By Colin Coward
You would have expected the Anglican Church in Uganda, those responsible for implementing Anglican Communion policy and those with supportive links to Uganda to have issued strong statements condemning the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Lesbian and gay Ugandans now face the very real danger of being subjected to draconian legislation and more intense public vilification. Changing Attitude is in contact with a number of lesbian and gay Ugandan Anglicans who are terrified by the prospect.
On behalf of Inclusive Church and Changing Attitude, Giles Goddard joined me in writing to the Archbishops of Canterbury, York and Uganda and the bishops of Bristol, Sodor and Man and Winchester, the three English dioceses linked to Uganda. The letters have just been posted so no replies have yet been received.
We reminded them that Lambeth 1988 passed resolution 33:3b) urging the church to speak out against capital punishment and Lambeth 1998 1:10 committed the Communion to “listen pastorally to the experience of homosexual persons and ... to assure them that they are loved by God...” and to “minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn the irrational fear of homosexuals...”.
We urged the Primate of Uganda to speak out against the proposed legislation, to argue for the protection of lesbian and gay people in Uganda and respond faithfully the commitments made by the Lambeth Conference.
Archbishops and Bishops have been devastatingly silent so far. Last Friday we emailed the leadership teams of Fulcrum, Reform, Anglican Mainstream and the Church Society. asking them if they would join Changing Attitude and Inclusive Church in signing an open letter to the Archbishops of Canterbury, York and Uganda and the Bishops of Guildford, Winchester and Sodor and Man about the proposed anti-homosexual legislation. We hoped that despite our differences we are all committed to oppose anything which further criminalizes LGBT people or puts them at risk of violence rather than legislating for their protection. We did not receive a single reply from the 40 people emailed.
Some urge me to be patient and understand why it might be so difficult for these organizations to respond to a CA/IC initiative and issue a joint public statement about Uganda. Other pro-LGBT Christian advocates are appalled by the failure of the Ugandan Church and the Communion to respond. The Church of Uganda, so swift to call for compliance with the moratoria, ignores Lambeth 1:10’s condemnation of homophobia, condemning prejuidce which would have a far more devastating impact on the safety and sanctity of individual lives. American right wing evangelicals have been complicit in helping create the Ugandan legislation.
Other Sheep, an ecumenical Christian ministry working in Uganda to empower LGBT people of faith, on October 19 called on evangelicals Rick Warren (USA), John Stott (England), Douglas Carew (Kenya) and the Association of Evangelicals in Africa (AEA) to accountability for their part in inducing inhumane and hateful attitudes of Africans towards homosexual Africans.
Other Sheep reported that an article on homosexuality in Africa Bible Commentary, published by AEA and endorsed by Warren, Stott and Carew, says homosexuals "are worse than beasts" and should not be tolerated; homosexuals are "abnormal, unnatural and a perversion." The article also asserts: no view on the morality of homosexuality other than the evangelical view is to be given consideration; the common denominator of same-sex sex is coercive sex; and to be homosexual is sinful. Africa Bible Commentary, published in 2006, is a commentary on the Bible by 70 African evangelical Bible scholars. The article on Homosexuality is written by evangelical Nigerian Tusufu Turaki.
Political Research Associates (PRA), a progressive think tank devoted to supporting movements building a more just and inclusive democratic society, called on Rick Warren to denounce the proposed antigay law in Uganda. In March 2008, U.S. evangelical leader Rick Warren told Ugandans that homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right. Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia, has just completed a report for PRA, to be released in mid-November, investigating the US right-wing evangelicals' outreach in Africa and related efforts to destabilize mainline Protestant denominations and their LGBT rights programs and policies in the United States.
Anglican niceness and cowardice is at its worst when it remains silent when confronted with legislation which is in contravention of Anglican policy and will criminalise and dehumanize a group of people recognized as requiring equality in western society. When will Anglican leaders find the courage to denounce the Ugandan legislation?