Comments: Anglican reactions to Nigerian and Ugandan legislation

I think the Church of Uganda comment is chilling:

that it will seek to "offer counselling, healing and prayer for people with homosexual disorientation, especially in our schools and other institutions of learning".

The thought that the church there seeks to be proactive in teaching children that homosexual attraction is not a sexual orientation but a "disorientation"... is profoundly at odds with what our bishops here in the UK are suggesting (as a minimum concession to lesbian, gay and bisexual people).

Frankly, the proactive teaching of children and students of this kind of vilification of LGBT lives and actions is a disastrous involvement in a societal discrimination and ignorance.

Where do the bishops here stand? Will they disassociate as much from these churches' teachings as they have from the episcopal teachings in the US? Which part of the Anglican Communion is *really* way off track?

And do we, in the UK - and the majority of people in the pews - identify more with the US position or these Ugandan, Nigerian and Kenyan church positions?

Whatever "Church of England spokespeople" suggest, the majority of people in this country, and Anglicans in the pews, now accept that sexual orientation includes gay and lesbian attraction.

Therefore, how much longer do LGBT people in this country face restrictions, because of a kind of appeasement of churches abroad who actively seek to teach children that gay attraction is "disorientation"?

This is not what most people here in the UK (and people in the pews) believe. The "spokespeople" are not faithfully representing what church members actually believe.

Most people are more closely aligned to TEC's views in the US than to this proactive denigration of LGBT lives in the churches detailed in your post.

It is these African churches which are out of step, and contributing to a regime of oppression of LGBT values, and we should have nothing to do with that, our bishops should publicly and strongly condemn it, and we should make our acceptance of LGBT people's lives and integrities clear.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 10:06am GMT

“I declare before God and his Church that I have never been a homosexual/bisexual or (have repented from being homosexual/bisexual) and I vow that I will not indulge in the practise of homosexuality/bisexuality."

Short of shooting homosexuals on live TV and then selling the spent brass as holy relics, can anyone speculate as to what the African churches could do that would provoke condemnation from Justin Welby?

Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 10:35am GMT

The word "unhinged" comes to mind.

Posted by FD Blanchard at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 12:16pm GMT

My daughter is working in Uganda, with deep Christian commitment and integrity. We love each other dearly, we are close, her acceptance of me is humbling.

But if I were to go out to Uganda, as a Christian, as an Anglican, as a transsexual woman... I would be part of the subject of stigmatisation, part of the Church's narrative of 'disorientation' and perversion (even though I am a nurse, even though I am a Christian), and more seriously, liable to arrest in a society to which the Anglican Church offers backing for vile legislation.

The reason I would not go out is because of the trouble and disruption it could cause my daughter, and her service of others.

Frankly, the Anglican Church in Uganda is so out of order, so complicit in the state's vilification of LGBT people, that I feel totally let down by our bishops here in the UK that no-one is boldly speaking out, and that far from condemning the vilification of ordinary decent LGBT people, they appear to appease... hold together a communion, on grounds where it cannot hold together, not at least if a person is half-decent or has a conscience.

It is ordinary, decent LGBT people who pay the price of this collaboration in silence, in Uganda, and in the UK.

To be straight about it: the Anglican Communion cannot "hold together" on grounds of sexual morals, there is no consensus, so why keep pretending there is?

There is only one, feasible way forward - and that is the concept of unity in diversity. The principle that we are One in Christ, even if we hold differing views on this. And this principle urgently needs to be asserted, not only at the level of the whole Communion, but in English parish churches, where local communities of faith should be allowed to determine how in good conscience they want to receive or bless LGBT people.

(Continued in 2 of 2...)

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 1:47pm GMT

Thank you, Susannah, very well said.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 2:03pm GMT

one caveat, though, if I may. While I strongly support the concept of unity in diversity in principle, I cannot do so in this case.

What is happening in Uganda, in Nigeria, in Russia etc. has to be called out for what it is. We cannot just accept it as a theological difference.
Our current official silence is silence in the face of approaching genocide and utterly immoral.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 2:05pm GMT

(Continued, page 2 of 2)

No-one is *forced* to be gay. The bishops' statement is disastrous. It is the opposite of unity-in-diversity. It is the Covenant all over again.

This way lies no future, only the enforcement of one view against other people's conscience and integrity. If a local PCC, and their priest, want to bless LGBT couples... if a priest loves his or her partner and wants to marry them... these should not be punitive matters.

That is so immature.

These should be matters where people with differing views agree to disagree, but don't trample on each other's consciences... and where we never forget that we are One in Jesus Christ.

Unity in diversity = respect. Respect for conscience. Respect for the faith and true beliefs of a local community.

Instead of which, what we have, is 'statements' from church 'spokespeople' misrepresenting what most Anglicans actually think about gay and lesbian sex in the UK. Top down threats of sanctions, by bishops doing a Covenant style push for uniformity all over again. Do they learn nothing?

Enforced uniformity is diminishing. It diminishes the consciences of priests, and whole communities.

