Possible Movement On Uganda from US Episcopalians
November 24th, 2009
The Episcopal News Service in the United States reports:
A teleconference meeting of the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council will take place on Dec. 7 to discuss a possible statement on Ugandan legislation that would imprison for life or execute people who violate that country’s anti-homosexuality laws.
This would be a welcome addition to the Anglican Church of Canada’s statement. But so far, no signs of life are emanating from the Anglican Communion itself
Canada’s Anglicans oppose Uganda’s ‘Kill Gays’ bill
November 20th, 2009
From the Episcopal News Service:
The Anglican Church of Canada’s Council of General Synod has expressed its dismay and concern over the draft proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill currently before the Ugandan Parliament.
“The proposed bill would severely impede the human rights of Ugandan citizens both at home and abroad by infringing freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, freedom of organization, and legitimate advocacy of civil rights,” the Council of General Synod said Nov. 15. “It would impose excessive and cruel penalties on persons who experience same-sex attraction as well as those who counsel, support, and advise them, including family members and clergy.”
Canada’s Council of General Synod called upon the Church of Uganda to oppose the bill. It also called “upon our own Government of Canada, through the minister of external affairs, to convey to the Government of Uganda a deep sense of alarm about this fundamental violation of human rights and, through diplomatic channels, to press for its withdrawal…”
Meanwhile Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury has remained too busy to oppose the proposed execution of gays in Uganda. He was in Rome today meeting with the Pope to discuss Rome’s poaching of anti-women and anti-gay Anglicans.
Anglican Communion’s Tangled Connections To Uganda’s Anti-Gay Pogrom
November 14th, 2009
There has been considerable consternation over the worldwide Anglican Communion’s silence on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is now before Uganda’s Parliament. That bill would reaffirm a penalty of life imprisonment for anyone convicted of being gay and impose the death penalty under certain circumstances. It would also criminalize all advocacy on behalf of LGBT citizens, and impose criminal penalties on family, friends, teachers, counselors and ministers who fail to report LGBT persons to the police.
The Anglican Church is the second largest Christian denomination in Uganda, making its voice an exceptionally important one as the bill is debated. One would think that with the draconian nature of this proposed legislation, a denunciation would be easy. But so far it hasn’t been forthcoming, save for some reservations about the death penalty. Other than that, the Anglican Church’s official spokesperson in Uganda has been largely supportive of the bill, while the worldwide Anglican Communion has remained silent. This despite public calls for a statement against the bill directed toward Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the Anglican Union, as well as the Archbishop of York John Sentamu, who is the number two man in the Anglican Communion. Sentamu, who was born and raised in Uganda, has already vowed to remain silent on the Ugandan proposals now before Parliament.
Why stay silent in the face of such obvious evil? Good question, and it turns out the answer looks like a tale that one would only expect to find in the most outrageous soap operas.
It turns out that Archbishop Semtamu is the older brother of a megachurch pastor by the name of Robert Kayanja. If that name rings a bell, it may be because we reported last May that Kayanja, a wealthy and powerful pastor of the Rubaga Miracle Center in Kampala, was accused of being gay by rival pastors led Solomon Male. Kayanja’s personal aide was allegedly kidnapped and tortured by armed men and held for five days, as his captors demanded that he make a video accusing Kayanja of sodomy. Kayanja accused another rival, Pastor Michael Kyazze of the Omega Healing Center of being behind the plot.
Pastor Martin Ssempa, who has been the recipient of US HIV/AIDS prevention funding and has past ties to American megachurch pastor Rick Warren, also played a prominent role in the accusations against Kayanja, as well as other well-known pastors in Uganda.
Police investigated Kayanja and found the charges baseless, although its unclear what role his donations for refurbishing police barracks or his close ties with Uganda President Yoweri Museveni may have played in the investigation. But at any rate, it appears that Kayanja is now officially in the clear, while Ssempa, Male and others were investigated for providing false accusations to police. A police report released last August called for Ssempa and the other false accusers to be brought up on criminal charges.
