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Why African Anglicans would oppose ordination of homosexuals: A rebuttal

Why African Anglicans would oppose ordination of homosexuals: A rebuttal

By The Rev. Luke Mbefo
Pittsburgh Post Gazette

In response to "A Gospel of Intolerance" by The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane, Episcopal bishop of Washington (Forum, March 5):

Bishop John Bryson Chane invites reaction to the current movement of "intolerance" that threatens the rights of gays and lesbians within the Anglican Communion. This movement of exclusion is led by Archbishop Peter J. Akinola of the Anglican Church of Nigeria. In Bishop Chane's op-ed essay, he urges church members and American citizens to make known their minds on this issue. Being a Nigerian citizen, I offer my opinion to help the wider American public to know the mind of Africans.

Westerners are heirs of a worldview created by the European Enlightenment, a scientific worldview that is mono-dimensional in its appreciation of reality. For them to understand Africans correctly, there is need for a sort of mental "conversion" that is disposed to give credit to a pre-scientific and therefore mythic mentality.

Africans live in two interpenetrating worlds at the same time. For them the individual, although endowed with those rights the Enlightenment considers sacred, is not recognized as the measure of all things. The African world of experience belongs to what writers on religious experience name "the primordial tradition." It is centered in the ubiquitous world of spirit which envelops and intermingles unceasingly with the world of peoples.

The decision of a section of African Anglicans to break with the U.S. Episcopal Church because of the consecration of a gay bishop, and to delete references to the mother church in Canterbury from the constitution, cannot be properly appreciated when separated from the role African traditional religion continues to play in African forms of Christianity.

The present generation of Anglican bishops in Africa are heirs of a two-fold tradition. Before many of them became Christians, they had been formed by the traditional religions of their ancestors.

The veneration of ancestral religious tradition is strongly embedded in them and their acceptance of Christianity is, in many ways, based on Christianity's congruence with that traditional heritage. They are opposed to the ordination of gay people because their reading of the Hebrew-Christian Bible and their traditional African piety have no sympathy with gay practice.

Homosexuality is, in their traditional heritage, seen as taboo and anybody seen to be so inclined was thought of as threatening the divinely ordained order of the community. In this tradition, the individual is free to the extent that he or she is at the service of the common good and not in so far as he or she is the center of sacred rights and privileges.

In their pre-Christian tradition, the right to homosexual orientation would be considered a taboo that threatens the divinely ordained order of society. Their value for children as the continuation of the race is definitely threatened by gay practice. Children are treasured as fruits of marriage and any union, as a gay union, that prevented the propagation of the community's growth was a personal shame to be openly censured.

In the African traditional moral profile, the Vatican document's reference to homosexuality as "intrinsically disordered" would evoke positive resonance and Pope Benedict XVI's description of the Western worship of personal freedom as "anarchy of freedom" would attract unanimous endorsement.

It may be that the African bishops still need to be convinced that the understanding of human nature needs to be imaginatively framed to accommodate homosexuality and gay tendencies. To do that, however, they still need to be convinced that ancestral traditions are no longer a valid legacy in our post-modern world.

Their extraordinary courage in the face of Western worship of individual freedom cannot but correct the image of the African continent as a passive consumer of foreign ideas.

They see themselves as iconic of traditional values and lifestyles that are life-giving rather than death-promoting, values which an uncritical embrace of a scientific culture perhaps does overlook: such values as those of solidarity and community, of courage to stand up for what are considered perennial and classical values as opposed to what they consider artificial and ephemeral cultural conventions of political correctness.

If one were to ask the African bishops for an empirical justification of their position, they would gladly point to the overcrowded and bustling church attendance in African churches as compared with the empty pews of Western cathedrals.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06067/666593.stm

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