Unity in diversity simply says, however much we differ, however diverse our particular communities may be, we are - and we remain - One in Jesus Christ.

If the bishops in Uganda, Nigeria, or England, are not mature enough to recognise this... and insist on 'imperium' and rigid dogma at odds with actual people and actual communities... then all they are doing in their rigidity and moralism is pushing the communion further and further towards schism.

Meanwhile LGBT people have nowhere to go in the face of these dictats. The profound fear is that they, and all their families and friends, will not 'go' to church. Because the discrimination of perfectly decent and faithful people is disgusting.

And meanwhile the Church ossifies in its one-way only dogma, while society moves on, showing more compassion, more maturity, and recognising the reality of people's lives and their integrity.

If I go to Uganda, quite frankly I may be beaten on the street. And the Anglican Church there has been complicit in that climate, by offering religious mandate for the vilification of LGBT lives.

And the Anglican leadership here, too, has been complicit. Because of the silences, the erasure, the failure to speak out boldly.

Erasure and stigma and discrimination are institutional, and church leaders don't even recognise it.

Appeasement for a fake authoritarian unity is preferred to a mature and true unity in Christ that recognises diversity of beliefs, but the priority of love, and the acceptance of difference. We are always, only, ever, one in Christ... not one because of moral uniformity (we all fail at that).

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 2:12pm GMT

The Swedish Mission Council has recently sent this letter to the President of Uganda: The Swedish Mission Council has 34 member organisations: Evangelical, Pentecostal, Reformed, Baptist, Church of Sweden, Quaker, Roman Catholic, and Syrian Orthodox (
Kajsa A

Posted by Kajsa Ahlstrand at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 2:46pm GMT

I wish some of our Bishops had the courage to bring upon themselves the full wrath of GAFCON.

Posted by William Raines at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 2:56pm GMT

The false distinction between orientation and "practice" is again shown. Acts are an expression of orientation; to condemn gay sex is to condemn gay people. Vile as these statements are, they're at least honest in explicitly targeting both.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 3:20pm GMT

I agree that this is truly abominable, and I'm encouraged that the NZ archbishops have expressed their concern.

I have to say, though, that we are the ones who have ultimately created this state of affairs, in which the state and the surrounding culture sets a policy and the Anglican Church sees it as its business to support it. It's built into our Anglican DNA, all the way back to Christendom, the establishment of the 'Church of England' as a national entity under the thumb of the government, and the concept of an 'established church'. It's very clear to me that in Anglican provinces where the prevailing attitude of the culture toward homosexuality is negative, that's the position the Anglican church takes too. Ditto, when the prevailing attitude is positive. Aligning ourselves with the dominant culture is encoded into our Anglican DNA; there are exceptions to this, but they are few and far between.

In contrast, the New Testament story seems to envision the Church as a counter-cultural, multinational community of followers of Jesus, called by him to be different from the world, and to be seen to be so ('salt and light'...'a city on a hill...'), and to give their first allegiance to him and not to their own nation or ethnic group. Instead, the Christendom toxins that have infected Anglicanism right from the beginning have caused us to crave acceptance and approval from the culture around us. If we want to ensure that the sort of abomination we are seeing in Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya does not happen again, we need to have a long-term plan that includes disestablishment of the Church of England, along with a heartfelt repentance of our desire to be conformed to the world and a new determination to be faithful to Jesus whether the culture around us approves or not.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 3:35pm GMT

Even allowing for a conservative hermeneutic, I can think of little more unbiblical than requiring people to say they have never been homosexuals before they can hold office.

Paul addresses his first letter to the Corinthians to former fornicators, idolators, adulterers, prostitutes, sexual abusers, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, slanders and swindlers. But they were washed, sanctified and justified in the name of Jesus and by the Spirit – and therefore completely acceptable to God and to one another.

Such washing, sanctification and justification would seem to count for little in Nigeria. It is very hard to see what is evangelical about this. How, it seems, we need to pray for the Church's faithful in Africa.

Posted by Liam Beadle at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 4:20pm GMT

I agree with Erika, unity has its limits.

Maintaing communion legitimizes the views of those with whom we disagree. There laws in Nigeria and Uganda are as illegitimate and depraved as apartheid. The response should be the same: isolate the countries involved.

The Anglican Communion should be broken.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 4:25pm GMT

As I've blogged before what is happening in Uganda and Nigeria, much of it in the name of 'Traditional' Anglicanism, with circumstantial evidence that North American conservative factions are fuelling the hatred ... is disturbingly like what happened to the Jews in Germany before the last War.

We are now all waiting for a full and clear statement from 'Archbishop' Robert Duncan of the ACNA whose church is predicated on an anti-gay stance and is strongly supported by both the Ugandan and Nigerian Provinces. This needs to be followed up by a statement from GAFCON whose position is very similar.