So does Kayanja’s brush with deadly-serious accusations of homosexuality explain the silence of the Archbishop of York, Kayanja’s brother, on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill? Or is it merely the same blatant hatred of LGBT people that infects much of Uganda’s religious community that is holding Archbishop Semantu’s tongue? And how does the silence of the Communion’s second in command affect the Archbishop of Canterbury’s refusal to address these life-and-death developments in one of the Church’s most active countries?
We can expect more false accusations and score settling should the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Act become law, with its requirement that anyone who knows someone is gay report that individual to local police. We can also expect the Act to fuel further public vigilante campaigns against private Ugandan citizens similar to the one waged by the tabloid Red Pepper last April.
Meanwhile, the largest components of worldwide Christianity remain silent, while others actively stoke the hatred and antagonisms fueling this year’s anti-gay pogrom. Active American participants in this current campaign have included Exodus International board member Don Schmierer, Holocaust Revisionist Scott Lively, and International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Brundidge, who kicked off the latest spasm with a three-day anti-gay conference held in Kampala last March. The College of Prayer’s Fred Hartly has direct ties to the two Members of Parliament who are cosponsoring the proposed bill. And the U.S based shadow Christian group known as “The Family” or “The Fellowship” has identified Uganda President Museveni as “their man in Uganda.” I’m not one for wild conspiracy theories, but watching all of this unfold is simply breathtaking. And with the Anglican Communion’s continued silence on the issue, they are becoming complicit in this bloody web as well.
[Hat tip: GayUganda]
Nigerian calls on Anglican Communion to oppose Ugandan “Kill Gays” bill
November 11th, 2009
Before the current efforts to enact draconian punishment in Uganda for being gay, there was a similar effort in Nigeria. In that African nation, Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola led the charge for enhanced sanctions which, as does the Ugandan bill, criminalized speech and association. And some leaders in the Church of Nigeria even called for the death of gay men and women.
Although many conservative American Christians revere free speech and free association as being nearly a Christian tenet in their home country, few were outraged by this anti-freedom effort on the part of anti-gay African clerics. In fact, just as in Uganda, it was influential conservative American Christians who lent their credibility to those who called for the restriction on basic human rights. In the United States, Akinola became a hero and a rallying figure for anti-gay Anglicans. Some churches who left the Episcopal Church declared themselves to be under Akinola’s authority.
And gay Nigerians did suffer under the Church of Nigeria’s influence. Especially gay Nigerian Christians who dared speak against the church’s incivility. One gay Anglican in a leadership position, Davis Mac-Iyalla, fled for his life and has since been vocal in making Western Anglicans more aware of the blind hatred towards gay and lesbian Christians within some African churches that is driving the Anglican Communion towards a schism.
Now Mac-Iyalla is confronting the Anglican Church about its inaction in the face of church sanctioned evil in Uganda. He is unwilling to write this off as a “difference of opinion” or a local cultural peculiarity. Mac-Iyalla is directing his call to those most responsible for the Anglican Church’s inaction, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the primates of Anglican Churches around the world.
In an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury and primates of the Anglican Communion published by The Guardian, Mac-Iyalla calls the Church out to follow its own commitments:
I would like to remind you that the Lambeth Resolution 10 in 1978 recognised the need for pastoral concern for those who are homosexual. Resolution I.10 from 1998 commits the communion “to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.” It also condemned the “irrational fear” of homosexuality and called on the communion to assure homosexual people that “they are loved by God.”
Legislation of the kind proposed in Uganda is based on irrational hatred and a desire to entrench the stigmatisation of LGBT people. There is no place for love, understanding or acceptance in such laws. As such, the Church of England has a duty to condemn the anti-homosexuality legislation and put pressure on those MPs who support such laws. Whatever the divisions within the communion about homosexuality as a moral issue, Anglicans should unite in condemnation of violent persecution and discrimination of LGBT people whoever and wherever they are, particularly when it is carried out in the name of Jesus Christ.
With the publication of this letter in a major UK newspaper, Williams can no longer pretend that he is unaware of the situation in Uganda. Nor that he is ignorant of the part that the Church of Uganda, a member of the Anglican Communion, is playing there.
I do not envy Rowan Williams. It cannot be easy to preside over a body in which one segment seeks to treat gay people as they would like to be treated and the other seems intent on defining their identity by the extent to which they hate and abuse gay people. It must be frustrating and challenging to know that the largest, most vibrant, and growing segment of your communion is one which is charged by fear, animosity, and hostility towards a powerless minority.
