Archbishop of Canterbury Admits Church Has Failed Gay People
September 10th, 2012
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who steps down in December, admitted that the church has been “wrong” in its past treatment of gay people, and says that he personally shares some of that blame, particularly lately in the recent dust-up where the Church of England voiced opposition to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s plan to introduce marriage equality in the United Kingdom:
Dr Williams is critical of the “embarrassment” the Prime Minister has caused the Church. A “very inadequate” consultation overlooked the legal position of the Churches and marriage. By opposing the change, however, the Church attracted accusations of homophobia, and for good reason, he thinks. It has been too – he says “lily mouthed” before correcting himself: “We’ve not exactly been on the forefront of pressing for civic equality for homosexual people, and we were wrong about that.”
To those who fear the constitutional consequences, he says legalising gay marriage would not of itself trigger disestablishment. “We’ve been assured that there will be no pressure on the Church to perform marriages, but of course as things stand, every citizen has the right to be married in Church. That’s alright, so long as the State’s definition of marriage and the Church’s definition are the same. If the State’s definition shifts … then we have a tangle.”
That word “tangle” illustrates that Archbishop Rowan conundrum. Where others would want to hear clarion clarity about a crisis that goes to the very heart of the Church, he shies away and hedges. To his critics, this is the reason why the Church appears weak, because he does not communicate certainty.
Williams’s lilly-mouthiness has become legendary at BTB.When Uganda in 2009 was in the midst of an intense debate over whether they should make the slaughter of gay people a matter of national policy, Williams could barely muster a mumble. It took him two years before he could finally declare the entire Anti-Homosexuality Bill “unacceptable,” and that at the last possible minute when Parliament was about to bring the bill up for a vote, and only after he already ceded leadership to homophobic bishops on the issue.
Ugandan Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox Bishops Call for Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s Revival
June 12th, 2012
Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, reported this worrisome call on Sunday:
Top religious leaders from across the country have asked Parliament to speed-up the process of enacting the Anti-Homosexuality law to prevent what they called “an attack on the Bible and the institution of marriage”.
Speaking after their recent annual conference organised by the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), an ecumenical body which brings together the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches, the bishops resolved that the parliamentary committee on Gender should be tasked to engage the House on the Bill which is now at committee level.
“We also ask the Education committee to engage the Ministry of Education on the issue of incorporating a topic on human sexuality in the curricula of our schools and institutions of learning,” the resolutions signed by archbishops Henry Luke Orombi, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga and Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga, indicated.
This is a worrying development. Roman Catholic Archbishop Lwanga’s Christmas message of 2009 included his opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. He reiterated that message the following January. He was also a signatory to a multi-faith letter in 2010 which criticized the bill. More than a year later, we learned that prior to the Archbishop’s statements, the Vatican had intervened with its opposition to the bill. This statement now appears to be an about-face on the part of Lwanga.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s sponsor, M.P. David Bahati, continues to lie about the bill’s provisions:
Among some of the propositions in the Bill was one of death and life sentence for those for those caught engaging in homosexuality for a second time.
However, Mr Bahati said these penalties had since been removed from the Bill.
This is as untrue now as it has been every time Bahati has repeated this lie since the bill’s first introduction in 2009. It was referred to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, where it languished until 2011. When the committee finally reported the bill back onto the House floor in May, 2011 they suggested removing some clauses of the bill while adding of a new clause criminalizing the conduct of same-sex marriages. As for the death penalty provision, the committee recommended a sly change to the bill, removing the explicit language of “suffer(ing) death,” and replacing it with a reference to the penalties provided in an unrelated already existing law. That law however specifies the death penalty. Which means that the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended that the death penalty be retained through stealth. Bahati then went on to claim that the death penalty was removed even though it was still a part of the bill. The Eighth Parliament ended before it could act on the committee’s recommendation.
On February 7, 2012, the original version of the bill, unchanged from when it was first introduced in 2009, was reintroduced into the Ninth Parliament. The bill was again sent to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. Despite reports to the contrary, the original language specifying the death penalty is still in the bill, and will remain there unless the committee recommends its actual removal and Parliament adopts that recommendation in a floor vote.
February 8th, 2012
For the past 134 years The Living Church has been speaking to Episcopalians – especially those of the Anglo-Catholic “high church” wing – on matters of faith. In the January 29 edition, there is a fascinating article entitled “Tradition, Novelty, and the Need for Discernment” by David Newheiser, which reinspects what tradition has to say about same-sex marriage.