Posted by Concerned Anglican at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 4:46pm GMT

"AC should be broken." NO it has been broken for at least 3 decades, the attempt to maintain a façade of unity by 3 consecutive Arbps of Canterbury notwithstanding. George Carey hijacked the 98 Lambeth by sidestepping an official commission led by the Arbp of Capetown, and co-opting the issue with his own agenda. Rowan Williams sold his soul in attempting to maintain a façade of unity, and now Justin Welby continues this charade. GAFCON has made it quite clear that it does not honor communion with several provinces. So let's drop the talk of a false unity in the AC. It died many years ago.
Bob McCloskey

Posted by Bob McCloskey at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 5:03pm GMT

James, I disagree on this one.

As far as I am concerned, I am in communion with anyone else who has sincere faith in Jesus Christ.

My being "in Christ" is not the result of my own moral rectitude.

Their being "in Christ" is not the result of their moral rectitude.

As far as I'm concerned, we all come to God with selfishness and wrongs, but the redemption we are offered in Christ means that, like it or not (and regardless of leadership proclamations and denominational distancing) we are all One in Jesus Christ, and therefore, eternally, in communion with one another.

As such, I see no reason to break off communion with any Christian, though I may voice strong differences or practise string differences.

To me, with this foundation of communion in Christ, we should *all* as Christians be able to believe in the redemption of one another, even if we strongly disagree with each other.

Which is why I argue the case for a maturity of learning to recognise a unity in Christ, while at the same time recognising diversity and diverse consciences on issues.

That's *exactly* why I repudiate the enforced uniformity of the Covenant or the recent bishops' letter. The desire for uniformity may itself seed more division. There is an eternity of things we have in common, even when we disagree, and above all we have Jesus Christ in common.

And that's what I mean by communion. Being 'joined together in union' in Christ.

Unity-in-diversity allows people space to continue seeking commonality in profound and eternal relationship with God, while at the same time having widely divergent views in a world, which after all, is diverse by its very nature.

To me, this mindset is more mature and preferable to endless schisms into smaller and smaller sects, just because we disagree with one another.

Such division is not a true expression of our eternal reality in Christ. Unity-in-diversity also allows for strong critique and far more individualised exercise of conscience.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 5:24pm GMT

I wonder what we mean by countercultural. I don't think it means grabbing hold of the same topic but pulling in another direction. Being countercultural would mean not sharing that obsession about sex at all. It would mean not defining ourselves over and against one another and absolutely having to be right, rather than standing side by side and focusing on God.

And I'm not entirely sure how a church can come to different conclusions on social issues than the surrounding culture. After all, its members come from that culture and are a part of it as much as they are members of their church. The 2 aren't really easily separated.
In our culture there have been so many conversations about homosexuality, there has been so much science, the reality of people's lives visibly lived, their stories told, that it is becoming quite difficult to remain staunchly anti gay.

My main question to those who still strongly oppose us is to explain just what it is that is sinful about homosexuality. Bearing in mind that we now know that gay people benefit from stable relationships as much as straight people, and that enforced loneliness causes actual psychological harm, we really have to ask what kind of God it is who would expect a whole group of people to lead diminished lives for no apparent moral good to them or to society. Where else in Scripture is there any evidence of God demanding something like that from a whole group of people? And if we cannot answer this questions , is it not likely that we have got it wrong and that God is not like that at all?
I have not yet received any answer to this question from anyone.

And my point is that it is possible to have these conversations in our church precisely because society has allowed us to live openly and to engage at a different intellectual level than people can do in African countries where prejudice is completely unchallenged and unexamined, and where gay people cannot provide a living example of how fruitful their relationships can be. Being pushed into hiding they become perfect scapegoats.
And so society and the church dance an interwoven dance. In all countries.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 5:26pm GMT

++Uganda should watch this video, and seee where certainty leads:

It is tragic that things have taken this course, but it has happened in an atmosphere of appeasement and and a vacuum leadership (made worse, it has to be admitted, by the interference of American evangelicals - itself an area where a strong statement from Canterbury might have helped shape things differently).

Were the C of E to stand up at this point and say, "We regret parting ways, but we believe in the equality and priesthood of ALL." it might gain respect and set a prophetic tone. But nothing the bishops have done give any hope of more than hand-wringing and more attempts at appeasing the bullies.

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 6:23pm GMT

What does this statement from Kenya actually say?

"Wabukala faulted those who support the human right of LGBTs. He said human rights are not the same as rights.

“Human rights and rights are different. Human rights have no values while rights have values.”"

What does it mean to say that human rights have no value?

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 6:51pm GMT

"There laws in Nigeria and Uganda are as illegitimate and depraved as apartheid."

The difference this time is that the Anglicans are enthusiastic proponents. The Dutch Reformed Church was always outside global protestantism, and did not get much, or any, support in its pursuit of apartheid. The homophobia is now being advanced and supported by a significant range of Anglican affiliates, which places Welby in a much harder position.

Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 6:57pm GMT

"We are now all waiting for a full and clear statement from 'Archbishop' Robert Duncan... "

I'm not.

It's totally irrelevant.

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 7:23pm GMT

Suzannah Clark, thank you for your posts.