But we are not judged by our administration of easy solutions. Rather, the measure of a man is his response to challenges in difficult times. And so far, Williams seems to have adopted a Chamberlainian model for administration. He appears to seek appeasement of evil and conciliation of haters out of fear that he would oversee a breakup of the world’s second largest church.
But Williams needs to recognize that history is not kind to those who choose the easy course over that which is right, who allow the bigotry of the majority to dictate the terms of life for the persecuted. Especially if you do so in the name of religion.
The “Biblical” Worldwide Anglican Communion
November 7th, 2009
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” — Matthew 27:24
I guess the worldwide Anglican Communion can’t be accused of being unbiblical after all.
We reported earlier that the Rev. Canon Aaron Mwesigye of the Anglican Province of Uganda spoke mostly in favor of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. Mwesigye expressed reservations over the death-penalty and extraterritorial provisions, but was perfectly happy with the lifetime imprisonment and other provisions that would criminalize free speech on behalf of LGBT people.
The Uganda Province has now released a statement in which it is “studying” the bill and has no other comment on it. Well, except to repeat the wild, unsubstantiated rumors — and here they freely admit that they are rumors but push them nevertheless — of rich, predatory homosexuals supposedly recruiting children in schools. Most appallingly, it is Uganda’s Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi who is spreading the slanderous gossip:
In April 2009, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi said, “I am appalled to learn that the rumours we have heard for a long time about homosexual recruiting in our schools and amongst our youth are true. I am even more concerned that the practice is more widespread than we originally thought. It is the duty of the church and the government to be watchmen on the wall and to warn and protect our people from harmful and deceitful agendas.”
Meanwhile, the rest of the Anglican Communion — much like most of Christianity in general — has remained silent.
A Simple Anglican/Catholic Proposal
October 21st, 2009
The Vatican has announced that they have set up a special structure in which disaffected Anglicans and their clergy can become Roman Catholics while keeping their married priests, the Anglican liturgy and Book of Common Prayer. The Vatican wants to woo Anglicans who are angry over the church’s acceptance of women and gay clergy and the blessings of same-sex unions.
This news reportedly was sprung on Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Communion, just hours before it was made public. Archbishop Rowan tried to put a positive spin on the move, calling it an “end to uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church.”
But I think this represents an interesting pathway that could be a two-way street. After all, there are many disaffected Catholics (myself included) who find great comfort in the Roman liturgy and customs, a deeply felt comfort and meaning that, to us, the Anglican liturgy and the Book of Common Prayer just can’t approach. I don’t mean this as a knock against Anglican traditions. The Vatican move recognizes the deep fondness dissafected Anglicans hold for their familiar Anglican rite and makes room for it within Roman Catholicism. But the same is true both ways: the Roman Missal embodies all of our cherished touchstones just as the Anglican liturgy and customs embodies theirs.
So why not set up a similar structure within the Anglican Communion where disaffected Catholics can continue to worship using the great historical richness of the Roman liturgy and customs while simultaneously entering the 21st century?
Nuns Become Catholic
September 9th, 2009
Ten Maryland nuns — almost an entire religious community — converted from the Episcopal Church to Catholicism on Thursday, saying their former denomination had become too liberal in its acceptance of homosexuality.
To which my first thought was, “There are Episcopal nuns?”
Episcopal Bishop of Maryland Eugene Sutton said in a statement that “despite the sadness we feel in having to say farewell, our mutual joy is that we remain as one spiritual family of faith, one body in Christ.”
Well, except for the lesbians of course. They need to stay chaste and, oh I don’t know, become nuns maybe.
New Anglican Bishop in Zimbabwe
July 27th, 2009
The Anglican Church Province of Central Africa is, perhaps, less homophobic than many on the African Continent. Which has caused an internal fight with one Bishop who pulled his diocese from the fellowship, citing their inadequate anti-gay positions.
And because in Africa the church is often strongly involved in the politics of a nation, the previous bishop, Nolbert Kunonga, with his connection to strongman Robert Mugabe, had delayed the return of property and title by means of court decisions and police action.
