The remarks made to journalists in Namirembe, Kampala, by Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, the Primate of the Church of Uganda, are predictably to the script of the Global South/GAFCON axis in the Anglican Communion. The Archbishop’s stance is a reprise of the many statements hostile to the presence of LGB&T people in the Anglican Communion and in his own Province.
The Global South/GAFCON axis is convinced that homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity. Their reading of the Bible gives immense attention to 7 passages of scripture on which they construct a divine prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people which is deeply homophobic.
At the extreme end of the spectrum, evil and wickedness results from this interpretation of scripture including murderous hatred and violence against LGB&T people. Support for the anti-same sex marriage bill in Nigeria and the anti-gay bill in Uganda has increased the level of prejudice in all parts of Africa. It has raised the level of tension within the Anglican Communion and caused many people, straight and gay, to abandon the Church and their faith in God as constructed by conservatives.
Ten years ago this prejudice and hatred was focused on two people: Gene Robinson following his election as Bishop of New Hampshire and Jeffrey John following his appointment as Bishop of Reading. The intensity of the campaign in the Diocese of Oxford forced the then Archbishop of Canterbury to capitulate and request that Jeffrey John withdraw (which he declined to do – it was forced on him).
The narrative ten years ago, repeated this week by Archbishop Ntagali, was that “… the unbiblical decision has torn the fabric of the Anglican Communion at its deepest level.” What was torn for Anglicans was progress towards the eradication of homophobia from Anglican Christianity and towards the full inclusion of LGB&T people in the life of the Church. Progress in England has been tediously slow. In African countries it has been non-existent. Prejudice, ignorance and hate have intensified. The Archbishop talks of a growing crisis. The crisis in the Communion is ebbing. The crisis for Christianity is still intensifying as parts of the Church continue to deny justice, equality and full inclusion in the Church to LGB&T people.
Archbishop Ntagali laments that the homosexual crisis in the church still exists and is deepening, with no signs of improving. I lament the failure to improve the status of homosexuals in the Communion and the continuing hostility to LGB&T people articulated by various Archbishops, bishops and opinion formers in the Communion.
The Archbishop talks of the many attempts by the primates of the Anglican Communion to bring discipline to the American Church, initiatives that were not implemented. And so, he says, the spiritual cancer has spread, infecting the Anglican Church in Canada, the Church of England, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Church of Wales, and even the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.
It’s sad that the Archbishop reiterates the idea that the American Church should be disciplined and assumes it could be disciplined. The Anglican Covenant was an attempt to put in place a reasonably tolerant process of discipline in the Church but is now dead in the water.
The Anglican Communion is a network of independent Churches each of which has a particular polity. Diverse interpretations of Scripture characterise the Communion and are normative in Christian history. The recent attempt to impose a universal teaching on the diversity of human sexuality is an aberration. Homosexuality is now understood to be a normative characteristic for a minority and is experienced by many as a God-given characteristic.
According to the Archbishop, GAFCON 2 is being organized by the Church of Uganda in partnership with the Archbishop of Nigeria and the other archbishops of east Africa. Even accepting that Nigeria and Ghana, Sydney and ACNA are also involved, we are witnessing the decline of GAFCON as a movement aimed at “reviving biblical faith and agreements within the Anglican Communion.”
Some who attend GAFCON will be unrepentantly and totally homophobic. Others will claim to love gay people and welcome them into their churches and deny that they are in any way anti-gay or homophobic.
It’s time to reject such claims. Homophobia and prejudice is rampant in parts of the Anglican Communion. Archbishops and bishops teach against the full inclusion of LGB&T people in the Church. They deny that gay people are created by God and infinitely loved by God as we are – people with the same desires and drives as the majority, who fall in love and wish to marry.
Anglican Archbishops and bishops who want to transform the Church into a fully inclusive, holy community, a community in which, as Archbishop Ntagali hopes, “global Anglicanism is brought back to its biblical and evangelistic faith”, face a huge challenge. Christian faith is also rooted in justice and truth, and justice and truth are not going to prevail until the lives of women and LGB&T are transformed by our full, unconditional, no-remnant-of-homophobia-remaining, inclusion in the Church of God.