Those who appreciate a scholarly and thoughtful approach will enjoy this article. Here’s a taste:
The relevant question for faithful Christians is thus not whether Paul would have affirmed homosexual marriage: on the basis of the conceptual apparatus he had available, he would have been able to grasp neither the concept homosexual nor the Nicene affirmation that the Son is “of one substance” with the Father. Even if, as is likely, he would have been alarmed on both counts, this does not settle the issue, for the force of Paul’s teaching may point toward developments that he would not have expected. Just as Athanasius argued that the teaching of Scripture recommends ways of speaking that the authors of Scripture would not have recognized, it may be that the fidelity to tradition requires new ways of thinking about the status of same-sex unions.
I don’t always find that an article changes my perspective or opens new ways of thinking. But after reading Newheiser’s piece I came away with a new understanding of tradition.
Theological responses to same-sex marriage are no more longstanding and traditional than theological responses to online dating or sexting. Tradition is more than just “doing what we did before” when there is no “before” with which to compare. Rather, the church should utilize another tradition, that of applying discernment to questions before it. And that is, indeed, an old and established tradition.
San Joaquin Episcopalians bless marriage
June 9th, 2011
When non-Californian’s think of the state, the great San Joaquin Valley is generally not what comes to mind. This southern half of the Central Valley is vast, rural, and green. There are no trolley cars or movies stars. Just mile after mile of grape vines, pistachio orchards, cotton fields and lettuces of various kinds, providing a 250 mile drive of mind numbing sameness from Bakersfield to Sacramento.
The San Joaquin valley is also politically very conservative, especially on gay issues. Although Orange County is notorious for sending anti-gay activists to Washington (Dannemeyer, Dornan), it is in the valley that anti-gay animus is planted, tended, and watered. While Orange County voted for Proposition 8 with a 57.8% approval, none of the eight counties in the San Joaquin Valley had an affirmative vote lower than 65% and five of them were in the 70′s.
And this conservatism can be found in the churches that dot the landscape, even the generally-supportive Episcopal Church. The ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson, a gay man living in a long-term relationship, did not sit well with the San Joaquin Diocese. And after much rumbling and threat, the rather effeminate Bishop John-David Schofield (a “cured homosexual”) led a revolt that pulled his diocese from the Episcopal Church and aligned it with first a church in Argentina and then with the Anglican Church of North America, a denomination which draws its distinction based on its rejection of gay people.
The Episcopal Church did not recognize Bishop Schofield’s right to defection and there is an ongoing legal battle over the assets of the church. Faithful congregations retained affiliation and other Episcopalians who sought to remain within the fold left their houses of worship to join together and build new congregations within the dioceses.
But any hope of reuniting now appears even more unlikely. After a temporary shepherding by a retired bishop, in March Rt. Rev. Chester Talton became the Episcopal Bishop of the San Joaquin Diocese. And today he issued a letter to his pastors that solidifies the distinction between the two groups:
Effective on Pentecost, June 12, 2011, clergy in the Diocese of San Joaquin may perform blessings of same gender civil marriages, domestic partnerships, and relationships which are lifelong committed relationships characterized by “fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.” Said relationships shall be called “Sacred Unions” for purposes of the blessing and recognition of these relationships. A liturgy authorized for use within the Diocese will be published separately.
As yet Canon Law (and California civil law) do not allow for the official solemnization of marriage, but this step in recognizing and blessing same-sex relationships signifies that the Episcopal Church has placed the mission of grace ahead of any reconciliation based on potential concessions to the breakaway group.
Archbishop of Canterbury: Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill Is Unsupportable
May 10th, 2011
The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has issued this short statement on Uganda’s pending Anti-Homosexuality Bill:
Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades. Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.
Bishop Robinson to Retire
November 7th, 2010
There are few people whose lives have a global impact. Gene Robinson is one of them.
In 2003, when the Episcopal Church elevated Robinson, an openly gay man, to Bishop of New Hampshire, a shift in global religion, politics and power occurred.
While other factors had been leading to such a change for a long time, Robinson became a symbol, a rallying point, for those who were unhappy with the influence that England had over Christendom and the related political power she wielded.
The Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion, the largest body of Christians outside the Roman Catholic Church. And while the Episcopal Church in the US is smaller and perhaps a bit elite, the Anglican faith dominates vast portions of Africa and is the voice of Christianity in many nations.
As the Church of England – and her Western sisters – have become increasingly liberal and increasingly the faith of modern industrious secular nations, ideological differences were bound to build in third world nations where there is a different perspective on life. And as there are far far more Anglicans in Africa than in The West, the deference given to the Church of England and the West became galling to local religious leaders.
Robinson’s appointment became a point of contention and an ultimatum arose. Either punish the Episcopal Church for daring to raise a gay man to Bishop, or the Global South (Africa and Asia) would be in schism.
