By Andrew Brown
The Archbishop of Canterbury's presence in Kampala is an occasion for diplomacy. His host, Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda, has gone further than almost any other senior Anglican in formally denouncing him as a heretic. The Ugandan church is deeply implicated in a bill that would introduce the death penalty for homosexuals.
Homophobia is here a recognised tool in church intrigues: Pastor Robert Kayanja, one of the most successful prosperity gospel preachers in Kampala was last year accused of being gay by rivals who kidnapped and may have tortured one of his assistants to prove this.
In fact Robert Kayanja, the accused pentecostal preacher, is his half brother. Sandy Millar, the founder of the Alpha Course, and the epitome of an upper-class Anglicised Scot, was consecrated as a missionary bishop in the Church of Uganda when he retired as rector of Holy Trinity Brompton. That gesture looked at the time like a parking of tanks on Rowan's lawn, but Orombi's view is that liberals have no lawns.
"[The] Time is now for 'African Anglicanism' to rise up and begin to bring fresh life in 'the ailing global Anglicanism'"
"The potentials represented today in this conference must be free to go to Europe and America with 'fresh wine' from 'new wine skins' to the mother church desperate for the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. I say 'the Church in Africa' must rise up. Shake off your fears, shame and superficial dependency. Take hold of this God-given opportunity and use it to his glory. Preach the gospel, evangelise and extend the Kingdom of Jesus Christ."This is a straightforward defiance of the policy of Anglican Communion against "border crossing": the practice of African churches setting up branches in North America to try and claim the churches, the congregations, and a share of the money of the liberal Anglicans there. But it's worth noting that he now wants to move into Europe as well. To say this to the face of the Archbishop of Canterbury is not parking a tank on Rowan's lawn; it is parking one on his foot.
The Archbishop reacted with circumspection. So much circumspection, in fact, that it is worth translating his remarks into English:
"We have the responsibility brothers and sisters of showing the world how precious a thing is a human being – and a special responsibility to show the world the preciousness of those who are hated or neglected by others or by society at large."Anyone would think he meant ... but of course he didn't say so. He was talking about child soldiers, he quickly made clear, and child victims of HIV and Aids.
"The church here has bravely refused to turn its back on those living with this and other kinds of stigma, so as to say, 'All are precious in God's sight'."Well, some other kinds of stigma, yes.
But still, in Rowan-speak, he did rebuke them:
"We need to learn the language of those we serve. The best and greatest of the missionaries who carried the Christian faith to new territories made a priority of leaning the language. But this is never just a matter of learning the words, learning how to say what you want to say in new ways – it is also about learning to listen and respect. So much of our work this week is going to be about this respectful listening to see if we really understand the needs of our people."This is a reference to another part of the supposed Anglican compromise on gay people: that the Africans were meant to listen to their experiences, rather than like the Ugandan church backing laws which make "promotion of homosexuality" punishable by five years in jail.
He even called them arrogant: at least he suggested that it would be a good thing not to be arrogant:
"Bishops cannot be allowed to forget that they are human and so in need of repentance and renewal like all others ... We cannot assume we always know better, that we always have the right answer to any specific question."Or, in plain English, "I say, Orombi, would you mind backing your tank a little? I said, would you get off my foot, for the love of God … please?"