, sir?

ANDERSON: It's an abomination.

KING: It says it's an abomination. He says why is there any question, right?

HUDSON: Actually, I think it's important to note that over time, if you look at the development of scripture and if you look at how people have interpreted it and how, and you can go back and look, over time, the different translations from the original texts, you will see that the word homosexual actually comes into the scripture much later. That the original Greek has to do with an act of abuse of younger people for sexual purposes. And that the word homosexual is gradually brought into scripture, that condemns a whole group of people, and you can trace that very clearly through time as we move up into present day and how that word is finally introduced into scripture.

KING: Aiken, South Carolina, hello.

CALLER: My question is for, is his name Bishop Robinson.

KING: Yes.

CALLER: I would like to know, he's a practicing gay man and he's living with another gay man. If he was a heterosexual man living, let's say, out of wedlock with a woman, does he think he should be bishop then? He's not married, he's practicing his homosexuality.

KING: He can't marry, ma'am.

CALLER: That's right. He can't marry. And until, so that's not acceptable. If he wants to be a gay man, that's fine. I'm an Episcopalian but I do not think he should be in a leadership position.

KING: Want to comment, Bishop Robinson?

ROBINSON: You bet I do. Larry, you're right. I don't have the option of marrying my partner, but, you know, Jesus said that good fruit can't come from a bad tree. What we're saying is, look at our relationships. Look at the good that comes from them. If you look closely, you'll see God showing up in them. Look at what gay and lesbian people contribute to this culture. Contribute to their own children and to other people's children. Look at the fruits of what we're doing, and then decide in us, can you see the face of Christ? And if you can, then welcome us into the church as god would have us welcomed.

KING: We'll be right back with more. Don't go away on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we indeed want to change our direction to repent or genuinely regret what we've done, which is my hope, the hope of many in the Episcopal church, and the hope of many throughout the Anglican communion. If we choose to do that, let us say so openly, honestly and sincerely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE. Joining us now from Columbus, Ohio from the convention center is Bishop Frank T. Griswold. He is the chief pastor of the Episcopal Church of the United States, president or chairman of numerous Episcopal Church boards and agencies. Thank you for joining us, Bishop Griswold. Where do you stand on the issue of gays in your church?

BISHOP FRANK GRISWOLD, CHIEF PASTOR, EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF THE U.S.: I think gay and lesbian people have a privileged place in our church and are integral to our life and our ministry. And this has been true for a very long time.

KING: Should they be bishops?

GRISWOLD: I think the important thing to be aware of is that the Episcopal Church has always been a church that has been able to contain diverse opinions on any number of topics, and I think that the whole question of the ordination of gay and lesbian people is one of those topics upon which we as a church have, again, a variety of opinions. I think it is inevitable...

KING: And what is yours?

GRISWOLD: Well, I think -- certainly I gave my consent to the ordination of the bishop of New Hampshire and presided his ordination, which I hardly would have done if I felt that it was intrinsically wrong. At the same time...

KING: What do you -- I'm sorry, go ahead.

GRISWOLD: ... I recognize -- yes, I recognize that many Episcopalian would disagree with that position.

KING: And what is going to happen at the convention in that regard?

GRISWOLD: Well, I think the important thing here, and I've just come from an evening in which I presided with Senator John Danforth as our principal speaker. He's of course an Episcopal priest, as you probably know.

KING: Yes.

GRISWOLD: And one of the points he made was, we're a church that's always been able to contain multiple points of view, and he said in this world where we're so polarized, politically and religiously, where language is so divisive, it's so important that a church such as ours manifest and witness to the fact that we can stay together and respect the fact that we have different points of view and be one in mission to a broken world. That is the point that I think is so important. The broken world needs our attention. And sexuality, as important as it may be, is not the dominating concern. Life and death issues, poverty, disease, all these things that really threaten human life are where we need to place our attention.

KING: We'll hold it right there, Bishop Griswold. We've got to take a break, and when we come back, lots more. The bishop will return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back. We'll be right back with our panel, but first let's check in with our roving man, Anderson Cooper. There he is. And tonight, he's in the beautiful city of San Francisco. What's up tonight, Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, lots to talk about tonight. Coming up at the top of the hour on "360," the war over the war erupts on Capitol Hill today. Members of Congress taking up the issue of Iraq and how long troops should stay. Emotions got very, very hot. Some would say that's exactly what Republicans had wanted all along. We'll have all the angles on that.