Much negotiation and positioning has gone on since that time. The Episcopal Church has been slapped down (but refused to back down), a “solution” that appeased no one and resolved nothing. And while the current fragile relationship of the Anglican Communion is one of uncertainty, it seems to me that a break-up of the communion is inevitable.
This shift has also empowered African politicians to take up anti-gay causes, knowing that this is – within the church – an item of pride of identity and a symbol not only of African independence but African superiority.
And during all of this, Robinson has been a figure of international scorn and one of the most hated men on the planet. it hasn’t been easy. And now he has decided to retire. (Guardian)
The Rt Rev Gene Robinson, of New Hampshire, revealed his plans yesterday, at an annual diocesan meeting. He will be 65 when he steps down, seven years below the retirement age.
He told the convention that being in the eye of the storm had proved too much. He said: “Death threats, and the now-worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as bishop, have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark, who has faithfully stood with me every minute of the last seven years, and in some ways, you.
“While I believe that these attitudes, mostly outside the diocese, have not distracted me from my service to you, I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that they have certainly added a burden and certain anxiety to my episcopate.”
However, this will not be much of a point of celebration for any Anglicans or a symbol of conservative victory. In May of this year, lesbian Mary Glasspool was consecrated bishop in Los Angeles. The Episcopal Church is not walking away from its gay members and the division will continue.
I wish Robinson well.
Uganda’s President Calls for “Tolerance” At African Bishop’s Conference
August 30th, 2010
The All Africa Bishops Conference wrapped up its meeting in Entebbe yesterday, calling on the Worldwide African Communion, according to Uganda’s Daily Monitor, to “stick to their culture and reject Western ways tearing the church apart.” Among the “Western ways” specifically denounced is the Western church’s positions on the equal dignity and worth for LGBT people and the ordination of women. According to Daily Monitor:
While addressing a press conference yesterday, the clergy men, led by Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, said Western cultures like homosexuality should be shunned. He said they will not change their stand on homosexuality, saying the practice is against the scriptures.
On Tuesday, President Yoweri Museveni, without a hint of an awareness of the irony of his remarks, called on the 400 Anglican bishops gathered at Entebbe to embrace tolerance as a biblical imperative, saying that Christians should not “have one minute of time wasted” by those promoting prejudice:
“I am always looking for the good Samaritan,” he said. “Jesus says you shall know them by their fruits. You shall know them by their actions. Not by their words, not by their addresses, not by their titles, but by their works, by their deeds, by the products of their works.”
The President said those of all denominations or faiths needed to recognise one another’s right to exist: “If you are a Muslim, so what? I am a Christian. OK, so what’s your problem? You are what you are, but I am what I am. We’re different…I’m here by the permission of God. You must accept me the way I am whether you want it or not.”
That tolerance obviously does not extend to gay people. Museveni has spoken out repeatedly against what he sees as the “foreign influence” behind the presence of LGBT people in Uganda. A member of his ruling party, MP David Bahati, last October introduced the draconian Anti-Homosexuality before the nation’s Parliament. Following an international outcry that threatened foreign aid to the impoverished country, Museveni urged Parliament (of which some two-thirds are members of his National Resistance Movement) to “go slow” on the bill. He has nevertheless since then repeated several of the common Ugandan talking points about LGBT people. In speeches for Martyr’s Day, a national holiday in Uganda, Museveni charged that Europeans were intent on “imposing homosexuality“:
“The church in Africa is very strong and has been at the fore in fighting homosexuality and moral decadence. We must look for modern ways of instilling discipline in society. The Europeans are finished and if we follow their western culture, we shall be headed for Sodom and Gomorrah (the two places which God destroyed because of sexuality),” he said.
The latest Anglican conference wrapped up yesterday. Sunday Monitor’s report on the conference wrap-up seems to indicate that discussions concerning homosexuality were dominant in the talks. Among the comments:
“Homosexuality is not a new phenomenon in the society but the only trouble is that the issues dividing us (church) now are very difficult to handle. They are threatening the unity of the church because they disobey the authority of the scriptures,” says [Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of the province of Nigeria]. He says homosexuality is a result of some people engaged in making their culture to be superior to the biblical teachings. “It is two sided; while some people want to be obedient to their culture to determine the content of the church, others say no and it must be the guidance of the bible,” he added.
The primates describe homosexuality as an imposed interpretation and alien culture that has hindered the growth of an authentic church which could respond to its people. “We are saying homosexuality is not compatible with the word of God. We are saying that this culture of other people is against the traditional belief of marriage held by the Anglican Communion,” says the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi. Bishop Orombi says that the Anglican Church will never accept homosexuality because the scriptures too do not allow people of same sex to join in marriage.