"Are you now, or have you ever been, a homosexual or bisexual?" sends a chill up my spine. Will the Nigerian and Ugandan churches create Unanglican Activities Committees? Haul people before the UUAC or the NUAC and demand that they formally answer that question, and, regardless of how they answerr, demand they denounce and name in public Anglicans they know to be gay or bisexual? Will priests and laity who courageously refuse be ostracized, blacklisted, shamed, excommunicated (either in the literal or social sense)?

Jesus still weeps.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 8:24pm GMT

I wonder what the response to these statements and the associated developments is from the English dioceses that have close links with the Anglican churches of Nigeria or Uganda.

Posted by Simon W at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 9:56pm GMT

Imagine the following: Nigerian man, married for ten years with three kids, a successful businessman, and straight as far as anyone knows, is about to take up an office as head churchwarden. Taking the oath he says, "I, X, declare before God and his Church that I have repented from being homosexual and I vow that I will not indulge in the practise of homosexuality." I suspect that on those facts, X would not hold that position for very long.

Posted by Sam Roberts at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 10:32pm GMT

Pathetic. Cut off their funding, their travel allowances and stop inviting them to conferences. Send their clergy back and refuse to invite them to participate in official events.
Why pay for this stupidity?

Posted by George Waite at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 11:04pm GMT

“The Jesuit magazine America published an editorial today in which it calls on Catholic leaders to explore how they "contribute, perhaps even inadvertently, to a culture of fear and shame" that leads some LGBT to feel wounded and even to take their own lives.

“…The editorial said it is "especially disturbing that such legislation is immensely popular in predominantly Christian countries" and said that opposing same-sex marriage "cannot justify these excessive and punitive measures."

“They called laws like the one in Uganda "unjustifiable assaults on the human rights and inherent dignity of gay and lesbian people" and said Catholics have "a special obligation to loudly denounce any unjust discrimination against homosexuals..." (Excerpts from an article in today's Advocate)

And now, over to Canterbury…

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 11:31pm GMT

Tim Chesterton gives a very shaky view of what the Church needs to do in order to be true to the Gospel of OLJC. When he talks of counter-culture being the norm for Christians, he surely has to take into consideration the sort of national 'culture' he wants to be 'counter' to.

In GAFCON territory, this certainly is a Christian attitude - where the local government is bent on the persecution of Gays made in the image and likeness of God, whose only sin is to be as God has made them. Counter-culture here would be life-giving, instead of deadly.

Alternatively, in, say, England, where the civil law now recognises the right to a consensual Same-Sex legal relationship on the part of its Gay citizens; this surely can be seen as offering a 'Christian' understanding of God's variable creation, which merits support from the Church?

Only only needs the Church to be counter-cultural where the culture is poisonous - like in Uganda and Nigeria, for instance.

For GAFCON Provinces to refuse to believe that LGBT people are equally deserving of God';s love and mercy, is hardly a tribute to the God who made them that way.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 3 March 2014 at 11:55pm GMT

"Are you now, or have you ever been, a homosexual or bisexual?"

In the United States, that question must send chills down every back that remembers the dark years of the McCarthy witch hunts, which ruined so many lives and careers. "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?"

Can anyone imagine Jesus asking such a question?

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 12:26am GMT

"What does it mean to say that human rights have no value?"

I think, Erica, this might be evidence that using Western rhetoric around 'human rights' has a pretty limited currency in non-Western cultures. I don't agree with the Archbishop of Kenya about much, but I do tend to agree that the confidence Western liberals place in rights-rhetoric generally, and in the language of 'human rights' particularly, may not be the best basis on which to establish a dialogue with African Christians about the condition of LGBT people. To many non-Westerners (and indeed to me much of the time) talk of 'human rights' looks like the language of benevolent colonial paternalism. Fortunately we do have a common moral language that we can share with African Christians, and that is the language of the Gospel. That is surely a more promising place from which to begin.

Posted by rjb at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 5:19am GMT

I found this helpful

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 8:57am GMT

Their clerical ranks are no doubt full of gays; "repented from homosexuality" is the loophole clause fabricated to accommodate them and make the hypocrisy complete!

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 8:58am GMT

Interesting comment from rjb. Presume he's right on main point (don't know). Personally, as a highly secularised western Christian, I do accept the language and moral imperatives of 'human rights', but even in the West, when one's trying to construct arguments that might have some chance of persuading church people, one has to use 'Christian' arguments - a point (I believe) repeatedly ignored by many TA commentators. On the other hand, appeal to the Gospel is no picnic either, as we all know. Personally, I prefer more pragmatic approaches and think they will eventually do the job. Interesting report in papers this morning on 'passive toleration': studies showing that racial toleration inevitably goes up in mixed racial areas, even if races don't actually mix and even if nobody is being actively 'educated'. So I think that when (among other things) same-sex married couples start appearing in churches, that in itself will create progress.

Posted by John at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 9:12am GMT

And now, over to Canterbury…
Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Monday, 3 March 2014 at 11:31pm GMT

Don't, please don't, hold your breath.

