Haines' Heart Grew to Embrace Homosexual Son: Liberal Bishop's Wife a Traditionalist

By Duin, Julia | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 7, 1996 | Go to article overview

Haines' Heart Grew to Embrace Homosexual Son: Liberal Bishop's Wife a Traditionalist


Duin, Julia, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The smiling, white-haired matron had no sooner walked into the downtown hotel conference room when she was immediately surrounded by about 25 members of the Pro Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians.

"My heart is open to every one of you," Mary Haines told them. "There is a lot of diversity in the Christian pro-life movement."

After learning of her son's homosexuality, she says, she had to learn to balance her pro-life views with her religious conviction that homosexual activity is a sin. She began, Mrs. Haines explained, by loving her son, who is HIV-positive.

All this happened while she was living a public life as the wife of the Right Rev. Ronald H. Haines, Episcopal bishop of Washington, as vice president of the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life (NOEL) and as the mother of six and grandmother of six.

First, the Haines' homosexual son, Jeffrey, 36, sued the North Carolina priest he said had abused him as a child. The lawsuit recently was settled out of court.

Then Bishop Haines decided to start ordaining homosexual priests. Although his roots are as conservative as his wife's, the bishop, in his last 10 years in the episcopate, has become one of the Episcopal Church's most liberal spokesmen.

Since then, the couple has been the Mary Matalin and James Carville of the Episcopal Church: privately still in love, publicly at odds.

"Yet, we have a good marriage," Mrs. Haines says, "because I believe a covenant means something."

Nonetheless she was stung when her husband ordained a practicing lesbian, Elizabeth Carl, in June 1991, just before the denomination's triennial convention.

Bishop Haines narrowly escaped censure by the Episcopal House of Bishops when it gathered in Phoenix later that summer, and much of the criticism that rained down on him deeply affected his wife.

Like the pro-life homosexuals Mrs. Haines spoke to, she has had to make sense out of a strange universe in which she finds herself in an almost untenable middle.

"I used to be fearful of confronting, but I've learned in Washington that unless you tell the truth, you don't get anywhere," she told the Pro Life Alliance.

"It was a very hard thing to find out Ron went ahead with this and didn't share it with his family," Mrs. Haines said, noting that she and her family learned about the upcoming Carl ordination from a newspaper article. "It made things very hard on us."

When Jeffrey revealed his homosexuality, "we didn't know how to deal with it," she told the homosexual advocacy group. "We turned to an ex-gay ministry for help."

Then, noticing the disapproving looks some of the men cast toward her, she added, "I have found they're loving."

"I can love all of you on both sides of this issue just how I love people who are pro-abortion, pro-choice and pro-life," she said.

"Because of the pain in her own family, I think she's able to be in a more understanding position than some others are," says the Rev. Linda Poindexter, assistant to the rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase and a board member for NOEL. "She just loves people, and people resonate to that."

Their friends say the Haineses are the classic odd couple, but they didn't begin that way. When they married in November 1956, she was headed for a career as a teacher and he as an engineer.

Mrs. Haines' hold on life has been somewhat tenuous. She had 20 blood transfusions when she was 7 while suffering from the blood disease purpura, which brought her so close to death that her Catholic neighbors had a novena for her. …

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