“Homosexuality is evil, abnormal and unnatural as per the Bible. It is a culturally unacceptable practice. Although there is a lot of pressure, we cannot turn our hands to support it,” says Bishop Orombi.
The Archbishop Ian Ernest of the Province of Indian Ocean candidly denounced the Worldwide Communion’s refusal to “reign in” western churches which instituted policies which recognize the dignity and worth of LGBT people:
We cannot afford to continue to lurch from one crisis to the next in our beloved Communion. Despite attempts to warn some western provinces, action has been taken to irrevocably shatter the Communion. Sadly existing structures of the Anglican Communion have been unable to address the need for discipline,” says Bishop Ernest, the chairman of CAPA. He says the teachings of homosexuality are irrelevant to the needs of Africans and are unrepresentative demographically hence the need for new structures that are credible and representative of the majority.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, attended the opening sessions of the conference amid open declarations of de-facto schism between the African arm of the church and the West. Williams appeared to give his nod to African “leadership” in his remarks, saying, “God raises up different countries and cultures in different seasons to bear witness to his purpose in especially marked ways. This indeed may be His will for Africa in the years ahead.”
Anglican Head Cedes Leadership To Africa
August 24th, 2010
According to this NTVUganda news report, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams appears to have thrown in the towl in the face of the African rebellion. Responding to Ugandan archbishop Henry Luke Orombi’s call to “send missionaries to America and Europe to take back the gospel from these sending nations,” Williams conceded that it may indeed be “God’s Will” that African bishops continue to foment division within the Worldwide Anglican communion:
God raises up different countries and cultures in different seasons to bear witness to his purpose in especially marked ways. This indeed may be His will for Africa in the years ahead.”
There is also a clip of Uganda’s Prime Minister Apollo Nsibambi declaring to warm applause that “Africa has been exemplary, at least in not accepting homosexuality.”
“There is Already A Break”: Ugandan Archbishop Declares De-Facto Schism
August 24th, 2010
About 400 African bishops of the Anglican Union have gathered in Entebbe, Uganda for a six-day All Africa Bishops Conference organized by the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA). The head of the worldwide African Union, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams arrived in Entebbe on Monday to speak at the conference, which began this morning. His job is to try to hold the Anglican Communion together over deep rifts over homosexuality and the ordination of women. In Williams’ opening remarks, he didn’t address homosexuality specifically, but said this in his typically indirect, round-about way:
“We must learn to listen to those we lead and serve to find out what their hopes and needs and confusions are. We must love them and attend to their humanity in all its diversity,” Williams said.
But African clergy weren’t waiting to hear Williams’ watered-down messages, and they were far more direct in speaking with reporters. Before the conference began, the conference’s host and Ugandan Archbishop Uganda Henry Luke Orombi had already fired the opening salvo:
“Homosexuality is incompatible with the word of God,” Orombi said. “It is good (that) Archbishop Rowan is here. We are going to express to him where we stand. We are going to explain where our pains are.”
Orombi also said that disputes over homosexuality had already divided the global Anglican community.
“There is already a break. It doesn’t need to be announced. It is in the way people act,” he said.
The virulently anti-gay web site Virtue Online confirmed Orombi’s statement to reporters. David Virtue, who runs the web site and is attending the conference, also described Orombi’s comments in Williams’ presence at the conference itself:
Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi told 400 African Anglicans bishops in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams and Uganda’s Prime Minister that there was a hunger for the Word of God in England where he recently spoke to 17,000 people. “I called back home to send missionaries to America and Europe to take back the gospel from these sending nations. It is an ailing church in need of guidance.”
Addressing delegates to the All Africa Bishops conference sponsored by CAPA – the Council of Anglican provinces of Africa, Orombi said, “We must be free to go to Europe and to the Mother Church [CofE] desperate for the gospel.”
Orombi, along with Nigeria’s Archbishop Peter Akinola, have been particularly active schismatic activities for several years. Virtue’s web site has published invitations from Orombi’s diocese to American parishes inviting them to break from their own bishops to seek “spiritual guidance” from Orombi.
Virtue also relays comments made by Orombi and Uganda’s Prime Minister Apollo Nsibambi at a later press conference. According to Virtue, Orombi again reiterated that a schism has already occurred:
Asked about whether schism was now a reality in the Anglican Communion, Orombi said there was already schism in the face of doctrinal teaching. “The break took place a long time ago. We said in 2005 in Northern Ireland that if the gay movement does not check itself it is walking away from the Anglican Communion. The same was said in Dar es Salaam. Now in Uganda we are talking about a communion that is already broken. It is not the way people act. We have put out a moratorium. One part [of the Communion] breaks it so they have walked away. We as Africans are holding to the core of the faith of the communion.
