January 10th, 2010
Many of those behind Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill complain that homosexuality is a foreign import, despite the ironic fact that it was Europeans who imposed bans on homosexuality on their African colonies — and despite the huge impetus given the current drive to legislate LGBT people out of existence by three American anti-gay extremists. The idea of homosexuality being somehow “un-African” is widely believed, despite being ignorant nonesense. Douglas Foster, writing for the Los Angeles Times, provides proof of that from his visits to a Johannesburg, South Africa gay nightclub which served as a haven for Africa’s gay diaspora:
To get to Simply Blue’s curved bar and large dance floor, patrons had to climb a long flight of stairs and go through a security pat-down. You could always spot newcomers because they usually sat off to the side in the shadows, on broken-down couches, their eyes wide and jaws slack. Many of them literally had had the idea beaten into them that they were part of a cursed, despicable, tiny minority.
There was the middle-aged man from Zimbabwe, formerly married, whose brother had plotted to have him killed because of the shame he’d brought to his family when he’d switched to dating men. There was a young Nigerian who lingered on the sidelines for weeks before inching out onto the dance floor, but then moved in an explosion of long-suppressed joy at finding himself dancing in public across from another man. I met an older fellow, a soft-spoken farmer from Uganda who’d raised his children before leaving his home, his wife and his country. He’d finally decided he couldn’t live to the end of his life without having the chance to express his truest self.
[Hat tip: BTB reader Regan DuCasse]
Newsweek: Is Uganda’s Anti-Gay Ferver Spreading?
December 18th, 2009
[Update: This post has been updated to include a brief statement MP David Bahati made to NPR.]
Katie Paul pulls the microscope off of Uganda and looks at the climate for LGBT citizens throughout Africa. It doesn’t look good. Much of the continent is rife with homophobia. Last year, Burundi criminalized homosexuality for the first time, with penalties of up to two years in prison. In Senegal, we’ve seen people arrested for homosexuality (many of them LGBT advocates). The president of Gambia threatened to cut off the heads of all gay people in his country. And Nigeria has its own draconian bill languishing in its legislature that ostensibly outlaws same sex marriage, but goes much further by banning any gay people from living together and all advocacy on behalf of LGBT people. Meanwhile, Rwanda, which lies on Uganda’s southwest border, is currently debating a bill to criminalize homosexuality with five to ten year’s imprisonment, along with all advocacy and counseling of LGBT people. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission says that a vote may occur in Rwanda’s lower House sometime this week.
But despite all that, some have suggested that if the Anti-Homosexuality Bill becomes law, Uganda will represent the first domino to fall. One of those suggesting this is none other than Ugandan MP David Bahati, the prime sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. He told NPR:
“Once this bill passes, you’re going to see country by country learning from this, continent by continent. It’s a crucial time and a crucial bill, not only in Uganda but in the world.”
But as Paul points out, pointing to Uganda as the first domino as some have done is, as she puts it, “a tough sell”:
While the historical origins of anti-gay legislation are debatable, antipathy to homosexuality is by now a home-grown phenomenon throughout most of Africa. ABC’s Dana Hughes, writing from Nairobi, points out that such opinions on homosexuality are already widespread on the continet. “While American evangelicals are being examined for their role in the origins of the bill in Uganda,” she writes, “East Africa, and for that matter Africa as a whole, is decidedly, virulently against homosexuality.” In total, 37 countries in Africa have laws on the books criminalizing same-sex relations.
We’ve been on this story every since we first noticed that three American anti-gay activists were about to put on an anti-gay conference in Kampala. We did not believe and we have never suggested, as some have charged in probably the flimsiest strawman ever erected, that conditions weren’t already ripe for an anti-gay pogrom even without the meddling of three Americans who presented themselves as “experts” on homosexuality. We knew very well the conditions that already existed in that country, and that was the subject of the very second post we put up in the series.
We took notice and followed this story through the present day, and we’ll continue to follow it because Uganda has a very violent history. That violence in recent years has been directed toward that country’s reviled LGBT community. And now Ugandan leaders aim to take its violent legacy and codify it into law, turning LGBT people into candidates for the noose and a nation into an army of informers.
No, that conference didn’t start this fire, not by a longshot. The fire was already burning, but the conference was the napalm that burst the fire into the conflagration that we see today. And Uganda is hardly ground zero in Africa’s war against LGBT people. It’s just where the spotlight happens to shine at the moment. And with Ugandans’ extremely close geographical, cultural, and religious ties to Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya, these events bear very close scrutiny.
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.
Council for Global Equality’s Top Ten List “Where The U.S. Should Do More”
April 28th, 2009
Here is something that escaped our notice until now. The Council for Global Equality, in responding to the U.S. State Department’s annual human rights reports, has identified what it calls the “Top Ten Opportunities for the U.S. to Respond” to anti-LGBT human rights abuses which are highlighted in the report. The countries identified by the Council include Egypt, Gambia, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, Lithuania, Nigeria, and Uganda.