It now appears that the installation of his replacement has occured. (New Zimbabwe)
THE Anglican Church in Zimbabwe sought to open a new chapter in its troubled recent history with the consecration of Chad Gandiya as Bishop of Harare.
The consecration, watched by thirteen bishops, was followed by an enthronement in the Cathedral Church of St Mary & All Saints. Such defiance of Kunonga would hardly have been possible as recently as some months ago without violence by his state-backed shock troops.
Gandiya is known as a liberal in the Anglican Church which has been battling sharp divisions, particularly with the church in Africa, over the ordination of gay bishops.
It is always hard to tell to what extent this will impact the lives of gay Zimbaweans, but it certainly a movement in the right direction.
Anglican-Episcopal Split on the Horizon
July 27th, 2009
The Archbishop of Canterbury has responded to the action taken by the Episcopal Church to allow ordination of gay bishops and celebration of same-sex unions. (The Guardian)
The archbishop of Canterbury today reiterated his opposition to ordaining gay clergy and authorising same-sex blessings, warning liberal churches that such practices would lead to isolation and relegation in the Anglican communion.
Rowan Williams was responding in a statement today to developments in the US Episcopal church which earlier this month voted to open the ordination process to gay people and to consider developing blessings for same-sex couples.
Williams is envisioning a resulting two-tier church: those who are “good” Anglicans and obey the demands of exclusion and repression of gay Christians coming from the African and Asian churches, and those who are secondary churches who offer inclusion to gays and thus are not allowed to participate fully in communion matters and in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue.
This is likely to be as acceptable to the Episcopal Church as it would be to anyone else. So it looks like this is the beginning of the end of a world-wide Anglican Communion.
What Mainline Clergy Believe
May 22nd, 2009
“Mainline Christianity” has deep roots and wide branches. With about 18% of Americans (and 24% of all voters), the denominations that makeup this more-liberal end of the Protestant Christian world trace to the founding of our nation. When Americans think of church – the steeple, the stained glass windows, the minister in a clerical collar – these are probably the Christians that come to mind.
However, in today’s sound-bite driven media and take-no-prisoners politics, moderate Christians with nuanced positions and non-combatant values don’t make for good television. Instead the fire-breathing “Bible believing” family values culture warrior gets to speak for all of Christianity. So to non-believers, the impression is that Christianity is at war with the rest of the world, and gays are enemy number one.
But a recent survey of Mainline ministers finds quite another Christian response to gay and lesbian Americans. On most issues, these denominations are quite supportive.
The six denominations included, in order of support are:
- United Church of Christ
- Episcopal Church
- Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
- Evanglical Lutheran Church in America
- Presbyterian Church (USA)
- United Methodist Church
- American Baptist Churches (USA)
(for those unfamiliar, American Baptist Churches is a smaller Baptist organization that is not affiliated with the very conservative Southern Baptist Convention)
Mainline Protestant Clergy Views on Theology and Gay and Lesbian Issues: Findings from the 2008 Clergy Voices Survey was released this month. And it provides us with better understanding of the beliefs of clergy in Mainline Denominations.
In general, these ministers are supportive of gay civil rights. Additionally, they are fairly supporting of the inclusion of gay persons into the body of the church – though that differs by denomination.
Some of the more interesting public policy issue findings are:
- 79% agree with the statement “Homosexuals should have all the same rights and priveleges as other American citizens”
- 67% support passing gay-inclusive hate crime laws
- 66% support employment non-discrimination laws
- 55% support adoption by gay persons
The one area where there is not majority support is for marriage equality. Only 33% support gay marriage with another 32% supporting civil unions. However, as I discuss in another commentary, support for marriage goes up to 46% when religious assurances are given.
There is also a large variance between denominations on this issue.
- 67% – United Church of Christ
- 49% – Episcopal
- 42% – Disciples of Christ
- 38% – Presbyterian
- 37% – Lutheran
- 25% – Methodist
- 20% – American Baptist
After clergy were reassured that churches and ministers would not be forced to conduct such marriages, support for civil marriage laws were over 50% for all denominations other than United Methodist and American Baptist.