Posted by RPNewark at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 9:30am GMT

That's a very good point, rjb, thank you.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 9:40am GMT

"To many non-Westerners (and indeed to me much of the time) talk of 'human rights' looks like the language of benevolent colonial paternalism."

I presume that if Germany re-passed the Nuremburg Laws and started rounding up Jews to be "shipped East", you wouldn't shrug your shoulders and say that we shouldn't impose non-German concepts of human rights on a sovereign country. So what's the difference?

Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 10:25am GMT

Yes John, your thoughts are in line with Allport's classic 'contact' theory (1954) - that prejudice tends to reduce when people actually encounter and get to know the discriminated group.

When you start getting to know a person as a person, rather than as an 'othered' category, then it opens up the possibility of moving beyond the prejudice and recognising the person's value and legitimacy.

I'm convinced this explains why lesbian and gay people are far more accepted in society today: because more and more people experienced 'out' LGB people in their own families or circle of friends, until it reached a kind of societal tipping point.

Of course, there is still resistance, and we all know that resistance includes religious elements.

Gay and lesbian marriage will become a societal norm in the coming years, and most people will just come to be familiar with it, accept it, and live and let live.

Contact theory is a lot harder for transsexual people because we are a much smaller group, and many transsexual men and women specifically seek to live "in stealth" and walk unnoticed in the streets. There is less obvious contact. Many people have little or no experience of actually getting to know a transsexual individual.

Contact with minority groups breaks down barriers, and helps other people realise that actually people are just people, and dogma often doesn't stand the test when we realise the 'other' person or people are not 'other' at all, but are actually human beings like us, living and working in the community we all share.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 11:06am GMT

While this legislation is new and draconian, it is part of a steady stream of anti gay statutes and constitutional amendments that appeared to be encouraged by the republic of South Africa's constitution guaranteeing gay equality.

Twelve years ago this hate filled language, was, if anything even more pronounced. The Welsh Primate returned from a meeting of bishops in Africa where a fellow bishop told him there were no gays in his diocese. In a cool voice without visceral emotion, as if it were clearly the right thing to do, he described how gay people were stoned or "necklaced" when they were suspected.

The then Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone, Greg Venables said the failure of any reasonable conversation among Primates was due to a lack of any common language between them. Our Archbishop was happy to say quite publicly the meeting of Primates were the worst meetings he had ever attended.

The present leadership of the Global South were then being promoted as moderates, allies of the semi-nasty Fulcrum leadership and their irksome American allies, who sadly continue to give succour and support while having nothing to say about their present support for the crushing laws they so warmly embrace. The Global South are demanding that those structural supports once offered to so called orthodox Anglicans in "heretical" provinces are to be restored while being happy to see gay Anglicans and those who would argue their case disfellowshipped and criminalised. There is not even the slightest pretence at any compromise.

Rowan was a fool to throw us under a bus believing the Dromantine Anathema was going to stop the worst excesses of anti gay Anglican bile. Now, we see the position revealed for what it always was .... stoned or necklaced .......... the Americans are fanning the flames of "credal purity", having lost at home they are even more determined to win abroad and, lets be honest, they have found a pack already blooded, keen to the task who need only the smallest encouragement to rip out our throats.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 11:31am GMT

Thank you, Susanna.

I often find what your write beautiful and moving.

Posted by John at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 11:58am GMT

Tim Chesterton is entirely right to trace this state of affairs to the Erastianism stuck in our ecclesial DNA. While I commend Elizabeth I by being uninterested in making windows into men's souls, her successors were not so conscientious.

I've seen that Nigerian oath through a funhouse mirror, and this is how it read,

"I, A.B., do solemnly and sincerely, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, that I do believe that in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper there is not any transubstantiation of the elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever, and that the invocation or adoration of the virgin Mary or any other saint, and the sacrifice of the mass, as they are now used in the church of Rome, are superstitious and idolatrous.

"And I do solemnly in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, that I do make this declaration, and every part thereof, in the plain and ordinary sense of the words read unto me, as they are commonly understood by English Protestants, without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatsoever, and without any dispensation already granted me for this purpose by the pope, or any other authority or person whatsoever, or without any hope of any such dispensation from any person or authority whatsoever, or without thinking that I am or can be acquitted before God or man, or absolved of this declaration, or any part thereof, although the pope or any other person or persons or power whatsoever, should dispense with or annul the same, or declare that it was null and void from the beginning."

Posted by Caelius Spinator at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 1:19pm GMT

It's an interesting analogy, Caelius. And it points to the need for a kind of 'settlement' that allows for diverse understandings within a single communion in Jesus Christ.

What you represent there is - in essence - what the promoters of the 'Covenant' were trying to do. To pin down people to a dominant dogma, with the intent of enforcing uniformity and pushing out 'heretics' aka The Episcopal Church in the US etc.

And there seems only a subtlety of nuance, between the African mandatory declarations of uniformity/orthodoxy, your example above, and the more 'polite' enforcement of uniformity over conscience of priests and PCCs by the bishops in their recent epistle.