The ten countries weren’t necessarily selected because they are the worst countries in the world for LGBT abuses. Instead, they are identified as the ten countries in which the U.S. has the best opportunity to influence change through diplomatic, political and economic leverage. The details for each country are found at the Council’s web site (PDF: 140KB/8 pages) Here is a rundown for each country targeted by the Council, along with the Council’s recommendations:
- Egypt: arrests, beatings and imprisonment of men suspected of being HIV-positive. Egypt is the third largest recipient of foreign AID. “Our partnership with Egypt should extend beyond the Middle East peace process: it should require a broad commitment to human rights that includes the rights of LGBT men and women.
- Gambia: President Yahya Jammeh threatened to “cut off the head” of any homosexual in his country. “We should explore using USAID funds to support programs that encourage tolerance, respect for diversity, and a genuine commitment to civil society”
- Honduras: Identified as “one of the worst violators of gay and transgender human rights in 2008.” Police routinely round up LGBT youths without cause and Honduran security officials reportedly condone assaults and rapes on gay detainees. Multiple murders were reported, including a leading transgender rights activist. “The U.S. Embassy should offer visible support to LGBT leaders in the country, and should press for accountability within the Honduran government. It should work with Honduran authorities to offer tolerance and diversity training for police and other security forces that are suspected of complicity in human rights abuse. It also should press for a prompt and thorough investigation of the murders and other incidents noted above.”
- India: Police often commit crimes against LGBT people, and officials in Bangalore ordered the arrest of transgender people. “Given our increasingly close relationship with India, we should express frank concern to the Indian Government over LGBT violence and discrimination.”
- Jamaica: There have been numerous anti-gay mob attacks, sometimes with direct police complicity. Some attacks have resulted in murder. Homes were firebombed, and one individual was hacked to death by a machete. LGBT advocates continue to be murdered, beaten and threatened, driving some into exile. Police have been criticized in many instances for failing to respond. “Senior U.S. officials should urge Jamaica’s Prime Minister to show leadership by condemning this violence and instituting measures to bring these and any future perpetrators to justice. U.S. police assistance should be targeted toward programs that promote tolerance and the defense of vulnerable groups against mob violence.”
- Kuwait: Abuses against transgender individuals were cited. “Individual liberties are at the heart of our democracy, and are critical to the development of deep-seated relationships with like-minded friends and allies. We need to encourage this understanding with Kuwaiti and other authorities as part of our dialogue on human rights.”
- Kyrgyz Republic: The report notes “a pattern of beatings, forced marriages, and physical and psychological abuse in the Kyrgyz Republic against lesbian and bisexual women and transgender men.” The Council notes that Kyrgyzstan receives significant foreign assistance. “if Kyrgyz officials are unwilling to address the problem, we should reevaluate our assistance levels and other bilateral programs.
- Lithuania: Political leaders have embraced anti-gay policies and have denied LGBT groups the right to assemble peacefully. “Freedoms of assembly and of association are fundamental rights in any democracy. If Lithuania is to claim its place as a democratic state, it must be challenged to honor these principles in law and in practice.”
- Nigeria: Adults convicted of homosexuality are subject to stoning in parts of the country that have adopted Shari’a law. LGBT advocates have been threatened, stoned, and beaten. A proposed law pending in Nigeria’s Senate would not only ban same-sex marriage, but any “coming together of persons of the same sex with the purpose of living together …. for other purposes of same sexual relationship.” This would open the doors of arrest for those who are legally married outside of Nigeria and who happen to travel to that country for business or vacation. “We hope it [the U.S. Embassy] will work with European and other embassies in Abuja to voice strong concerns over this dangerous new bill in the Nigerian Senate.”
- Uganda: Homosexuality is criminalized. Police arrested members of an NGO for taking a public stand against discrimination, as well as three LGBT activist at an HIV/AIDS conference. “Uganda is one of the largest recipients of PEPFAR funding for HIV/AIDS care, prevention and treatment. In Uganda, the money has been used to empower institutions and activists that have led homophobic campaigns in the country. We need to consider whether the US government’s priority focus on abstinence funding is blunting the effectiveness of the money we’re spending, while also discouraging tolerance-based response to the epidemic.”
Writing on behalf of the council, Mark Bromley highlighted Egypt and Jamaica for special concern:
Egypt was our third largest recipient of foreign aid from USAID and the State Department last year. I would not suggest cutting off U.S. assistance in a country like Egypt, but I am convinced that our funding should give us more leverage to speak out forcefully against the HIV arrests documented in the report.
… The U.S. government’s diplomatic response to these abuses must be strong and unconditional, and it should also be tied to our financial commitments in the country. Jamaica is a country where carefully-targeted U.S. support to gay rights or human rights groups could be effective in improving both the legal and community responses to LGBT violence. In addition, we should use the foreign assistance funding that we have allocated over the past several years to professionalize the Jamaican police force to help respond to these attacks.