In remarks to reporters according to Virtue, Prime Minister Nsibambi listed homosexuality alongside terrorism and corruption as among the problems Uganda was facing. (Uganda was hit by suicide bombers from Somalia in July.) According to Virtue, Nsibambi said:
“We believe that God the almighty is able to grapple with these problems. We need exemplary leaders, not sycophants. The East African Revival is the driving force of the Church of the Uganda. Africa has been exemplary in not accepting homosexuality. As we challenge the problems we must not point fingers at others but repent of our own sins.”
Religious Groups in UK beg for religious marriage freedom
February 23rd, 2010
Marriage equality is a freedom of religion issue. Currently, in most US states, the voters have acted under pressure from some religious entities to deny the rights of other religious entities to have their sacraments accorded the same respect and legal standing. Your Congregational Church or Reformed Synagogue may conduct holy vows and say sacred prayers that have been a part of their faith for centuries, but socially conservative Christian denominations have convinced civil government that they, and only they, get to determine what is defined as marriage.
In the United Kingdom, things are both better and worse. Better, because the civil government does allow for civil partnerships that are in most ways identical to marriage. And better because most of the citizenry sees these unions as being weddings.
But the UK is worse in that civil partnerships cannot take place in premises that are either designed for, or are in use mainly for, religious purposes. And they cannot include language that is sacramental
and churches are barred from offering blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples.
That is an unequivocal violation of the religious freedoms of those churches which wish to sanctify, solemnize, and bless the union of their same-sex parishioners. And three have come forward to protest.
In July of last year we informed you that the Quakers (the Society of Friends) in Britain formally requested that the government change the law to allow them to worship in accordance with their faith. And last month Liberal Judaism joined the Quakers and the Unitarians when Baroness Neuberger, president of Liberal Judaism, called for a change in the law to allow civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples to be held in synagogues.
Now these minority religions have received the backing of some powerful allies. A number of leaders in the Church of England have issued a letter in which they call for religious freedom.
Sir, The Civil Partnership Act 2004 prohibits civil partnerships from being registered in any religious premises in Great Britain. Three faith communities — Liberal Judaism, the Quakers, and the Unitarians — have considered this restriction prayerfully and decided in conscience that they wish to register civil partnerships on their premises.
And in their call for religious freedom, these Englishmen turn for moral authority to a most curious document:
To deny people of faith the opportunity of registering the most important promise of their lives in their willing church or synagogue, according to its liturgy, is plainly discriminatory. In the US it would be unconstitutional under the First Amendment: Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise . . . of religion.
The wording of the First Amendment is clear to our friends across the pond; a powerful religion cannot usurp the spiritual independence of smaller communities. Let’s hope that American jurists and political leaders can come to find the obvious meaning in our Constitution.
Southern African Anglicans Denounce Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill
February 16th, 2010
Southern African bishops of the Anglican Communion met in Swaziland February 8-10 to discuss, among other things, Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The resulting statement forcefully denounces the bill, calling it “a gross violation of human rights,” and deplores “the violent language used against the gay community across Sub-Saharan Africa.” This marks a significant statement of opposition by religious leaders within Africa.
Did the Anglican Church of Uganda Endorse Criminalization With Death Penalty?
February 9th, 2010
See important updates below.
This is a very surprising turn of events, considering that just last fall the head of the Ugandan Anglican Church questioned the “need” for the death penalty in the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Now, Christianity Today reports that the Church of Uganda has endorsed the bill, but suggests the following amendments:
- Ensure that the law protects the confidentiality of medical, pastoral and counseling relationships, including those that disclose homosexual practice in accordance with the relevant professional codes of ethics.
- Language that strengthens the existing Penal Code to protect the boy child, especially from homosexual exploitation; to prohibit lesbianism, bestiality, and other sexual perversions; and to prohibit procurement of material and promotion of homosexuality as normal or as an alternative lifestyle, be adopted.
- Ensure that homosexual practice or the promotion of homosexual relations is not adopted as a human right.
- Existing and future Educational materials and programmes on gender identity and sex education are in compliance with the values and the laws of Uganda.
- The involvement of additional stakeholders in the evaluation of the gaps in the existing legislation, including, but not limited to, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, its Department of Immigration and other relevant departments.
- The undertaking of a comprehensive legislative and literature review of all the laws and literature related to the subject at hand in order to identify the actual gaps in the existing legislations.
In fact, this recommendation amounts to a tacit opinion that the draconian bill, even in its breathtaking scope and breadth, doesn’t go far enough as far as the Anglican Church in Uganda is concerned. It also represents a rift between the Ugandan Church and the Anglican Communion’s head, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who quietly and meekly condemned the proposed legislation in December.