The report goes on to break Mainline Christianity into three camps in relation to gay and lesbian issues; 29% are a supportive base, 30% are an opposing base, and 41% are in an uncertain middle. They find that on most issues the middle tends to side with the supporting base.
They also found that 45% of mainline clergy report that they are more supportive than 10 years ago. Only 14% are more conservative. The following is how those who became more supportive explain the change.
Among clergy who reported becoming more liberal on gay and lesbian issues, the top factors they cited as being very or extremely important to this change were discernment through prayer and reflection (66%), having a friend, congregant or colleague who is gay or lesbian (58%), and additional Bible study (55%).
We have long known that coming out is a valuable way to influence public opinion. Those who have real life examples from which to draw – rather than lies and stereotypes from anti-gay activists – are more likely to find that gay men and women are a valuable part of the social fabric.
But those within the Christian fold will also find it interesting that prayer, reflection, and Bible study can yield greater support for gay persons. Religion, when applied by devout and sincere people seeking to find meaning from sacred Scriptures for real life situations, need not be the enemy of freedom and equality.
As for the inclusion of gays and lesbians into religious life, the study found
- 94% – welcome gay persons in their church
- 63% – believe that the gospel requires their full inclusion in the church
- 51% – believe the church should not work towards making homosexuality unacceptable
- 45% – support ordination of gay and lesbian ministers without special requirements
- 13% – lead congregations that have formally become “open and affirming congregations”
These denominations have the potential to become strong allies in our question for civil equalities. Already many ministers from these denominations are active in showing legislators and voting citizens People of Faith who do not agree with the political agenda of “Christian” and “Family” groups that seek the exclusion of gay persons from civil equalities.
As time goes on, it is increasingly likely that Mainline Christianity is going to move in the direction of fuller acceptance, inclusion, and support. We should, as a community, be appreciative of their help and proactive in efforts to build bridges to these churches.
Loss for Anti-Gay Ex-Episcopalians
January 5th, 2009
When the Episcopal Church ordained Gene Robinson as a Bishop, it threw several conservative congregations into a tizzy. Some were so upset about the idea of their church including an openly gay man in so high a position, that they announced that they would take their marbles and go elsewhere.
St. James parish in Newport Beach was one such church. Now they have found that it just isn’t that easy. The Supreme Court of California has informed St. James parish that they can go elsewhere, but they have to leave their marbles behind.
The California Supreme Court ruled that the 2.4-million-member national church, and not a local parish in that state, owns a church building and the land on which it sits, property which members of the congregation said belonged to them when they left the church.
This decision upheld the 2007 reversal of a 2005 judicial decision granting the property to the local congregation. 2007 was a sad year for the church; also in that year Rev. Praveen Bunyan, the priest who led the disaffiliation, resigned his duties over inappropriate attention paid to a female parishioner.
This unanimous Supreme Court decision is, no doubt, discouraging to the parish that lost its marbles. But it is definitely encouraging to the Episcopal Church, especially as it may direct that the multi-million dollar assets of the San Juaquin Diocese in Fresno remain under the control of the denomination, and are not at the discretion of the break-away Bishop.
Although the deeds showed that the local church owned the property, the parish had agreed to be part of the greater Episcopal Church of the United States and to be bound by that church’s rules, the court said. Those rules said local churches hold property in trust for the greater denomination.
“The local church agreed and intended to be part of a larger entity and to be bound by the rules and governing documents of that greater entity,” Chin wrote.
So it now seems, at least in California, that it may actually cost chuches something to stand by their convictions.
Episcopal Church Loses Another Diocese
November 8th, 2008
A third theologically conservative diocese has broken away from the liberal Episcopal Church in a long-running dispute over the Bible, gay relationships and other issues.
The Diocese of Quincy, Ill., took the vote at its annual meeting that ends Saturday.
Two other dioceses — San Joaquin, based in Fresno, Calif., and Pittsburgh — have already split off. Next weekend, the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, will vote whether to follow suit.
While homosexuality is one of the main issues impelling the separation, these diocese have a number of theological differences from the rest of the church. For example, Quincy, San Joaquin, and Fort Worth were the only three diocese that did not ordain women.