Until we actually recapture the impulse to allow 'unity in diversity'... to recognise our unity in Jesus Christ, not in imposed uniformities... until we once again demonstrate the generosity to embrace difference and diversity... we push the Anglican Community towards schism and sect.

In many ways, Cranmer's prayerbook was a masterpiece of carefully weighed language to try to square the circles of protestantism and catholicism. Yes, it was imperfect, but it was desirous of inclusion.

It led to the particular, and special, broad church of Anglicanism. And the particular grace that afforded. It allowed space for people's consciences.

This is not just a 'liberal' cause about LGBT issues. It also reflects on issues of catholicity, and women's roles etc - and for 'unity and diversity' to be embraced, it needs to involve a spirit of generosity towards other divergent views (and their protection, the protection of conscience) and not just the defence of the parties (like LGBT) who we ourselves may identify with.

The Covenant crashed, because it was contrary to Anglicanism. We desperately need a maturity to embrace one another's consciences and differences, AND to recognise that - nevertheless - we are all eternally brothers and sisters in the unity we can only ever have in Jesus Christ.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 2:03pm GMT

But rjb, many African, Asian and Latin American countries and independence movements helped to develop, or signed up to, the concept of universal human rights in the 1940s and '50s. For instance 'Respect for fundamental human rights and for the purposes and principles of the charter of the United Nations' was the first of a list of principles agreed at the 1955 Bandung Conference, an Afro-Asian gathering. However senior clergy in certain countries who suck up to repressive politicians may find it convenient to pretend, even to themselves, that the concept of human rights is somehow unique to the West.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 3:46pm GMT

I would recommend reading a new book: "Backpacking Through the Anglican Communion: A Search for Unity" by Jesse Zink for some useful insights on this issue.

The author's experiences are both encouraging and discouraging.

Encouraging: It is possible to engage in respectful discussion about the church and homosexuality when one has established a personal relationship with people, in spite of opposing viewpoints. Unity in diversity is not an impossibility, at least on a local, personal basis.

Discouraging: In countries such as Nigeria and Uganda the attitude toward homosexuality is for most people simply a given, not something that they consider subject to change. Rational discussion of the facts is not likely to change people's minds any time soon. The Anglican Churches in these countries feel threatened not just by Islam, but also by Pentecostalism--they are not about to go counter-cultural on such a deeply felt issue.

Posted by Bill Ghrist at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 4:55pm GMT

"I think, Erica, this might be evidence that using Western rhetoric around 'human rights' has a pretty limited currency in non-Western cultures."

The UN has a concept of Human Rights that is a part of the lingo of all member nations. They have conferences that are run by and focus on the issues in various parts of the world, including Africa. There was one on human rights for women in Africa that had a gazillion African women speaking to their issues - not one of them said that their human rights was a product of western colonial paternalism. They said that the church was a major negative force against their achievement of human rights.

I'm sorry, the women in Africa clearly want their human rights. So the questioning of the whole concept by the men in power is as disturbing for African women as it is for African gays. That post colonial "it only plays in the West" attitude is merely an excuse for those in power to keep others in degradation and it is a shameful assault on humanity.

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 5:13pm GMT

Hmmm, this is turning into an interesting discussion re "human rights".

I wonder if EVERY society pushing for "human rights" has basically meant "the right of everyone to be like Me&MyKind" . . . and are then shocked-shocked to find out just HOW DIFFERENT these competing visions are.

"Unity in Diversity": in long-developed nations, we may have a more "let diversity BLOOM!" ethos. In less-developed nations---nations which may be only a few decades old, molded out of multiple religions, languages, ethnicities---diversity is inevitably seen as a THREAT.

Obviously, I don't have the answers here . . . which is why (ironically) I come back to Me&MyKind. I care about protecting African (et al) LGBTs---even if that means, by unfortunate necessity, getting them OUT of Africa (et al). [Everything "Anglican" has to take a back seat to that. Sweet Jesus, protect them!]

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 7:58pm GMT


And how many of these gazillion African women are speaking up for gay rights?

Posted by John at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 8:08pm GMT

Their clerical ranks are no doubt full of gays; "repented from homosexuality" is the loophole clause fabricated to accommodate them and make the hypocrisy complete!

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 8:58am GMT

Vatican II, it reminds me of the "bad ol' days" in the US military, when you could be other-than-honorably discharged if caught in a physical embrace or other physical acts with a person -- military or civilian -- of the same gender. There was an exception -- dubbed the "queen for a day" rule, after a popular 1950s American TV game show -- in which you could declare that you lost your head, you got drunk, you were overpowered, etc., and that it would never happen again.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 8:49pm GMT

But what rjb says does make sense. Here too we have a large number of Christians who do not get that human rights are not "human rights" and that they are not "only human rights" as something opposed to theology, as if God could ever be against human rights.

When that's the prevailing mindset appealing to human rights is usually pointless.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 4 March 2014 at 10:15pm GMT

"And how many of these gazillion African women are speaking up for gay rights?"