A number of Conservative Anglican churches in the U.S. have sought to align themselves with the Anglican Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, in an ongoing schism taking place here in America. Those American parishes are now fully aligned with an overseer who is on record as being perfectly fine with unleashing a genocidal wave against LGBT people in Uganda.
Update: Uganda’s largest independent newspaper Daily Monitor has a different take from The Christian Post. The Monitor calls the Anglican statement a “rejection” of the bill. According to the Monitor, the statement calls for the bill’s withdrawal and existing laws modified to specifically address child exploitation and bestiality. Without access to the statement itself, it’s hard to know how to reconcile the two accounts. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.
Anti-Gay Bill Dominates Ugandan Christmas Messages
December 28th, 2009
A typical Christmas message goes something like this: “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” In Uganda, goodwill toward LGBT people is very hard to come by this Christmas season. The nation’s television airwaves were saturated with Christmas messages from various pastors and denominations, and they all had one thing in common: urging for the passage of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
This is what Christmas day looked like for one BTB reader in Uganda.
The speaker of Parliament, Edward Sekandi, had one good observation on the proposal to criminalize those who fail to report LGBT people to police within twenty-four hours:
For instance, how do you imprison a father? Do you think a father should go and tell the police that this my son is doing this and the other?
But he also denounced donor countries for their warnings against the bill. “No… I think, I think even a poor man must, you know, respect himself,” he said.
Catholic Doublespeak In Uganda – Did The Bishop Tacitly Support Anti-Gay Bill During Christmas Mass?
December 26th, 2009
On Wednesday, Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga of the archdiocese of Uganda appeared on national television to denounce the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Today’s issue of the independent Daily Monitor has a round-up of Christmas sermons which reveals that the archbishop may support some aspects of the bill:
Bishop of Kampala Archdiocese Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, who led celebrations at Rubaga Cathedral, told hundreds of Christians that homosexuality is immoral and forbidden.
“The Catholic bishops of Uganda applaud the government’s effort to protect families and the church teachings remain clear. Homosexuality acts are immoral and evil and are against the divine laws of nature,” he said.
He added: “The church condemns homosexuality because we were created in God’s image and we must remain that.” The archbishop attacked donors whom he accused of forcing their harsh positions onto Ugandans desperate for aid. “We shall not allow acts of homosexuality to be promoted in the country and we shall not accept the donors’ positions,” he said.
He, however, said MP David Bahati’s Bill that seeks to criminalise homosexuality is unnecessary since there are already laws that outlaw the practice.
The clause in the Bill that calls for the death penalty in cases of “aggravated homosexuality” is uncalled for, Dr Lwanga said, adding that it does not allow for rehabilitation.
Combined with his Wednesday statement, it’s hard to know exactly what the Archbishop supports. He says that the Bahati bill isn’t needed because “there are already laws that outlaw the practice,” which is a very positive statement. If there is any hope for this bill being dropped, it will be for that reason alone and not out of a sudden awakening to the fact that criminalizing LGBT people goes against all principals of human rights.
But if the death penalty were dropped, as many of the bill’s supporters have hinted, would it then past muster with the Archbishop despite all the other draconian penalties that the bill would provide for gay people and straight people as well?
That ambiguity however doesn’t extend to his Anglican counterparts:
At St. Paul Cathedral, Namirembe, Bishop Wilberforce Kityo Luwalira urged the faithful to oppose all external forces seeking to promote homosexuality in the country, adding that it is against the order of nature. “We know what we want as Ugandans and we shall not be intimidated to accept homosexuality because it is against the order of nature,” he said, drawing a standing ovation from the congregation that included Prime Minister Apolo Nsibambi.
Rev. John Bosco Sendagala, of Christ the King Church, Kampala, said everyone should fight homosexuality. The same call was made by the Bishop of Ankole Diocese, the Rt. Rev Dr. George Tibesigwa.
Archbishop of York Denounces Uganda’s “Kill Gays” Bill
December 24th, 2009
The Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, who was born in Uganda and has a brother who is a prominent Pentecostal there, appeared on BBC Radio 4′s Today to denounce the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Act that is now before Parliament. Among its many draconian provisions, the proposed bill would provide the death sentence for LGBT people under certain circumstances (including so-called “serial offenders” or where the accused is HIV-positive), outlaw all advocacy on behalf of LGBT people (with seven years’ imprisonment) and criminalize the failure to report LGBT people to police within 24 hours (with three years’ imprisonment).
Archbishop Sentamu said:
I want to go back to the Dromantine communiqué of 2004 by the Primates of the Anglican Communion when we said we wish to make it clear that our discussion and assessment of moral appropriateness of specific behaviors, we continued to be unreservedly committed to pastoral support and care for homosexual people. The victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered toward people of the same sex is anathema to us. “We assure homosexual people that they are people of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship.”