Plus, did a judge withhold a jail sentence for a convicted child molester because the criminal is too short? That's what some people in Sidney, Nebraska are saying happened, and they are outraged. We'll tell you how that story may not sound as cut and dry as it seems. All that and more, Larry, at the top of the hour.

KING: Look at that sensational view, Anderson Cooper in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. "AC 360" at the top of the hour, 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.

Back with our panel and back to Bishop Frank T. Griswold. Why, Bishop Griswold, can it be judged congregation by congregation?

GRISWOLD: I think congregations vary tremendously, and you will find that there are congregations in which gay and lesbian people feel much more at home than other congregations. I think, since I travel the United States, I can see all kinds of regional variations as well. And I think one of the important things to be aware of is that the gospel is always interpreted in particular contexts. Our social influences, our historical influences all have something to do with how we read the gospel and interpret it and apply it to our lives.

KING: Canon Anderson, it would appear that you're in disagreement with the chief pastor of your church. How do you reconcile that?

ANDERSON: Well, three years ago in August, we told Presiding Bishop Griswold that he was running the Titanic into the iceberg on the Gene Robinson confirmation. They said -- he said and others that we would all get over it. That's not been the case. People are voting with their feet. 35,000 a year, that's 700 a week literally, are saying no to Gene Robinson being a bishop, no to Frank Griswold's episcopacy, and they are moving on to other denominations, and moving into other Anglican entities but out of the Episcopal Church. That's pretty significant.

KING: Why do you stay, Canon Anderson?

ANDERSON: Well, I like a good fight.

KING: OK. Well said. How do you react to that, Bishop Griswold?

GRISWOLD: Well, I think I would say that we're a church of diverse opinions...

KING: Obviously.

GRISWOLD: ... and the overwhelming reality of the Episcopal Church is what I call the diverse center. People who have all kinds of opinions, but have an overriding sense of being churched together, not just to be cozy and familiar, but in order to serve Christ in the world. I think that larger sense of mission is what really galvanizes Episcopalians.

KING: Father Manning, would you describe this church as progressive?

MANNING: The Episcopal Church?

KING: The Episcopal Church.

MANNING: Yes, very progressive. You know what I want to say, I really think that we need to be, as Christians, very, very sensitive to gay and lesbians, and make sure that this is not something that they are objects of prejudice and they are thrown off and that they suffer. That isn't what Jesus is about.

It does come down, though, to this basic understand that if you are gay, if you are a lesbian, praise the Lord, use your gifts, but be careful that you don't allow sexuality to move into that, because it moves against what is the natural experience.

KING: How can you not let it move in?

MANNING: Oh, but you can. You can friendship and love and care.

(CROSSTALK)

HUDSON: How is he defining natural, natural relationship? My relationship is wholly and completely natural to me. It is exactly who I believe God has created me to be. And I have a wonderful, living, dynamic relationship with God. And I know, in the core of my being, that the most natural way for me to be, is exactly who I am.

KING: Reverend Mohler, don't you sympathize with that?

MOHLER: I sympathize with every single human heart wishing to know the one true and living God, but I believe there is only one way that can happen through Jesus Christ and the gospel is about repenting of sin, not celebrating it. A church that buys into the logic of Bishop Griswold is a church that's obligated to ordain homosexuals openly and unrepentant or anyone else because it's moved away from the clear authority of scripture.

A church that worships diversity is a church that's destined to accept a death null because the church itself is grounded in truth. The true church always celebrates the truth. I'm thankful there are many conservative, orthodox Episcopalians who celebrate that truth and want to obey the truth. In the main, the big truth is not the interpretation of scripture but whether we obey it or not.

SULLIVAN: And we're trying to bear witness to that truth. And we are doing so with our lives and with our souls and we're opening them up to tell the world who we are, and if we're rejected, then so be it, but God won't reject us and we have a duty to tell the truth. There is no commandment that says thou shalt not be gay, but there is a commandment that says that shalt not bear false witness and I will not bear falls witness to who I am.

