The question of homosexuality reared its head for the umpteenth time this week at the all African Anglican Church conference that is taking place in Entebbe. Despite pressure from the western world, African bishops have renewed their condemnation of the practice of homosexuality in the church.
The widely criticised practice in Africa has been viewed as a threat to the unity of the church. Homosexuality and ordination of women prelates are two of the underpinning practices that have put the Anglican Church at cross-roads over how its pastoral commitments should be exercised. Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of the province of Nigeria says the church has always had differences of opinion over certain issues.
“Homosexuality is not a new phenomenon in the society but the only trouble is that the issues dividing us (church) now are very difficult to handle. They are threatening the unity of the church because they disobey the authority of the scriptures,” says Bishop Okoh. He says homosexuality is a result of some people engaged in making their culture to be superior to the biblical teachings. “It is two sided; while some people want to be obedient to their culture to determine the content of the church, others say no and it must be the guidance of the bible,” he added.
The primates describe homosexuality as an imposed interpretation and alien culture that has hindered the growth of an authentic church which could respond to its people. “We are saying homosexuality is not compatible with the word of God. We are saying that this culture of other people is against the traditional belief of marriage held by the Anglican Communion,” says the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi. Bishop Orombi says that the Anglican Church will never accept homosexuality because the scriptures too do not allow people of same sex to join in marriage.
“Homosexuality is evil, abnormal and unnatural as per the Bible. It is a culturally unacceptable practice. Although there is a lot of pressure, we cannot turn our hands to support it,” says Bishop Orombi.
The remarks came up during the conference jointly organised by the Church of Uganda and the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) that attracted at least 400 bishops under the theme “Securing the future, unlocking our potential.”
Other challenges on the agenda of African primates meeting are the problems of poverty, squander of public resources, pandemic diseases, justice and peace as well as the relationship between the Anglican Church and the state.
The Archbishop of the Province of Indian Ocean, Ian Ernest, says the bishops have to courageously raise their voices to counteract the false ideologies that creep into the church and put at stake the mission that Christ has entrusted to his church. “We cannot afford to continue to lurch from one crisis to the next in our beloved Communion. Despite attempts to warn some western provinces, action has been taken to irrevocably shatter the Communion. Sadly existing structures of the Anglican Communion have been unable to address the need for discipline,” says Bishop Ernest, the chairman of CAPA. He says the teachings of homosexuality are irrelevant to the needs of Africans and are unrepresentative demographically hence the need for new structures that are credible and representative of the majority.
The anti-homosexuality voices from the bishops are a likely boost to proponents of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (2009), before the Ugandan Parliament which proposes life imprisonment for acts of homosexuality and introduces “aggravated homosexuality” as a serious crime.
According to the proposed law, offenders must face death if they have sex with a minor or a disabled person, or are found to have infected their partners with HIV/Aids. The proposed law, if passed in its current shape, would also punish attempted homosexuality as well as the failure of a third party to inform the authorities of homosexual activity.
Bishop Orombi says the primates in Africa have since shared their stand with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. Bishop Okoh says Africa has various challenges of disease, young widows, divorce, single motherhood, poverty which affect the church. “The issue of moral failure in the community is another problem to the church. But we have to work hard to ensure that the church of God is not divided by some practices like the ordination of women clergy which we are still studying,” he says.