Homophobia in Africa: The Real Truth Please
By David W. Virtue
November 21, 2009
The headlines screamed loudly enough: "A Groundbreaking PRA Investigation Exposes Influence of U.S. Religious Conservatives in Promoting Homophobia in Africa....U.S. Christian Right mobilizes African clerics in U.S. 'culture war' over ordination of LGBT clergy."
This would hardly be news except that the man who wrote it is an African, designed deliberately to add credence to the "fact" that Africans still hover in the Dark Ages, have multiples marriages, (Christians not Muslims that is,) and as soon as Africans devolve into 21st Century post-modernity with Palm Pilots and 500 channels of mindless television, they will come of age and accept sodomy as good and right in the eyes of God.
"Sexual minorities in Africa have become collateral damage to our domestic conflicts and culture wars as U.S. conservative evangelicals and those opposing gay pastors and bishops within mainline Protestant denominations woo Africans in their American fight," according to a groundbreaking investigation by Political Research Associates (PRA).
"Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia", is a new report by the Rev. Kapya Kaoma, PRA Project Director and an Anglican priest from Zambia, who also leads churches in the ultra-liberal Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. Following a 16-month investigation, Kaoma offers the following thesis:
* The U.S. Right promotes an agenda in Africa that aims to criminalize homosexuality and otherwise infringe upon the human rights of LGBT people while also mobilizing African clerics in U.S. culture war battles. U.S. social conservatives, who are in the minority in mainline churches, depend on African religious leaders to legitimize their positions as their growing numbers make African Christians more influential globally.
* The Ugandan parliament considers the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009. Language in that bill echoes the false and malicious charges made in Uganda that western gays are conspiring to take over Uganda and even the world.
* U.S. conservatives are imposing their own concerns about homosexuality on Africa.
* "Renewal" groups in The Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church USA, and Presbyterian Church USA; U.S conservative evangelicals; and the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a neoconservative think tank that for decades have been undermining Protestant denominations' tradition of progressive social justice work.
* U.S. conservatives have established with religious leaders in Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya and are exporting homophobia from the United States to these Anglophone countries.
* The U.S. Right - once isolated in Africa for supporting pro-apartheid, White supremacist regimes - has successfully reinvented itself as the mainstream of U.S. evangelicalism. Through their extensive communications networks in Africa, social welfare projects, Bible schools, and educational materials, U.S. religious conservatives warn of the dangers of homosexuals and present themselves as the true representatives of U.S. evangelicalism, helping to marginalize Africans' relationships with mainline Protestant churches.
"We need to stand up against the U.S. Christian Right peddling homophobia in Africa," said Kaoma. PRA executive director Tarso Luís Ramos in the report's foreword says "Africa's antigay campaigns are to a substantial degree made in the U.S.A."
Leaders within mainline Protestant denominations hailed the report.
"The exploitation of African Christians by right-wing organizations in the United States is reprehensible. Where were these individuals and organizations and their leaders during the struggles against colonialism and apartheid? They certainly were not standing in solidarity with the people of Africa. Today, they use a variety of corrupt practices and methods in a vain attempt to turn back the tide of history. This report reveals the truth about what is going on and should be required reading for American church leaders," said Jim Winkler, the general secretary of the international public policy and social justice agency of The United Methodist Church.
Political Research Associates (PRA) described itself as a progressive think tank devoted to supporting movements that are building a more just and inclusive democratic society. "We expose movements, institutions, and ideologies that undermine human rights, with a focus on the U.S. political Right."
The report features a cover photo of CANA Bishop Martyn Minns embracing Peter Akinola, Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria. CANA is an orthodox Anglican Church plant out of Nigeria that broke away from the Episcopal Church over lax faith and even laxer morals. The report argues that it's the Western conservatives who are pushing the anti-gay line into Africa -- not the other way around -- resulting in anti-gay legislation and homophobia that wasn't there before.
So let us look at the claims of the Rev. Kaoma and the PRA.