And I will not as a Catholic be thrown out of my home and my church and my faith and my communion because of who I am. Because of how God made me and that's the bottom line, father, and I understand there is diversity and I respect that. And I understand your faith. But we're not leaving and we exist and we're here and we're human.

KING: Bishop Griswold, I know you have to leave us. Before you go.

GRISWOLD: Let me make a comment here. Jesus says I have many more things to tell you but you cannot bear them now. When the spirit of truth comes he will draw from what is mine or reveal it to you. Truth is unfolding. Isn't it interesting that we learn more about truth in medical areas, truth about the world around us, but we can't learn anything new about sexuality? Isn't that strange?

KING: Thank you, bishop. Thanks for being with us. Bishop Frank T. Griswold, Chief pastor of the Episcopal church of the United States and when we come back our remaining moments with our panel of six. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's unhelpful because to pass this resolution, to send a message to the thousands of Episcopalians across the country, who have heard the call of the holy spirit and have a new understanding, an understanding that was so well set forth, to set our hope on Christ that the blessing and the inclusion of people who are partnered, gay and lesbians, are being invited into our church.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We have another caller in Denver. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, I'm in a committed relationship of 24 years. I was raised Southern Baptist, my partner is Catholic. However, we're not welcomed in a church and I just wondered why or how we're not welcomed in a church of worship, when so many people like myself are not welcomed in a church and some are not welcomed in society, and look at suicide and how we're not welcomed in a church of God.

KING: I guess the question is, do you want to respond, Reverend Hudson. HUDSON: You would be very welcomed at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, Texas.

KING: But they're in Denver.

HUDSON: You can watch us online. We broadcast our worship services online and you would be very welcomed in our church. It's made up of 3,500 people, predominantly gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender.

KING: Bishop Robinson, would they be welcomed in the Episcopal church in Denver?

ROBINSON: You bet they would. We have signs in every little town and every large city that says the Episcopal church welcomes you. There is no asterisk after that listing, the people who are exceptions. It means everyone is welcomed and we're a church that's struggling to make that kind of reality true for us and on behalf of God everywhere.

KING: Andrew Sullivan, why don't you become Episcopal? They seem more, welcoming to you than the Catholic church?

ROBINSON: Welcome, Andrew.

SULLIVAN: Thank you, Gene. Look, this is my home and this is my faith. And I love the mass. I love the mass. I love my faith, and I took a time-out because I couldn't really bear it anymore the way they were talking about us and scapegoating us and demonizing us. But I've come back because I can't be without it. This is who I am. I love it. And so many gay Catholics out there love it. I want to say to them don't let them take your faith away from you. Stay there. Stay in the pews and be at mass and at the lord's table because he loves you.

KING: Canon Anderson can't you sympathize with what Andrew just said?

ANDERSON: Well, many of us that are orthodox, conservative Episcopalians have experience a real sense of isolation within the Episcopal church, and we're hoping for a better day to come for our own situation. We anticipate that at some point, the global communion will remove the Anglican franchise from the Episcopal church and grant it to another entity. We don't see how the Episcopal church can really continue the way it is.

KING: Do you ever see the Baptists changing, Reverend Mohler?

MOHLER: Well, I hope not on this regard because it comes under the authority of scripture, but I know the one thing that must not change is this, as one sinner saved by grace to other sinners, I say come to Jesus Christ and come no newness of life. It will change your sex life, for everyone. It will change every dimension of your life and that's by the grace and mercy of God.

KING: Do you think that can happen, Father Manning? MANNING: In the Catholic Church?

KING: Yes.

MANNING: The grace of God can move mightily. I would hope also.

KING: Do you think it can change with this Pope?

MANNING: You mean that they would open it up to homosexuals? No, no. That's not gong to change. It's fundamental with the Catholic Church. It's an understanding that this is not the way we were made. And it's that struggle with that. It's even more fundamental than some of the changes that we've experienced in scripture through the years.

KING: Thank you all very much. Bishop Gene Robinson, Reverend Joe Hudson, Andrew Sullivan, Canon David Anderson, Father Michael Manning and Reverend Al Mohler for this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be back tomorrow night from New York City, the big apple. You may have heard of it.

Let's go to San Francisco. Anderson Cooper is standing by. He will host AC 360 by the Golden Gate Bridge, Anderson?

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