US Tax Dollars Funding African Anti-Gay Extremists
March 24th, 2009
Last January, BTB’s Timothy Kincaid highlighted the fact that some of Africa’s most ardent anti-gay extremists have received funding from the U.S. government to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. Among those receiving funds from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is Uganda’s Martin Ssempa, who lead a public anti-gay vigilante campaign through the streets of Kampala demanding that the government “arrest all homos.”
Last week, Richard J. Rosendall, writing for the Bay Windows observed where some of the PEPFAR funding goes:
Charles Francis, a disillusioned former Bush appointee to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, seeks a course correction from the new president and Congress. He wrote to me last week about the need to reverse the Bush legacy that includes alliances with violent homophobes like Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa and born-again Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza. The latter’s ruling party organized a March 6 demonstration in Bujumbura in which thousands of people demanded the criminalization of homosexuality.
“Today,” Francis writes, “we see this wave growing dangerously across the continent, from Senegal, where AIDS activists are now imprisoned, to Nigeria, where lawmakers want to jail gay people merely for living together, to Uganda, where three Americans recently held a public seminar on the ’Homosexual Agenda.’ It is time to put a ’hold’ on PEPFAR until Congress can demand the transparency and the necessary reform for this program.”
Our tax dollars are lining the pockets of those who don’t just promote prejudice and hatred, but who even would have us dead, exiled, or imprisoned for life. PEPFAR needs to be scrapped or exhaustively overhauled to include accountability and transparency, and which demands accountability and transparency on the part of its recipients. Ssempa must not receive one more cent of my tax money. Or yours.
[Hat tip: Michael Airhart]
Nigerian Gay Advocates Speak Out Against New Bill
March 11th, 2009
Nigerian gay rights advocates spoke out against a new bill which is supposed to outlaw same-sex marriages. The bill however goes much further than simply defining marriage as between a man and a woman. It will also provide prison sentences for gay people who merely live together, and for anyone who “aids and abets” them.
Nigerian gay rights activists spoke against the bill at a public committee meeting of the National Assembly. The new law provides a prison sentence of three years for anyone who has “entered into a same gender marriage contract.” The bill also defines same-sex marriage as gay people living together. It provides a sentence of five years or a fine for anyone who “witnesses, abet and aids the solemnization” of a same-sex marriage. The law also criminalizes anyone working in organizations which advocate for gay rights. Activists points out that the proposed bill law would punish those who “aids and abets” people to live together with a tougher sentence than the couple concerned.
Homosexuality is already punishable by fourteen years in prison. In the twelve northern states that have adopted Shari’a law, a conviction can bring a sentence of death by stoning. Nigeria, like Uganda, is also the scene of media-driven acts of public vigilantism against gays and lesbians:
On September 12, local newspapers Nation, Vanguard, PM News and the Sunday Sun published photos, names, and addresses of members of the House of Rainbow Metropolitan Community Church, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered-friendly church in Lagos. Following publication, persons started harassing the 12 members. One woman was attacked by 11 men, while others were threatened, stoned, and beaten. No investigation was initiated by year’s end.
Nigeria Next Target For Draconian Anti-Gay Measures
March 7th, 2009
We received this press release via email late last night from the Independent Project for Equal Rights-Nigeria (TIP):
Nigerian gay rights activists and mainstream human rights organizations are intensifying efforts in collaboration with other human rights organizations in Nigeria to advocate against the Same-gender marriage prohibition bill at the forth-coming public hearing on the bill which will obviously criminalised sexual minorities and their advocates.
The bill was passed into the lower chamber of the National assembly at its second reading and currently sits on the laps of the Joint Committee on Human rights, Justice and Women’s Affair.
Led by the Independent Project for Equal Rights, gay rights advocates plan to voice their opposition to the bill and press for legal protection of sexual minorities at the hearing. Nigeria is among the world’s most dangerous environment for open advocacy for rights of homosexuals.
“This current bill is more draconian than the 2006 bill as it discreetly aim to target Human rights defenders through which I am affected along side my colleagues in human rights activism” said Joseph Sewedo Akoro. He further mentions that the bill will fuel human rights violation on the grounds of perceived or actual sexual orientation and gender identity expression in the country.
The public hearing on the same-gender marriage prohibition bill is now scheduled to hold on March 11, 2009. The bill will receive lots of deliberation after which it may or may not be passed by the lower chamber. If passed, the bill we go through the same process at the upper chamber before it is passed to the President for assent.
TIP shall mobilize a group of human rights organizations to the public hearing to give presentations against the bill and inform the House of Representatives the potential effect of the bill to National development and their obligation to maintain peace and orderliness in the country if the bill is passed.
Matt Barber Supports Jailing Married Same-Sex Couples
February 1st, 2009
Nigeria has one of the most draconian anti-gay laws on the books. Right now, consenting gay sex is punishable by up to 14 year in prison with hard labor. Now, Nigerian lawmakers are upping the ante with a new anti-gay bill which would make same-sex marriage punishable by up to three years in prison. The bill also would imprison anyone who attends a gay wedding with up to five years behind bars.
