Stark choices face the Primates and Bishops of the Anglican Communion in 2014
As a poisoned Christmas present to the people of Uganda, the Ugandan parliament, at a non-quorate session, passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the week before Christmas. Its legal legitimacy has been questioned. The bill now goes to President Yoweri Museveni to be signed into law. Museveni has said he will review the Bill carefully before deciding what to do. The Ugandan Bill was introduced and passed with the help of American fundamentalist Christian support.
In the same week the Nigerian Senate unanimously adopted a harmonized final version of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill.
Where does the Church of Uganda and the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) stand?
The Nigerian Primate and Nigerian bishops have been vocal in their support for the Bill. They have no interest in the Dromantine Communique’s unreserved commitment to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people, assuring homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him.
As Jim Burroway reports on the Box Turtle Bulletin, the Uganda Daily Monitor shows that Ugandan bishops have used Christmas sermons to support the Bill.
The Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Most Rev Stanley Ntagali, said “I want to thank Parliament for passing the Anti-homosexuality Bill. I want the world to understand what we are saying.” He told believers at All Saints Church, Kampala that any contentious clauses could be corrected. “Can you imagine your son brings another man at home for introduction? The church preaches forgiveness, reconciliation and transformation. I do not want people to look at us and say the church is against the homosexuals. We love everybody. The homosexuals, and lesbians are all children of God but we want them to repent and have eternal life.”
At St Paul’s Cathedral Namirembe, Bishop Wilberforce Kityo Luwalira commended MPs for passing the anti-gays Bill.
The Bishop of Mbale, the Rt Rev Patrick Gidudu, asked Ugandans and political leaders who are against the Bill to seek God, repent and renew fellowship to save the country from God’s wrath.
Bishop Evans Mukasa Kisekka of St Mark Cathedral in Luweero said: “We were the first people to reject funds from gay Christians who wanted our diocese to use the funds for Church projects.”
At a conference in Jamaica, Andrea Minichiello Williams, a member of the General Synod and CEO of Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre, advocated that Jamaica maintains its anti-gay legislation.
It is not possible to reconcile Dromantine’s unreserved commitment to pastoral care, support, love and value for LGB&T people with Anglican support for the Bills in Uganda and Nigeria. Archbishop Ntagali wants to offer conditional love, dependent on repentance, rejection of which leads to God’s wrath on the country according to Bishop Gidudu. I think the Archbishop really does want the Church to welcome LGB&T people, but doesn’t understand how support for the Bill fatally compromises his desire.
Uganda and Nigeria are among the Provinces of the Anglican Communion who’s Primates and bishops make statements which reject the full humanity of LGB&T people as created and loved by God unconditionally – together with every member of the human race.
Ugandan and Nigerian support for the Bills highlights the challenge faced by the Anglican Communion in general and the Archbishop of Canterbury in particular. The Bills not only extend the criminalization of LGB&T people to supportive families, friends and priests but increases the level of homophobia in both countries, putting LGB&T lives and safety at risk. I’m sure the Ugandan and Nigerian Primates and bishops are aware of this.
In dramatic contrast, in England and other countries, equal marriage is already or is about to become legal, extending the equal status of LGB&T people.
Faced with the prejudiced, homophobic attitudes of some Primates and bishops in the Communion, what are the policy makers and opinion formers of the Church of England to do about such attitudes? Where do the Archbishops, bishops and key staff members at Church House, Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Communion Office really stand? I’m pretty sure those I know reasonably well, while not necessarily supporting equal marriage, are totally opposed to the criminalization and imprisonment of LGB&T people and of the rhetoric and teaching which puts lives in danger.
There are a range of organizations in the Church of England which campaign to various degrees against the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Church. They include Reform, the Christian Institute, Anglican Mainstream, the Church of England Evangelical Council, and in a less extreme form, Fulcrum.
The Archbishops, bishops and senior church staff are confronted with difficult decisions. Do they stand with those in the Anglican Communion who criminalize or would further criminalize LGB&T people, intensifying homophobia and prejudice, putting lives at risk and exacerbating vulnerability, guilt, depression and suicide in LGB&T people? Or do they stand with the full implications of the Dromantine statement?
- Unreservedly committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people
- Opposed to the victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex – which is anathema to the Primates
- Assuring homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship
The Dromantine statement made a dramatically strong commitment to homosexual people (which has to be extended to include bisexual and transgender people). The statement brought the Primates and bishops of the Communion into conflict with the intense anti-gay prejudice maintained on the basis of scripture and tradition in many Provinces and conservative organisations.
The unresolved conflict can only grow in intensity this year. I hope key people will find the courage to take a stand on one side or the other so that we can be clear – is Dromantine a document which commands respect? Because at the moment, it is widely ignored and its commitments abused.
Changing Attitude is determined to make 2014 a year of change – positive, holy change in Christian attitudes towards LGB&T people. I hope and pray the leaders of our Communion will be confronted with a stark choice– to protect the lives and dignity of LGB&T people or capitulate to prejudice and admit that we are not to be fully included as equals in the Kingdom of God.