After Fort Worth, it appears that the break-aways may stop for a while. And four of the hundred diocese are not a significant number. It may well prove that some of the tempest within the church will abate now that those most likely to disagree have finally removed theirselves.
Episcopal Bishops Endorse Marriage and Oppose Prop 8
September 10th, 2008
The bishops argued that preserving the right of gays and lesbians to marry would enhance the “Christian values” of monogamy, love and commitment.
“We believe that continued access to civil marriage for all, regardless of sexual orientation, is consistent with the best principles of our constitutional rights,” said the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
Episcopal Bishops to Oppose Proposition 8
September 9th, 2008
The AP is reporting that the authority of the Episcopal Church in California will be announcing their opposition to Proposition 8 tomorrow.
The Right Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, Episcopal bishop of California, and the Right Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles, are scheduled to join other faith leaders and gay couples Wednesday in speaking out against Proposition 8.
Anti-gay Lifesite News expands:
All six bishops in the state will officially protest the traditional marriage amendment, according to the Sacramento Bee. The Right Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, Episcopal Bishop of California, will hold a press conference at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral on Wednesday to represent the church’s position, “calling for compassion, love and equal protections” for homosexual couples.
The AP closed their article with a comment I found interesting:
Their work is designed to counter the huge organizational and financial push the amendment is receiving from leaders of the Roman Catholic and Mormon faiths.
It is my impression that Proposition 8 has taken on a peculiar image, one which its supporters would do well to avoid. There is a growing perception that the proposition is a joint endeavor by the Catholic Church and the Mormon Church and is opposed by other branches of Christianity. This may become even more pronounced as the public becomes aware of opposition by United Methodists and Episcopalians.
That percerption, I believe, will not be advantageous to the supporters of the proposition.
Irish Anglicans are United
July 26th, 2008
According to the Irish Times
Ireland’s 12 Church of Ireland bishops may differ as to whether gay clergy should be consecrated bishops, but each respected the other’s opinion, the Archbishop of Dublin said yesterday.
Considering the turmoil that some parts of the Anglican family have been stirring up, it is good to see a measured spiritual response from this body of believers.
More Anglican Heads of Churches Speak Supportively
July 14th, 2008
Much attention has been given to the tempest and fury coming from anti-gay elements within the Anglican Communion. The meeting of conservative primates and their declarations and demands have, at times, nearly drowned out the welcome that has been the voice of Anglicanism in many nations.
So it is reassuring to hear words of inclusion from two bodies within the Anglican worldwide family.
Last week the Belfast Telegraph brought report of statements made by the head of the Church of Ireland. While not yet calling for full recognition of gay couples within the church, Archbishop Alan Harper acknowledged that such a day may come:
“It has not yet been conclusively shown that for some males and some females homosexuality and homosexual acts are natural rather than unnatural,” the Archbishop told the conference.
“If such comes to be shown, it will be necessary to acknowledge the full implications of that new aspect of the truth, and that insight applied to establish and acknowledge what may be a new status for homosexual relationships within the life of the Church.”
And today’s Telegraph is reporting that the primate of the Church in Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, expressed support for gay bishops:
“If they said they want to do that well so be it. If a priest had a partner and someone nominated them that wouldn’t be a bar to them becoming a bishop,” he said.
The Archbishop, who is an old friend of Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said that the Church should select people on their ability rather than discriminating against them because of their sexuality.
I appreciate the willingness of these men to let their voices counter the bigotry and hatred spewing from some elements within the Church.
Is the Church Listening?
July 11th, 2008
The following guest post is a book review by Michael King, Professor of Primary Care Psychiatry at University College London Medical School. He is the author of several studies on sexual orientation and mental health. In 2004, his report “Treatments of homosexuality in Britain in the 1950s — an oral history: the experience of professionals” appeared in the British Medical Journal, where it is available online for free.
The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality. A resource to enable listening and dialogue
Editor Phil Groves
pp xiii plus 322.
This edited volume has been published just in time for the 2008 Lambeth Conference, its stated purpose to “listen to the experience of homosexual persons”. The Anglican Communion’s listening exercise began at the last Lambeth Conference in 1998 and will inform its decisions on homosexuality in the laity and clergy alike.