The anti-same-sex marriage bill goes beyond mere same-sex marriage. It also gives police the right to raid any public or private gatherings of any group of people suspected of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
And it goes beyond Nigerian citizens, posing a threat to non-Nigerians as well. Anyone who married anywhere and returned to Nigeria, as well as anyone who is married to a same-sex partner who travels to Nigeria — including foreign business people — can be jailed.
In other words, there are some 36,000 Californians who face up to three years imprisonment with hard labor if they should step foot in Nigeria.
Matt Barber, of the Liberty Counsel, is completely on board with that:
Barber believes Nigeria and any other country ought to be free to express its own culture without outside interference.
“We have the Defense of Marriage Act on the books [in the United States]; why aren’t they coming after the U.S.? Well, because what bullies do is they pick on someone that is weaker than they are,” he notes. “So the European Union is trying to make an example out of Nigeria because they are in a position of influence and power, yet they will not pick the same fight with the United States because they know it would be to no avail.”
Matt surely knows there is a huge difference in how American laws and Nigerian laws treat LGBT people. One merely provides governmental non-recognition of same-sex marriage while the other imposes harsh prison terms in a Central African prison for anyone, including non-citizens and visitors, who are married.
Why would Barber overlook this massive difference? Maybe he wishes that difference wasn’t really there. His vigorous defense of the Nigerian bill, one that could even jeopardize American visitors, suggests that he sees imprisoning LGBT Americans and others around the world as nothing short of progress. Or at the very least, entirely defensible.
Rick Warren’s Religious Takeover in Africa
This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.
December 22nd, 2008
Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church loves to tell time and again about all the good he and his church are doing for AIDS victims in Africa. But what else is he doing on that continent?
From all evidence, it appears that he is meddling in the Church of England’s internal conflict over homosexuality. As we have discussed, the Anglican Church worldwide is threatened with schism because Bishops in Africa and Asia think that the American Episcopalians and Canadian Anglicans are too pro-gay. Since the 2003 ordination of gay Bishop Gene Robinson, several Bishoprics have been in open rebellion.
One of the rules of the Anglican Church is that each geographic location is distinct. You do not poach churches. But some of the African Bishops have gone so far as to work with rebel US congregations and to declare that they are now under their jurisdiction (or that of a South American Bishop).
Although Rick Warren is not Episcopal and has no business whatsoever in intruding himself into the debate, that has not slowed him at all in taking sides with the anti-gay Africans and encouraging schism.
In March, AllAfrica reports:
“The Church of England is wrong and I support the Church of Uganda(CoU) on the boycott,”Dr Warren said on Thursday shortly after arriving in Uganda.
The Bishops are protesting the Church of England’s tolerance a homosexuality. Announcing the boycott in February, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi said that Uganda’s action had been prompted by the invitation of bishops of The US Episcopal Church (TEC) who in 2003 elected as bishop, Gene Robinson, a divorced man living in an active homosexual relationship.
Dr Warren said that homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right. “We shall not tolerate this aspect at all,” Dr Warren said.
And for those who think that perhaps the divisions are not solely over gay issues and that Warren isn’t just being anti-gay by taking sides, on August 1, Dr. Orombi stated that the division was over this issue in no uncertain terms.
The American decision disregarded biblical authority by violating clear biblical teaching against homosexual behaviour. For this reason, the Church of Uganda and other Anglican provinces broke communion with the Episcopal Church in America in 2003, and we continue in that state of broken communion today.
Another of those African Bishops in “broken communion”, is Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria. In 2006 – 2007, Akinola led the charge for a bill that would
provide for five years’ imprisonment to anyone who “goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex,” “performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage” or “is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private.”
Akinola must have really impressed Rick Warren because on April 30, 2006, Warren wrote a piece for Time Magazine in which he acknowledges his anti-gay activism and said
New African, Asian and Latin American church leaders like Akinola, 61, are bright, biblical, courageous and willing to point out the inconsistencies, weaknesses and theological drift in Western churches.
With nearly 18 million active Anglicans in Nigeria, Akinola’s flock dwarfs the mother Church of England’s membership. And since he is chairman of the 37 million—member Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa, when he speaks, far more than just Anglicans pay attention. Akinola has the strength of a lion, useful in confronting Third World fundamentalism and First World relativism.
I believe he, like Mandela, is a man of peace and his leadership is a model for Christians around the world.
Behind Warren’s AIDS support in Africa appears to be a less selfless motivation. It seems that Warren seeks to build a “Purpose Driven” empire in Africa. He first effort was in Rwanda which adopted his Purpose Driven Living program in 2005 (in 2007 the President of Rwanda supported a law criminalizing same-sex conduct), followed by his trip to Uganda in 2006.
“Uganda should be a purpose-driven nation as well,” [Orambi] said. “But it takes people of purpose to build purpose driven-churches, purpose-driven communities, and a purpose-driven country. Someday, we will have a purpose-driven continent!”