1. Mainline Protestant churches are slowly but surely succumbing to the siren call of pansexuality. The undisputed leader is the Episcopal Church, followed by the United Church of Christ, more recently the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and The Presbyterian Church USA. One hold out is the United Methodist Church. The laity are pushing hard against their leaders not to go down the rocky road of allowing non-celibate gay pastors and blessing same-sex unions.
2. In all these churches the laity is overwhelmingly orthodox, but they are led by a cadre of vocal liberal bishops and clergy who are pushing for change as they see society move in the same direction on sexuality issues. The truth is evangelical (conservative) laity are more socially conservative and reject homosexuality. In the case of The Episcopal Church, while orthodox clergy and laity were building churches, a small group of liberals and their homosexual pals were taking over the levers of power. Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning was the first of a new breed of bishops that paved the way for homosexual acceptance. He was followed by Frank Griswold and now the appalling Katharine Jefferts Schori.
3. In a book by Miranda K. Hasset, "The Anglican Communion in Crisis: How Episcopal Dissidents and Their Allies are Reshaping Anglicanism" (Princeton University Press, 2007) she argues that North American Anglicans (Episcopalians) reached out to the church of the Global South and Africa, in particular, for help in resisting the drift of The Episcopal Church into the gay-rights culture and that in so doing genuine bonds of affection were formed. (Hasset cannot, by any stretch be considered orthodox in her personal views. She teaches at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass.)
4. Theologian missiologist (Rev. Dr.) Stephen Noll who has lived for the past decade in Uganda as V-P of Uganda Christian University notes that the formation of alternative Anglican bodies in North America came as a direct response to the failure of Episcopal leaders to discipline Bishop Walter Righter. "The acquittal of Righter ended the last attempt at inner discipline within the Episcopal Church." Thus began a slow but steady advance of orthodox overseas Anglican jurisdictions onto American soil. What caused this gradual drift toward overseas alliances and "interventions" Noll stated was the steadfast stubbornness and petty meanness of Episcopalian leadership (illiberal liberals marching in lockstep). The secondary cause has been the collaboration between the national Episcopal Church in New York and Anglican Communion office in London, with the consent of the current Archbishop of Canterbury. The final nail in the coffin of Canterbury-led Anglicanism came as Rowan Williams set about to overturn the Feb 2007 decision of the Primates at Dar es Salaam. Rather than calling the Episcopal bishops to a final account as that meeting intended, he invited them all to an "ndaba" at Canterbury (ndaba is Kwazalu for "sensitivity group").
5. In her book, Hasset shows how Anglicans on both sides of the ocean came to appreciate each other. They both share a basic Evangelical theology, although their churchmanship may be quite different. The Revival movement brought with it a kind of Methodism - no drinking, no smoking, conservative dressing - but they had a common deference to Scripture. The question is, did North American Anglicans thrust their sexual agenda on the Africans? Noll notes that a decade ago many African church leaders thought homosexuality was an odd Western custom that was irrelevant to them. The influence of Western media and NGOs made them think again. Furthermore, the devious politics of the New York-London axis made them suspicious of Episcopalians bearing gifts. (Uganda has cut off all Episcopal donations and missionaries since 2003.)
6. The advent of the Internet with world class LISTSERVS like Virtueonline and Anglican Mainstream have countered the spin from ENS and ACNS, bringing the latest string of heresies and apostasies directly into dioceses and bishops e-mails.
7. Countering Kaoma's claim, Hasset, a sociology of religion and globalization expert, says that the liberal paradigm of globalization, according to which nations invariably become more liberal culturally as they develop economically, does not fit Global Anglicanism. In fact, African Anglicans find in the conservative culture of the Anglican tradition some ballast against rampant westernization and support of traditional mores. "In this sense, the North American conservatives may be offering Africans a genuine choice for their future. Many sociologists thought that after independence, Africa would cast off Christianity as so much colonial baggage. Just the opposite has happened: now Africa represents what Philip Jenkins' calls "The Next Christendom". As Noll observes, African Anglicans met up with a congenial body of Western Christians who appreciate their African culture and Evangelical heritage and who bring certain of the the modern gifts - funds, expertise, technology - without the Trojan horse of cultural liberalism.