I'm glad you asked. This is a good start. Drill through and you'll find tons on equality and human rights issues.

Google UN and human rights for African Women and a lot comes up. Try this one:

The idea that human rights is exclusively Western is balderdash. Indeed, there is a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the post has been held by a lot of non Westerners. From the UN website on Human Rights:

Human Rights is totally a Western concept? Absolutely not, the idea that it is "Western" is merely the excuse of abusive tyrants. That anyone could buy into the idea says a lot about post-colonial guilt - which I don't suffer from, being from a former colony…

I don't just make this stuff up, John. I do work in Haiti where there is a saying "the illiterate are not ignorant." What it means is that oppressed people know exactly what oppresses them. The women speaking at the UN aren't illiterate, they can articulate much for those who can't speak for themselves, and for those of us who care to listen.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 2:12am GMT

Oops, I got John confused with rjb. So my links for the UN's vast non Western human rights work is for those who are considering buying into the idea that Human Rights is a Western thing. Hopefully the links show that's not true.

The question of John: And how many of these gazillion African women are speaking up for gay rights?

I don't know. I have not come across mention of it in the conferences; the papers I've seen stayed focused on women's issues. The female president of … was it Senegal? told President Obama to mind his own business when he brought up LGBT rights.

If the idea of Human Rights is established, it carries over. At some point, folks realize that Human Rights are not exclusive. The problem is that the tyrants don't recognize Human Rights for anyone, not their women, not their LGBT's, probably not competing groups. That is the fundamental problem.

Sorry I misread the question, at first, John. It's been a very long couple of weeks.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 2:24am GMT

Cynthia, don't apologise. You have all my good-will.

Posted by John at Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 8:43am GMT

No, Martin, “the Americans” are not “fanning the flames of ‘credal purity'; certain American Evangelicals are. Get your facts right.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Posted by Kurt Hill at Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 7:08pm GMT

I see the Nigerian Church isn't requiring anyone to swear never to be a whited sepulchre.

Posted by Helen at Wednesday, 5 March 2014 at 9:51pm GMT

Get your facts right
Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

I regret you think my facts were wrong or that I was implying what you say.
Anyone following this blog would know your deduction was false.
Apart from that, what I say is true.
It is clear from what I write that Americans who have lost the argument in America (obviously to the majority of fellow Americans) are now sowing their evil abroad. That includes the likes of Jack Iker who most certainly is NOT an American Evangelical!
Perhaps Kurt you might reconsider your facts?

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 9:14am GMT

Like, Kurt, here; I would like to challenge any idea that TEC Anglicans in North America have anything to do with the conservatism of the Gafcon Provinces. The conservatives in Africa are being fed and funded by non-TEC Americans, and others, who are trying to harness the post-colonial angst of Global South Anglicans who were missionised by
Victorian missionaries, who had no idea that the outdated biblical hermeneutic on gender and sexuality could cause the perpetuation of injustice for LGBTI people in the future.

Paternalism in foreign missions has been the root cause of disputes with Mother Church in England.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 9:38am GMT

Kurt's point is that you are essentialising some Americans, implying both that it is being American that makes that do bad things, and that Americans in general would support those bad things. Neither is true.

There are drug gangs in London, and for some of those gangs, most if not all of their members are black. Were one to suggest that they are violent drug dealers because they are black, or that most blacks are violent drug dealers, or that there is something about the black culture which predisposes one to be a violent drug dealer one would (properly) be excoriated as racist. The third of those propositions is arguably slightly less offensively stupid, and might pass muster in the Telegraph if they were feeling like a fight on the op-ed page, but the first two would by unpublishable in any civilised venue. And certainly "the blacks are doing a lot of knife crime" would be subbed before it got near publication.

Hence "the Americans are fanning the flames of "credal purity"" The Americans? What, all of them? Latte-sipping young women in New York with a box set of Sex in the City waiting for them back at their flat in Queens are itching to pressurise African Christians? Strolling down Castro in drag, San Francisco's gay community discuss nothing but "credal purity"? Seriously?

And in any event, it's not just the racist slur at "the Americans". It's also infantilising African Christians (the racism of low expectations). There are West Indian preachers and musicians in the UK who spout violent hatred. If a white congregation in Lincolnshire heard the call and suddenly decided to embark upon a queer progrom, would we hold them responsible for their own actions? Yes, we would: that a man visited and told them to kill de batty man would not absolve them of responsibility for their own actions.

So the narrative of "the Americans are..." is doubly racist. It's a racist slur against Americans, seeing the actions of a tiny handful of people as being representative of a larger group. And it's a racist slur against Africans, implying that they do not have moral agency for their own acts.

Posted by Interested Observer at Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 11:39am GMT

I regret, once again to stir some to defend the role of TEC ..........

I made no specific reference to that Church, though THE FACTS are certainly not as Fr Ron Smith might have them.

