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Posts for August, 2010

Uganda’s President Calls for “Tolerance” At African Bishop’s Conference

Jim Burroway

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.”