During a meeting with Ugandan church leaders, the American megachurch pastor said that he believes the future of Christianity is not in Europe or North America, but in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
It appears to me that Rick Warren seeks to replace the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury with himself and to direct Christianity in the African Continent according to his own theology and ideology. And to do so he has joined with those who seem to determine orthodox Christianity solely by the extent to which one mistreats gays. And he has no hesitation in aligning himself with those who come to the United States seeking to damage the internal integrity of the Episcopal Church. And it’s all over the issue of homosexuality.
But his meddling in the Anglican Church raises a much larger objection than just that of the gay community. Why is Barack Obama honoring a man who is an activist in a religious secessionist movement? Having Rick Warren give the Invocation is a slap in the face of every Episcopalian in the nation and every loyal Anglican around the world.
The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, should officially object.
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.
Nigerian Gay Rights Leader Narrowly Escapes Brutal Attack
March 22nd, 2008
UK Gay News is reporting that an unnamed Nigerian gay rights leader narrowly escaped being killed in a mob attack during a funeral for the sister of Davis Mac-Iyalla, a leader of Changing Attitudes Nigeria (CAN). The unnamed victim of the attack recounted what happened on the CAN web site:
“I am in total shock and living in fear while feeling the pains I suffered in the hands of a mob group that attacked me at the Service of Songs for Davis’s late sister. While hymn singing was going on a muscular man walked up to me and asked me for a word outside the compound.
“The next thing I saw was a mob group who were there to attack me. They started slapping and punching me, kicked me on the ground and spat on me. I have never known fear like I knew when they were brutalizing me. I thought they were going to kill me there and then. While beating me they were shouting: ‘You notorious homosexual, you think can run away from us for your notorious group to cause more abomination in our land?’ Those who attacked me were well informed about us so I suspect an insider or one of the leaders of our Anglican church have hands in this attack.”
We’ve reported before on statements by Nigerian Bishops intended to foment hatred against gay people. Nigerian Archbishop Akinola has been the leader of the emerging schism in the Anglican Union over the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the church. He has also publicly endorsed legislation which would strengthen Nigeria’s already draconian anti-homosexuality laws, which provide for imprisonment for up to fourteen years. According to Human Rights Watch, the proposed legislation would have:
provide[d] for five years’ imprisonment to anyone who “goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex,” “performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage” or “is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private.” Any priest or cleric aiding or abetting such a union could be subject to the five-year prison term. The law would also prohibit adoption of children by lesbian or gay couples or individuals.
Changing Attitude Nigeria calls on the Church of Nigeria to denounce the recent attacks.
The Watchmen In Riga, Part 4: “A Militant Army Marching Against Evil”
December 10th, 2007
(This series on the Watchmen On the Walls conference in Riga, Latvia held Nov. 14-18 is based on the videos posted on the New Generation web site. Translations from Russian were generously provided by Ruslan Porshnev of the Russian LGBT web site Anti-Dogma.)
So far, our coverage of the Watchmen On the Walls’ conference in Riga, Latvia has focus on their depictions of the so-called dangers that homosexuality poses to civilization. They claimed that Christian society is besieged by the “homosexual movement,” by those who follow “the father of lies” who hold closely guarded secrets that they keep from the rest of the world, and whose actions have the moral equivalence of throwing innocent children into the furnaces of Nazi Germany.
But the Watchmen didn’t gather in Riga to just moan and groan about a world overrun with evil. They also wanted to impart a plan for combating this supposed scourge. We touched on one part of that plan — American holocaust revisionist Scott Lively’s call to his Russian-Latvian audience to come to Springfield, Massachusetts as missionaries.
But their greater plan was to prepare the way for the New Generation church movement to become more directly involved in political activism from the very top. I believe that the statements at the conference, combined with statements made by Watchmen leaders, illustrate a desire to create, at the very least, a theonomic-based system of governance not only in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa, but in the West as well — including right here in America. And as always, I don’t ask that anyone take my word for it. Instead, I’ll simply offer you a generous sampling of their own words so you can judge your yourself.
Some of the positions advocated by Watchmen founders and spokespersons — including those of American Watchmen — run distinctly counter to the values of America’s founders. For example, American holocaust revisionist and Watchman founder Scott Lively wrote an open letter “to the Russian people” a month before the Riga conference, in which he offered this recommendation:
…[C]riminalize the public advocacy of homosexuality. My philosophy is to leave homosexuals alone if they keep their lifestyle private, and not to force them into therapy if they don’t want it. However, homosexuality is destructive to individuals and to society and it should never publicly promoted. The easiest way to discourage “gay pride” parades and other homosexual advocacy is to make such activity illegal in the interest of public health and morality.
Of course, Russia does not have the First Amendment freedoms of speech, assembly, and redress of grievances that we enjoy in the U.S., and recent events show that Russia doesn’t really need much encouragement along these lines. And so it’s very disturbing to see an America lawyer advocating totalitarian solutions for other countries, and one wonders what sort of country his movement would like to see here in the U.S. if they were to have their way here.
So how do the Watchmen see the role of church and state — or more specifically, their church and state?