…I am fully opposed to the death penalty. I am also quite unhappy when you describe people with the kind of language you find in this private member’s bill which seems also not only victimizing but diminishment of individuals.
The Archbishop also talked about the growing gulf between the Church of Uganda and the rest of the Anglican Communion:
The gulf can actually grow when it seems as though we’re having a dialogue with the deaf, and the reason why Canterbury and I haven’t actually come out publicly with anything is not because we don’t want to say anything because the position is very clear, but rather because we’re trying to help. And we’re trying actually to listen.
…And I’m absolutely committed that the church of Uganda — and I can only speak about the church of Uganda — is committed to the pastoral care which is in the Dromantine Communiqué, and is also committed to the listening process with the experience of homosexual people. And people may have clear, what I call “traditional” views about sexuality, but we as a Communion actually committed to listening to the experience of homosexual people. You can’t do that on one hand and then have language which in many ways seems to suggest all these people are not children of God. I mean, they are valued by God, they deserve the best we can give in pastoral care and friendship, and I’m quite sure that the response the Church of Uganda will make in due course will have to take account of all these realities.
The interview is available on the BBC web site.
LGBT Group: Archbishop of Canterbury Quietly Condemns Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill
December 17th, 2009
The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) has issued a press release indicating that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has condemned Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. According to the press release:
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s press secretary has told LGCM that Archbishop Rowan Williams is “very clear that the private Member’s Bill being discussed in Uganda as drafted is entirely unacceptable from a pastoral, moral and legal point of view.” The press office went on to tell LGCM that the proposed Bill was “a cause of deep concern, fear and, to many, outrage.”
LGCM has spoken recently on its concern that the Archbishop had not spoken out against this Bill, the Archbishops office assured LGCM that “the Archbishop has been working intensively behind the scenes (over the past weeks) to ensure that there is clarity on how the proposed bill is contrary to Anglican teaching.”
LGCM now calls on the Archbishop to “instruct all Anglican clergy in Uganda to speak out against this Bill and to take whatever action is needed to safeguard the lives of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.” I would also add that it would be helpful if the Archbishop would issue a condemnation directly to the public from his own hand, and not have his dissaproval passed along through his press secretary to another group with the task of making the third-hand information public.
Archbishop of Canterbury Mumbles Something About Uganda
December 13th, 2009
Britain’s Daily Telegraph published a fawning interview Saturday with the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, in which the topic of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act happened to come up ever so briefly:
“Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades,” says Dr Williams. “Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.” He adds that the Anglican Church in Uganda opposes the death penalty but, tellingly, he notes that its archbishop, Henry Orombi, who boycotted the Lambeth Conference last year, “has not taken a position on this bill”.
Apart from invoking the death penalty, it’s hard to say that the Archbishop of Canterbury took much of a position either. In contrast, Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren is looking positively bold when he said, “I oppose the criminalization of homosexuality. The freedom to make moral choices is endowed by God.” Fortunately, reporter George Pitcher quickly changed the subject before things became too uncomfortable for the good Archbishop.
Ugandan Church Leaders Back “Kill Gays” Bill
December 9th, 2009
The independent Ugandan newspaper The Daily Monitor reports on a meeting of 200 religious leaders held in Entebbe this week in which participants encouraged the government to cut diplomatic ties to all countries demanding withdrawal of the Anti-Homosexuality Act that is now before Parliament.
The meeting brought together church leaders representing Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, Seventh Day Adventist churches as well as Muslim kadhis. Participants pledged to actively campaign for the bill in their houses of worship. According to the Monitor:
At their three-day meeting in Entebbe this week, the spiritual leaders came up with several recommendations that are opposed to homosexuals. “Government should cut ties with donor communities and other groups which support ungodly values such as homosexuality and abortion,” one of the resolutions reads.
…The Secretary General of the Inter-religious Council of Uganda, Mr Joshua Kitakule, told Daily Monitor yesterday that development partners should not interfere in the process of legislation in Uganda.
“Those countries should respect our spiritual values. They shouldn’t interfere,” he said. “All senior religious leaders have been given copies of the Bill to read and educate people in the churches and mosques,” he added. Mr Kitakule said the Bill, which was tabled last month by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, has not been understood by human rights activists and homosexuals. “The Bill is ok. But it has been misunderstood. We need to educate people on this proposed law,” he said.
Member of Parliament David Bahati, who introduced the bill into Parliament, was also at the conference and spoke in favor of the legislation. Echoing Richard Cohen, Don Schmierer, Scott Lively and other American ex-gay advocates, Bahati said:
“It is a learned behaviour and can be unlearned. You can’t tell me that people are born gays. It is foreign influence that is on work,” he said.