As the editor himself notes, this book is a curious hotchpotch of chapters on scriptural interpretation, the role of religious tradition, how to listen and conduct a dialogue, the cultural dimension, the voices of gay and lesbian people and finally what is referred to as the witness of science. It is densely written and a challenge for anyone trying to get to grips with the Anglican Communion’s approach to listening.
A large part of the book is devoted to scriptural interpretation and the place of tradition, little of which is particularly new. Although the obviously sexual elements of scripture, such as the Song of Solomon, are discussed, generally the conclusions are banal. Most of the contributors shrink from accepting the fully erotic nature of many of these texts and are fairly unequivocal that homosexuality, or least same-sex behaviour, is not accepted by scripture. In classical heterosexist fashion, they make little of the suggestions that (just possibly) the intimate friendships between figures such as David and Jonathon or Ruth and Naomi might have contained a sexual element. The default assumption is heterosexual unless declared otherwise. We are told that although gay and lesbian people are “welcomed” by the Church, they are not “affirmed” in the sense that their partnerships might be valued. The choice offered is to be in the church and live by the rules of the Church. This means no possibility of same sex relationships. Concern is even expressed that “current political pressures” (read here gay lobby) will mean that gay and lesbian people will be denied their “human right” to seek therapy for their “unwanted same-sex attraction”. If God loves homosexuals, it seems that clues to his love won’t be found in scripture.
In contrast, God seems to love polygamists. Polygamy, we are told, was part of the tradition of ancient Israel and no Old Testament passage actually proscribes it. Polygamy in modern Kenya is even regarded benignly as arising from the “great strains on the practice of monogamy” in that society. Strains for men I presume. One is left with the distinct feeling that anything heterosexual, although not entirely welcome, is not entirely banned either. The stress is on heterosexual. Opposite sex in – same sex out. A recipe for exclusion.
Trailing at the end is the “witness of science” on the biological basis of sexuality. As scientists, we might welcome such an approach but before the Church changed its mind on slavery or women priests did it debate the biological basis for race and gender? I suspect not. It appears here because of homosexuality’s persisting image as a deviation from nature’s heterosexual plan. But never mind. Just what have these chapters to tell us? The first by David de Pomerai and Glyn Harrison is a reasonable enough summary of what neuroscience and genetics can tell us about homosexuality and is fair to the literature. The second by Glyn Harrison is of much lower quality. Here we have an academic psychiatrist bending over backwards to suggest, on the basis of the weakest sort of evidence, that sexual orientation can be changed. I suspect if he were reviewing evidence of similar quality for the efficacy of a new medication he would dismiss it out of hand. And so unsurprisingly, he finds what he sets out to find – namely that given enough willingness there are treatments out there to make homosexual people into heterosexuals, or at the very least stop them wanting sex.
But not all is valueless. Hidden away in all this dross are two chapters of gold (6 & 7) that make it worth taking a second look. They are crucial contributions because they are the only sections to contain the narratives of gay and lesbian people, Christian and non-Christian alike. These accounts resonate with the pain and struggle that lesbian and gay people have always experienced at the hands of the Church and wider society and the ways in which they have prevailed over them. If the whole book were dedicated to such stories then the Church might hear what it so badly needs to hear; the views and experiences of gays and lesbians and their families and friends – their stories, their faiths. Those bishops who are here at Lambeth this July need to read and ponder these accounts. They can safely disregard the rest.
Professor of Primary Care Psychiatry
Department of Mental Health Sciences
University College London Medical School
Royal Free Campus
Rowland Hill Street
London NW3 2PF
Anti-Gay Anglicans Refuse to Condemn Violence
June 23rd, 2008
In a rather disturbing report, Ekklesia tells us about Anglicans at the breakaway conference in Jerusalem, GAFCON, electing to condemn gay persons and not those engaged in inhumanities towards them.
When given the example of a lesbian women from Uganda who had applied for asylum in the UK after being jailed, raped in the police station, and marched for two miles naked through the streets of Uganda, Archbishop Akinola said: “That’s one example. The laws in your countries say that homosexual acts, actions are punishable by various rules. I don’t need to argue.”