On Thursday evening (November 15), evangelist David Sobrepeña, Senior Pastor of the Word of Hope Church in Manila, Philippines, gave a talk on “the promises of God.” This talk was in many respects a continuation of the theme of “spiritual weapons” that Ledyaev opened the conference with the night before. As Sobrepeña spoke on Matthew 16:18 (“On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”), he described a militaristic vision of God’s promise that he said that passage represents:
I began to picture a militant army marching against the forces of evil. A great and vast army, very powerful, marching against the forces of hell. Do you know that the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is greater in number and more powerful than the combined air force and military force of the United States, of Russia, of China, and all the other countries in the world?
The armies of the world are no match for the powers of Satan. But tonight, let me tell you brothers and sisters, that Satan trembles at the sight of God’s army we call the church. Over one billion committed Christians in the world today. God promised power to the church.
He then spoke about the need for Christians to become active in government because that is where the real exercise of power takes place. As an example, he described his efforts to get a born again Christian appointed to the Philippines Supreme Court. This, he believed, was evidence that God ordained the church to wield political power:
The homosexual agenda, all the other agendas of this world by liberal politicians, don’t be afraid of them because the church will emerge victorious. The church will emerge victorious. Even though many times it seems like the power of darkness is covering our society and many people are backsliding. In the end, the church will emerge as victorious because Jesus promised a victorious church, a church without spot or wrinkle.
As the conference continued, a picture emerged which shows that their message is often an uncomfortably close fit to the Dominionist or Christian Reconstructionist movements in the U.S., and it directly follows the political stance of Alexey Ledyaev’s New Generation church movement. And while the Watchmen do not have an official statement on the role the church should play in a democratic society, it appears that many speakers at the Watchmen conference shared Ledyaev’s political views.
In 2002, Ledyaev wrote a political manifesto he called The New World Order. (A rough English translation was posted online by the New Generation church in Springfield, Massachusetts, Scott Lively’s new home.) In The New World Order Ledyaev says that the church needs to be the spark for a great revival.
But unlike most Christian denominations, he doesn’t place much value in promoting an evangelical revival among ordinary people — those “from the bottom,” as he puts it. Instead, Ledyaev, says that it’s far more important for this revival to take place among political and social leaders, “from the top.” He believes that if political leaders undergo a revival, then all of society will begin to change from the top down. The advantage of focusing on revival at the top, says Ledyaev, is that the kind of reform he seeks is not as likely “to be bogged down in a couple of years.” He writes:
When the government bows its knees before the name of Jesus Christ then the country will be Christian. It cannot be otherwise, because the God of the kings will sooner or later become the God of their nations. This is how life is.
And Ledyaev cites the United States as an example:
After a short break and a fierce election struggle God has once again restored Christian Government in USA. The born again president of the country, his administration that mostly consists of Christians on the key positions of authority – it is a great victory.
Advent to power of the Christian government does not mean that the whole country will at once automatically become puritan. It means that the country will have all preconditions for it, because in such circumstances church receives an unprecedented freedom to influence and to act.
George Bush Jr. is more of a preacher, than a politician. However, it is exactly this quality that determines his political insight, pragmatism and invulnerability.
The Watchmen’s hopes for creating a “Christian government” for Latvia was on full display at the Watchmen conference. Just before David Sobrepeña took the stage, Ledyaev introduced three members of the Latvian government, all of whom are members of the Latvia First Party which is closely associated with New Generation. The first, Ainars Šlesers is one of the Latvia First Party’s founders and currently serves as Minister of Transport. He is also a member of New Generation and reportedly one of the wealthiest people in Latvia. He talked about the success he had in having Christianity taught in the public schools, and the importance of political engagement in the state.
Šlesers was then followed by Janis Smits, who is a Latvia First member of parliament and, paradoxically, the chairman of that country’s Human Rights Committee. He also spoke out for the need for direct engagement against the gay rights movement in Latvia:
We’re living in a real world with real spiritual enemy. There is a spiritual war going on. Not only those people who gathered on the Square have their rights. We also have our rights: to raise our voice, to protect our government elected by us, our parliament, our deputies and our faith. Let’s not stand aside of this. Let’s actively participate in it.
…We can do it because we are the majority, we are united in our faith and our beliefs.
Another Latvia First member of parliament, Inta Feldmane, addressed the crowd that night:
We’re living in a global world where borders are vanishing. Through these borders not only people are moving, not only finances, services, but also philosophies, religions, false teachings and there’s a new enemy now: secularism and humanism, which places into its center not God and the Ten Commandments, but a human being, his wishes and will. I’d also like to say – sinful lusts.
Now it’s a struggle for that will and these wishes should become laws by which all people must live, including religious people. I thank God for Latvia being a chosen land, for these churches existing.
And she spoke about the constitutional separation of church and state:
They say that the Constitution separates Church and State and that’s why the Church is unable to speak and publicly protect its interests. It’s all a lie. The constitution only says that there should be no state church and that government can not interfere with church business and church can not interfere with governmental business.
But we do have a right for dialog. We have a right to express our opinion – publicly, in media and on such conferences. And we should know this. We will not allow our mouths to be silenced. We will not allow ourselves to be placed in a certain framework, stuck inside the walls of the church.