Archbishop of Canterbury reacts to lesbian bishop
December 6th, 2009
Via the Guardian
Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the world’s 77 million Anglicans, urged restraint following the choice of the Rev Mary Glasspool to become the second openly gay bishop in the global Anglican fellowship. The election needs approval from a majority of Episcopal church dioceses before she can be consecrated.
Williams said: “The election of Mary Glasspool by the diocese of Los Angeles as suffragan bishop elect raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal church and its place in the Anglican communion, but for the communion as a whole.
“The process of selection, however, is only part complete. The election has to be confirmed, or could be rejected, by diocesan bishops and diocesan standing committees. That decision will have very important implications.”
That decision has already been made when the body of the church voted to no longer hold itself constrained by the biases and animus of foreign churches. So you have plenty of reason to be concerned, Archbishop.
Your first concern, however, should be whether you will embody Christ’s welcome and inclusion or whether your fears of schism will bind you to the policies of ignorance and exclusion that dominate the enemies of love.
Archbishop of Canterbury In “Private Talks”; Ugandan Pastor Calls “Kill Gays” Bill “Genocide”
December 4th, 2009
There are two developments reported today on the Anglican Church’s response to the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act that is now before Uganda’s Parliament. First, The Times of London‘s religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill reports that the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, who is head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, is in private “intensive” talks with leaders of the Ugandan Anglican Church. Rowans has been severely criticized for his silence, but Gledhill reports:
But there is method in his silence. Today, Lambeth Palace told me: ‘It has been made clear to us, as indeed to others, that attempts to publicly influence either the local church or political opinion in Uganda would be divisive and counter productive. Our contacts, at both national and diocesan level, with the local church will therefore remain intensive but private.’
In fact, we can take for granted that Dr Williams is against the draconian new law. But speaking out publicly to this effect could indeed, as he says, have the opposite effect to that intended. It would almost certainly be seen as white-led colonialism of the worst possible kind, as a misguided attempt to impose western liberal values upon traditional African culture.
One Ugandan Anglican pastor however is not so timid about labeling the bill for what it is:
Canon Gideon Byamugisha said the bill, which recommends the death penalty for anyone repeatedly convicted of having gay sex and prison sentences for those who fail to report homosexual activity to the police, would breed violence and intolerance through all levels of society.
“I believe that this bill [if passed into law] will be state-legislated genocide against a specific community of Ugandans, however few they may be,” he said.
Canon Byamugisha said that gay people were being used as scapegoats for Uganda’s social problems, and that politicians were using LGBT people as political fodder for the upcoming 2011 elections. (We’ve also discussed that dynamic here.) Canon Byamugisha elaborates:
“They [politicians] are exploiting the traditional and cultural abhorrence to same-sex relationships to their advantage. They know that if they criminalise homosexuals, homosexual tendencies and homosexual acts, they stand a better chance of winning votes from the majority of religious followers and leaders, because most of us may not be able to distinguish what may be considered ‘unacceptable’, from the point of view of religious and cultural belief and opinion, from what is ‘criminal’, from the point of state law that is meant to keep peace, order and justice,” he said.
“What makes this proposed law truly distasteful is the amount and level of violence that is being proposed against suspected, rumoured and known individuals who are gay, and their families and community leaders in their places of worship, residence, education, work, business and entertainment.”
He added: “When you say that parents of homosexual children, and that pastors and counsellors who extend spiritual guidance and psycho-social support to homosexuals, will be regarded as ‘accomplices’ in promoting and abetting homosexuality if they don’t report them to police, then you take the law a bit too far.”
As we have already reported, there was already one full-scale public vigilante campaign waged in public media last April against LGBT people. The Red Pepper published names and photos of those accused of being gay, an act which resulted in several arrests and blackmail attempts. Others were denounced in radio and television, as rival pastors took revenge on one another through accusations of homosexuality. It is feared that if the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Act becomes law, it will unleash a new round of vigilantism and extra-judicial torture.
Canon Byamugisha’s courageous stand is nothing new.After the death of his first wife of AIDS in 1990, he discovered he was HIV-positive. Two years later he became the first practicing African priest to publicly declare his HIV status, which was a bold step in a continent in which HIV/AIDS carries an enormous stigma. His has since become a vigorous campaigner on behalf of those living with AIDS. n 2003 he established the Friends of Canon Gideon Foundation to end the stigma of HIV/AIDS, provide education for safe sex practices, improve access to treatment, and support children who have lost parents to the disease. He is canon for two cathedrals, in Uganda and Zambia. This year he was awarded the Niwano Peace Prize for his work.