“If the practice (homosexuality) is now found to be in our society” he continued, “it is of service to be against it. Alright, and to that extent what my understanding is, is that those that are responsible for law and order will want to prevent wholesale importation of foreign practices and traditions, that are not consistent with native standards, native way of life.”
Anglicans Close to Split
This article is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of others authors at Box Turtle Bulletin
June 19th, 2008
The worldwide Anglican Church has come close to a splitting point. Those branches that reside in industrialized nations are considered far to liberal to be seen as within communion by those who hold sway in the developing world. Led primarily by a handful of conservative bishops in Africa, as much as half of the Anglican communion may sever from the body headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and set out to become a new church.
Although it is quite likely that vastly different cultures play into the friction that may lead to scism, so too does a sharply divergent view of Scripture. Western Anglicans (Britain, Canada, and the Episcopal Church in the United States) view Christianity as a guide to know God and find kinship in social justice, humanitarian efforts, and guidance for living. The Global South are more inclined to see Christianity as the manifestation of God’s divine commandments for a sinful world.
And the issue over which this comes to a head is homosexuality.
Westerners find gay people to be valued children of God who are to be treated with love and equality. The Global South finds gay people to be sinners and to be denounced. Even accepting gay people as equal is considered to be a sinful act and requiring of repentance, not only from God but from those who are offended by equality.
Westerners are not likely to apologize for acting out of social justice. They may have been able to be convinced to slow efforts towards justice but they are not about to repudiate their compassion and love and apologize for it to those who find only judgment and condemnation in the faith.
So there’s a bit of an impasse.
The Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, states in one section: “There is no longer any hope, therefore, for a unified Communion.
“Now we confront a moment of decision.
“If we fail to act, we risk leading millions of people away from the faith revealed in the Holy Scriptures and also, even more seriously, we face the real possibility of denying Our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“We want unity, but not at the cost of relegating Christ to the position of another ‘wise teacher’ who can be obeyed or disobeyed.
“We earnestly desire the healing of our beloved Communion, but not at the cost of re-writing the Bible to accommodate the latest cultural trend.
“We have arrived at a crossroads; it is, for us, the moment of truth.’’
He said schism could only be avoided in the unlikely event that churches which tolerate homosexual clergy and same-sex blessings change their ways.
“Repentance and reversal by these North American provinces may yet save our Communion,’’ the archbishop wrote.
He referred to the Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade gathering of Anglican bishops which takes place next month, as effectively a lame duck event because he and other “orthodox” bishops will not attend.
I suspect that this schism is inevitable. The conservatives are meeting to plan their next steps.
And, though sadly, I believe that it is best in the long (very long) run.
It is my reading that the conservative nations will leave. And that there will be a corresponding split in the United States wherein a handful of churches will leave the Episcopal Church to join with the Global South.
And considering the political history of the Global South bishops, we can expect that this scism will result in rampant corruption and a likely scenario is one in which the power of the church will be used to prop up and support totalitarian or fascist regimes throughout Africa. I, of course, hope that I’m guessing incorrectly.
But once free of consideration for angry foreign Anglicans threatening division, I think that this will allow the Episcopal Church to follow their conscience and champion social justice causes, including the full equality of gay persons in society and the church. And I believe that a freer Anglican Church would change the language around the morality of discrimination.
This potential break is likely to be devastating to those in Christian Africa that are gay, democratically inclined, or theologically liberal. Further, considering the extent to which charity towards the continent is provided by Western Anglicans, this will also undoubtedly bring harm to the sick, poor, and hungry.
But I am hopeful that ultimately it will result in a freer society in the West and in the gradual recovery of lost brotherhood, but this time a brotherhood unhindered by demands of a return to legalism and dogmatism.
Visalia Episcopalians Come Home
March 31st, 2008
A few weeks ago we told you about John-David Schofield, Bishop of Fresno, who led his diocese in breaking from the Episcopal Church and seeking to align himself with conservative Anglicans in South America. Now he’s discovering that rebellion is contagious. Some of his parishioners have decided that they would break from him and return to the Episcopal Church.
About 40 former members of Visalia’s St. Paul’s Episcopal Church have decided to break away from the current Anglican church and reform their congregation as the Continuing Congregation of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Visalia, Calif.