The theological underpinnings for all of this were cemented on Friday afternoon when Joseph Mattera, senior pastor of Resurrection Church in New York City, spoke to the conference. Basing his talk on John 1:1 (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”), he said:
That means the Word of God is the starting point for all living and nonliving things. The Word of God is the starting point for mathematics, the starting point for biology, the starting point for grammar, for language, for science, for education and philosophy, for social structures.
The reason why the church is fighting the battle it is today is because a few hundred years ago, we forgot what I just said. We have given up the arts and the sciences. We’ve given up education and we’ve given up the study of nature to those who are secular humanists.
And so the church needs to be on the leading edge of all of these disciplines of life, because if all we’re doing is morality, then we will be trying to catch up for the next hundred years.
But the talks weren’t all political theory or theology. Larry Jacobs, of the World Congress of Families, was on hand on Thursday afternoon (Nov 15) to lay out a concrete strategy for confronting gay activists. It was a rather sketchy strategy, but it illustrates what the World Congress of Families sought to do in Warsaw last May. That strategy includes:
- Shifting the anti-gay movement “from defensive to offensive.”
- Changing the language, questions and parameters of debate (for example, say “natural families” a term which he says “drive(s) homosexuals crazy because if you’re not part of the natural family then you’re unnatural.”)
- Finding ways to be seen as progressives, touting a better way of life for the economy and society.
- Building new alliances among different Christian groups, whether they are Orthodox, Catholic or Pentecostal.
- Using scientific data which “supports Biblical Truth” (Jacobs exclaimed, “The exciting thing about this is if we use this data it sounds like Scripture but the world listens to the scientists.”)
- Reaching the next generation (For example, through children’s books and cartoons like The Veggie Tales).
- Using the World Congress of Families, Watchmen On the Walls and others for networking, direction, encouragement and to celebrate the family.
To illustrate some of these efforts, Jacobs announced that they received a proposal from the Russian government to bring the World Congress of Families to Moscow in 2009. Several others mentioned planning for various conferences in various countries of the former Soviet Union as well as a Watchmen conference in Africa for 2008. While details of this African conference weren’t disclosed, there is a strong likelihood that it might be planned for Lagos, Nigeria, home of the Revival Assembly whose pastor, Anselm Madubuko, spoke at the Watchmen’s conference in Novosibirsk and who closed the conference in Riga.
And Scott Lively announced that his holocaust revisionist book, The Pink Swastika, will be released in a Russian translation in 2008, which will only serve to fuel the flames of hatred of gays and lesbians further in Russia and among Russian-speaking communities in Eastern Europe and the U.S.
Until the past few months, the Watchmen have largely flown under the radar. A quick round of private message to national gay-rights groups here in America has found that few people here know anything about them. The language barrier seems to have something to do with it, along with the fact that the Watchmen movement is a relatively recent phenomenon. But it appears to be an aggressive and growing movement, with the potential for serious repercussions internationally as well as here at home.
When Scott Lively spoke Thursday morning, he warned his audience that “We have to understand that we are being watched by people all over the world. There are probably even homosexual spies in this room.” And he said that those “spies” would like nothing better than to catch them saying something ugly or hateful. And then, of course, the Watchmen put videos of their conference on the internet for all the world to see. No “spying” is needed to see what this organization is all about. Their own images and words can now speak for themselves. All we have to do is watch them. And we will.
(Thanks to Ruslan Porshnev of the Russian LGBT web site Anti-Dogma, for generously providing the English translations of the Russian speakers at the conference. You can read more about his work here.)
See all the posts in this series:
The Watchmen In Riga, Part 1: “Become A Missionary To America”
The Watchmen In Riga, Part 2: From Babylon To Jerusalem
The Watchmen In Riga, Interlude: A Pastor’s Prayer
The Watchmen In Riga, Part 3: The “Secrets” Of Homosexuality
The Watchmen In Riga, Part 4: “A Militant Army Marching Against Evil”
Watchmen On The Walls Conference Coming To Riga, Latvia
October 30th, 2007
The Watchmen On The Walls have announced their next conference in Riga, Latvia for November 14-18. Speakers include:
- Scott Lively, revisionist holocaust author of The Pink Swastika.
- Vlad Kusakin, publisher of the Russian language “The Speaker” in the United States.
- Joseph Mattera, also from the United States.
- Alexei Ledyaev, the Ukrainian- Kazakh-born pastor of the influential “New Generation” megachurch in Latvia.
- Andrei Tischenko, a Bishop association of churches which operate under the “New Generation” umbrella in Ukraine.
- Larry Jacob, vice president of the World Congress of Families.
- Don Feder, author of Who is afraid of the Religious Right?
- David A. Sobrepeña, senior pastor of the Filipino Word of Hope Church in Manila and head of “Transformation Philippines,” a conservative political lobbying group in the Philippines.
- Anselm Madubuko, founder of an evangelical church in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s Bishop Orama: Gays “Are Not Fit To Live”
September 8th, 2007
The Anglican Bishop of Uyo, Rt. Rev. Isaac Orama, has condemned the activities of homosexuals and lesbians, and described those engaged in them as “insane people”.
