If only Bishopthorpe and Lambeth Palace understood just how important it is at the moment to respond to the experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as much as to young people and to communicate the Christian gospel of love and hope to us.
A two hour conversation yesterday revealed why neither Bishopthorpe nor Lambeth Palace are likely to make a public statement about the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The argument from within Lambeth Palace as to why the Archbishop can’t make a comment about the Uganda Bill at the moment was rehearsed at length. It was explained to me why it isn’t right that the Archbishop of Canterbury should make a public statement about a legislative matter in another country, another Province of the Anglican Communion. It is the responsibility of the Primate and church in that Province (even if, as we know, African Primates may hold deeply prejudiced, hostile views about homosexuality, fuelled by conservative American money and influence).
What Archbishops can do is exert pressure and influence behind the scenes, using the agreed Anglican policy as agreed in Lambeth 1.10 and the Windsor Report to underpin the Christian standards by which the Bill should be judged. I understand the argument, and I had no option but to acquiesce even if I didn’t agree.
Except that an hour later I met Davis Mac-Iyalla and he reminded me that Archbishop Peter Akinola didn’t hesitate to comment on the English House of Bishop’s Pastoral Statement about Civil Partnerships. Archbishop Akinola said: “,,, that Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and his church should now face disciplinary action.” Bernard Malango said: “If Rowan has approved of this, it is very unfortunate. It makes me sick. They have to explain what they mean by being married and having no sex. This is the final nail in the coffin of the entire Anglican Communion”. Drexel Gomez predicted yet another Anglican split: “I don’t see how civil partnerships will work. “I will have a difficult time explaining this; my people will take it in a negative way. This is an added threat at this moment of tension within the communion. Two-thirds of the communion will not be able to accept it”. http://www.changingattitude.org.uk/news/newsitem.asp?id=20
Dalits are being persecuted in India, I was told, and Moslems persecute Christians in Nigeria because of Bishop Gene Robinson’s consecration, but Lambeth doesn’t make public statements about these acts of persecution, so why should an exception be made for the Uganda Bill? Because, I said, conservatives have made homosexuality the issue over which they are tearing the Communion apart. Because the Communion is being driven by an anti-homosexuality campaign and (although Canon Phil Groves and others are working creatively and patiently behind the scenes on continuing Indaba), all that LGBT people are hearing is homophobic prejudice from conservatives and a deafening silence from senior figures.
I think Lambeth’s argument is faulty, and it certainly makes the church look as if it condones the legislation rather than vehemently objecting to it. Yesterday afternoon’s conversation was very frustrating. I know that many supporters of LGBT Anglicans in the UK and Uganda are angry and can’t understand the silence of Archbishops. The good news is that behind the scenes, contact is happening with Archbishop Henry Orombi and he seems to be responding by rethinking the church’s stance. But will he ever come out and denounce the Bill? I doubt it.