It would be a very narrow view that cannot look back only a decade or so to the TEC that still contained the likes of Iker, Anderson, Minns and Duncan and fails to recognise the significant part they played and continue to have on the anti-gay agenda in Africa and beyond.00

Nor should the continued existence of the so called Communion Partner bishops within TEC who have historically been the greatest supporters of the present leadership of Gafcon, be overlooked or underestimated. They have been theologically resourced and spiritually supported by significant numbers of TECians.

I would say that more than any other province, TEC genuinely represented within itself the extraordinary diversity that typified the makeup of the Anglican Communion. The mantra that it is an heretical liberal monolith is bizarre, all the more so as it often comes from the traditionalists who were once, and even remain, nurtured by it.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 11:53am GMT

Please keep this conversation civilised. Thank you.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 12:53pm GMT

In the spirit of Simon's request I shall not respond to anonymous attacks.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Thursday, 6 March 2014 at 2:54pm GMT

Martin, you are so obviously speaking of the old TEC, that WAS part of the conservatism being put to work in the Gafcon Provinces. Surely you are aware that - at least since Bishop Katharine Schori's election to the Presiding Bishop's post, TEC has been actively opposed to the conservatism of the Gafcon Provinces.

Since the invasion of TEC by the leadership of Gafcon, and the rising up of Gafcon's surrogate children as the oxymoronically-named ACNA, and other schismatic church bodies in North America and Canada, both TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada have upheld the mission of the Church to LGBTI people in a way that is exemplary in the Anglican Communion.

It could be said that the Anglican Church in America (TEC) has done more for Gay and Lesbian Christians than any other Communion Province. If it were any other reality, why would Gafcon have declared war on TEC and the A.C. of Canada?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 7 March 2014 at 12:02am GMT

Interested Observer
I think you are overstating your case in claiming racism underlies the earlier comment. "Americans" are not a distinct race, as the term is used here. Please reconsider that remark.

Oh and please check your email account some time, thanks.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 7 March 2014 at 2:27pm GMT

Martin, I apologise for the implication that your posting was racist.

I think we could all, in general, try to avoid essentialising people, and I am very wary of anti-Americanism in the aftermath of, for example, Mary Beard's shameful piece post-9.11. But I accept that your intention was not racist, and that by "the Americans" you were implicitly referring to a small group, not to the larger whole. And my rant about the racism of low expectations was not justified by what you wrote. My apologies.

Posted by Interested Observer at Friday, 7 March 2014 at 3:40pm GMT

I apologize, too, to Martin if I appeared over-sensitive.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Posted by Kurt at Friday, 7 March 2014 at 4:35pm GMT

I am grateful to Simon.

I am pleased Kurt has seen that he was a tad sensitive and I thought our exchange was well mannered.

I am very happy that Interested Observer sees that my comment, while somewhat elliptical, was neither anti American nor racist.

Thank you both for what you say. I would like to add that while Interested Observer makes valuable contributions, those who contribute anonymously bear an increased burden when it comes to making powerful criticisms of others on these threads.

Fr Ron.
If there were a book I would like to write it would be around how the divisions within North American Anglicanism impacted on African Christianity and the Anglican Communion.

No, the TEC I speak of is not wholly of the past. As I say those calling themselves Communion Partners remain within TEC and oppose gay equality. There are those who post sometimes on these threads in a sour, cryptic manner who have given huge support to this group and in particular the present leadership of the Global South. They remain TEC priests.

Perhaps you are trying to see things in a fresh way.
My mind easily slips back to the compliance of TEC with Rowan's agenda. The shock of BO33, the meeting at New Orleans, the playing along with Rule by Primates, leaving Gene out of Lambeth .. etc etc. There are indeed things to celebrate, but I am less sanguine than thee!

But I do think it important to acknowledge that TEC is not a Church that can be defined as of one character or mind, even now. Its diversity is complex, almost as complex as its polity! Look to the conversations on blogs like Episcopal Cafe to see the issues around how it now might re-imagine itself for a new world.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 7 March 2014 at 7:45pm GMT

Martin. I must confess that TEC does have its share of 'dissident' Anglicans. As you say, the 'Communion Partners' seem to work against the grain of the Church it belongs to (TEC) - but then, so does that oddity called 'Anglican Communion Institute'. This latter is sometimes known as 3 theologians and a web-site, but it still has the distinction of militating against the polity of its parent Church (again, TEC).

I guess all Anglican Provinces have their local dissidents - even the Church of England, maybe?
I suppose the way in which we view them might just depend on our own point of view, vis-a-vis their adherence to our own values system.

My only problem with philosophical differences is, whether we can live together without throwing a hissy fit and wanting to split - sometimes on a matter 'we' consider to be 'adiaphora', but which 'they' consider deeply doctrinal, and therefore potentially heretical.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 9 March 2014 at 10:29am GMT

And now a court has invalidated this notorious law on what appear to be procedural grounds.

Will the cycle start over again, and if it does, where will the Church of Uganda stand this time?

And what will that mean for the splinter groups that have aligned themselves with the Church of Uganda?

By their fruits ye shall know them.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 1 August 2014 at 4:27pm BST
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