“It is scaring that any one should be involved in a thing like that and I want to say that they will not escape the wrath of God,” he said. Orama told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) today in Uyo, that the practice, which has worsened over the years, was “unbiblical and against God’s purpose for creating man”.
“Homosexuality and lesbianism are inhuman. Those who practice them are insane, satanic and are not fit to live because they are rebels to God’s purpose for man,” the Bishop said. [Emphasis mine]
Changing Attitude Nigeria (CAN) responded to this statement, and notes that Bishop Orama “was recently ordained as a bishop. He is one of Archbishop Peter Akinola’s newly appointed bishops, carefully chosen to support the Archbishop‘s own agenda.” Davis Mac-Iyalla, director of CAN, knows well the dangers of being openly gay in Nigeria, and the particular hatred the Anglican Church in Nigeria harbors towards gays and lesbians:
In December 2005 following the first General Meeting held by Changing Attitude Nigeria in Abuja, the Church of Nigeria, (Anglican Communion) became aware of his presence, a gay Nigerian Anglican.
The Rev. Akintunde Popoola, Director of Communication for the Nigerian Church, published a disclaimer on the church web site designed to destroy Davis’s reputation. Canon Popoola denied that Davis exists, denied he is an Anglican, denied he is gay, accused him of theft, accused him of falsely planning to marry a bishop’s daughter, accused him of soliciting money from foreigners under false pretences, and then posted to numerous Anglican websites denouncing Davis.
… When Bishop Ugede died unexpectedly, Davis was dismissed as principal of the Diocesan School because he was gay. Since founding CAN he has been falsely arrested after printed materials were found in his car, beaten and held for some days in a police cell. He has received death threats, one delivered directly to his door last December, been forced to flee his home and become estranged from his family. Whatever Christians think about the morality of homosexual behaviour, no person should be treated in the way Davis has been treated by his own Church.
And yet these are exactly the sort of Christians whom American conservatives are rushing align themselves. And this sort of violence is officially sanctioned in Nigeria, where the criminal code penalizes consensual homosexual conduct between adults with 14 years’ imprisonment. Shari’a penal codes in northern Nigeria provides for the death penalty by stoning.
But as draconian as these laws are, they don’t satisfy Anglican Archbishop Peter J. Akinola. He is head of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which calls for speedy passage of a new bill that is before the Nigerian parliament. That bill, according to Human Rights Watch:
The bill is entitled “Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2006,” but goes much further: it would attack all lesbian and gay individuals, families and human rights. The bill would provide for five years’ imprisonment to anyone who “goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex,” “performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage” or “is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private.” Any priest or cleric aiding or abetting such a union could be subject to the five-year prison term. The law would also prohibit adoption of children by lesbian or gay couples or individuals.
The ban on gay clubs, societies, organizations, as well as a ban on any display of affection “in public and in private” is particularly egregious. In a supposedly democratic Nigeria, gays and lesbians would be forbidden from advocating on their own behalves. By outlawing protests, the government hopes it will be able to suppress all future dialog or discussions affecting gays and lesbians in that country. Nigeria was expected to take up the bill last spring, but it appears to have stalled once again.
Archbishop Akinola has publicly endorsed this legislation for Nigeria. He has also lead a worldwide revolt of conservative Anglicans against the elevation of the openly gay Rev. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. On May 10th of this year, Akinola traveled to Virginia to install Martyn Minns as bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), an organization that Akinola established with conservative American Episcopalians. In doing so, he defied Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, leader of the U.S. Episcopal Church.
The idea that many extremist anti-gay activists in this country would publicly align themselves with someone who has suggested the execution of gays and lesbians isn’t new. It is however new and disturbing to see an entire mainstream church movement move in this direction. But those who are eager to place themselves under the spiritual guidance of bishops like Akinola and Orama need to take a hard look at these men and their public pronouncements.
Update: The Living Church Foundation reports that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams denounced Orama’s comments and demanded an explanation. Akinola’s spokesman, Archdeacon Akintunde Popoola said the quote was false, and that the reporter apologized and promised a retraction.
I believe the Living Church’s headline, (“Reporter Apologizes for Misquoting Nigerian Bishop”) is misleading. We only have Popoola saying that the reporter apologized; we haven’t heard from the reporter himself. It’s important to keep in mind that Popoola also was the one who made numerous false allegations about Davis Mac-Iyalla, so a grain of salt is in order here absent further confirmation.
Meanwhile, UPI sent an email to the conservative Anglican website Standing Firm, saying that the report, which originated from the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), was pulled solely on Popoola’s statement, adding “You would have to contact NAN as to whether the information about the retraction is true.” Maybe they recognize the problems with Popoola’s credibility also. Like I said, we haven’t heard from the reporter or NAN. By the way, we also haven’t heard from Bishop Orama either. If anyone learns anything more, please include appropriate links in the comments or send them to me directly via e-mail.