8. A number of other things should be noted. EDUCATION. There are more bishops with earned Ph.D.s in the Anglican Province of Nigeria, mostly earned in the UK and USA, than in all the House of Bishops in the U.S. Canada, Australia and NZ put together. To argue, as Kaoma does, that Western Anglicans have imposed their views of sexual morality on Africans is not only a colonialist mentality it is also racist. African leaders were and are quite capable of reading the Bible and to exegete it without the help of Western liberal theologians with a pansexual bent. They have politely stood up to the Archbishop of Canterbury and rejected his stand that you can hold private and public views on homosexuality.
9. The birth of GAFCON came from African initiatives not Western, with the single biggest input of bishops and material coming from Nigeria. This Anglican province raised over $1 million in a few short weeks to send a large contingent of African bishops to the Middle East paying for many who could not pay their way.
10. The Ugandan parliament considers the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009. Language in that bill echoes the false and malicious charges made in Uganda that western gays are conspiring to take over Uganda and even the world. This is patently false. Now let us be clear that two Western pan-Anglican gay groups - Integrity USA and Changing Attitude (UK) -- have made repeated allegations about violence towards gays in Nigeria (incited they say by orthodox Anglicans) that have proven false. One of their leaders, Davis Mac-Iyalla, a Nigerian Anglican Gay activist, was exposed as a homosexual predator while touring seminaries in the US. He was roundly condemned by his pro-gay minder for his bad behavior.
The Church of Uganda upholds the sanctity of life and does not support the death penalty proposed in the bill. The irony should not be missed that those who engage in risky sexual behaviors expose men and women to HIV-AIDS often leading such persons to a gruesome death. The church however has been clear in its stand. The Rev. Canon Aaron Mwesigye, speaking on behalf of Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, wrote that the position of the Church of Uganda is that, in Christ, people and their sexual desires are redeemed, and restored to God's original intent. Repentance and obedience to Scripture are the gateway to the redemption of marriage and family and the transformation of society. (Position Paper on Scripture, Authority, and Human Sexuality, May 2005)
Furthermore, The House of Bishops resolved in August 2008 that "The Church of Uganda is committed at all levels to offer counseling, healing and prayer for people with homosexual disorientation, especially in our schools and other institutions of learning. The Church is a safe place for individuals, who are confused about their sexuality or struggling with sexual brokenness, to seek help and healing."
Not surprisingly, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi in April said he was "appalled to learn that the rumours about homosexual recruiting in our schools and amongst our youth are true. I am even more concerned that the practice is more widespread than we originally thought. It is the duty of the church and the government to be watchmen on the wall and to warn and protect our people from harmful and deceitful agendas." The Ugandan Church also echoed the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1:10 that "Homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture."
"Homosexual behaviour is immoral and should not be promoted, supported, or condoned in any way as an 'alternative lifestyle.' This position has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the House of Bishops and the Provincial Assembly of the Church of Uganda."
What about this echoes of Western interference or "the religious right peddling homophobia in Africa"? It is a complete fiction. Africans are quite capable of thinking for themselves and don't need Westerners to tell them what to believe. They read the Bible in accordance with accepted hermeneutical principles. They are certainly not buying the revisionist nonsense of Bishop John Shelby Spong or the self-absorbed, self-centered homosexual whine of Bishop V. Gene Robinson.
It is also a dead give away that the growth of the Anglican Communion in Africa is in direct relationship with gospel proclamation, while the slow but accelerating death of Western pan-Anglicanism is in direct relationship to its failure to articulate the gospel and Mrs. Jefferts Schori's public repudiation of the need for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
God is not mocked. The West is reaping what it is sowing. So is the Global South. The only difference is that one is bringing eternal life, joy, peace and hope while the other is sowing the seeds of eternal death, destruction and damnation.
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