The idea that anti-gay African Christians could be friends with gay-affirming church leaders in the United States is “offensive,” “unbiblical,” and “a tremendous obstacle,” according to hard-line anti-gay Anglican leaders in Africa.
In a letter to Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi of Burundi, five conservative Anglican leaders last month publicly criticized him for attending a meeting in New York in October that sought to build friendships and partnerships among church leaders despite theological disagreements over homosexuality.
They urged Ntahoturi to repent and apologize.
If he does not, they said he should resign as chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA). The letter reveals a deep split among African Anglicans, as those who are passionately anti-gay oppose those who seek some form of reconciliation.
Along with evangelicals, hard-line Anglicans are among the most harshly outspoken anti-gay Christians in Africa.
That is especially true for African members of GAFCON (the Global Anglican Future Conference), a conservative coalition of Anglicans who threatened to leave the Anglican Communion after the Episcopal Church (Anglican Church in the United States) accepted openly gay Gene Robinson as a bishop in 2003.
It is no coincidence that the harshest anti-gay laws enacted last year were in Nigeria and Uganda, where the Anglican church and GAFCON are strong.
Archbishops from those two countries signed the letter to Ntahoturi, along with Anglican church leaders in Kenya, Congo, Sudan and South Sudan. All five are members of GAFCON.
Ntahoturi was not the only African leader at the meeting in New York. Others who took part included Anglican archbishops from the provinces of Central Africa, Southern Africa, Tanzania and West Africa, according to Changing Attitude.
“We shared news from our churches, rejoiced in our renewed fellowship, and marveled at the gifts and diversity of creation God has provided. We prayed together, and we worshiped.
“Our intention was to build missional partnerships among our churches, taking Jesus’ statement of his mission as our own—’to bring good news to the poor, . . . to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ (Lk. 4:18-19) We confessed that one thing we have in common is that we all have needs, not the least of which is our profound need for each other.
“We also celebrated that each of our churches has gifts to offer the others. Framing our conversation in the context of human dignity and flourishing, the sustainability of our common ministry, and the care of the Earth, we found several subjects for fruitful collaboration that will allow us to share our gifts with each other. We committed ourselves to exploring pension schemes, stewardship of finances and other resources (management and investment), health services, mining and related environmental issues, advocacy, migration and statelessness, human trafficking, religious freedom, and theological education. We made commitments to explore these opportunities for partnership and report back to each other early in the new year.”
What the communiqué described as “opportunities for partnership” the letter from GAFCON leaders to Ntahoturi described as “alliances that seek to capitalise on economic vulnerability to advance an agenda.” The text of that letter, drafted during a GAFCON gathering in Nairobi, is below:
The text of the Nairobi Consultation letter
The Most Rev. Bernard Ntahoturi
Archbishop of Burundi
4th December 2014
Dear Archbishop Bernard,
Please receive our greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus.
We write with a profound sense of distress about your actions in regard to the “Transformation Through Friendship” gathering. We take strong exception with numerous points.
First, the document itself is a manipulation. It is in fact, not principally about “Friendship” but is in fact an attempt to further advance the unbiblical and false teaching of The Episcopal Church.
Second, we reject the characterisation that the communique represents “African Primates and Bishops.” Given that there is absolutely no acknowledgement that there are other African Primates and Bishops who do not agree, the document, of which you were a collaborator and signatory, presents itself falsely. It does not represent the faith of the overwhelming majority of African Christians. This is particularly offensive given your position as Chairman of CAPA. If you are to be able to continue in your position with integrity, we would need both an explanation and an apology. If you are not able to do so, we would ask you to step down as Chairman.
We are particularly grieved because “it is not an enemy that reproaches… but it was you.” (Psalm 55:12-13) Given the fact that you are the Chairman of CAPA, and are supposed to represent the agreed positions of African Primates, your actions have created a tremendous obstacle to our participation in any CAPA gatherings until this can be properly sorted out.
Third, the theologically superficial approach of the “Friendship Communique” attempts to effect reconciliation without repentance. Not only did your presence validate unbiblical teaching and practice of The Episcopal Church (USA), but seeks to give momentum to a process which does not solve issues of salvific import. This is an example of teaching that is socially grounded rather than Biblically substantiated. By your presence, you validate unrepentant, unbiblical teaching and practice.
Fourth, we reject the process of “Indaba” as it is being implemented. Rather than seeking true resolution, it has been consistently manipulated only to recruit people to unbiblical positions. “Indaba” as currently practiced, is a fiction advancing human desires that are not informed by Gospel truth.
Fifth, the meeting uncritically proposes “Mission,” without recognising that there must be theological agreement about what purpose the mission pursues, as opposed to Biblical Mission which furthers the redemptive love of Christ through repentance and conversion.
Sixth, while we are certainly aware of the problem of poverty in Africa, we reject alliances that seek to capitalise on economic vulnerability to advance an agenda.
Dear Brother, we know that this agenda does not represent the faith of your Province, Diocese, or even your own heart. We call you to repentance and restoration to join with us in fellowship that is founded on Christ’s truth and is faithful to His Word. In keeping with our East African Revival heritage of repentance and confession, we long to have this resolved. Please know this letter comes not from malice but from a desire for godly fellowship to be restored.
The Most Rev’d Eliud Wabukala
Primate, the Anglican Church of Kenya,
Chairman GAFCON Primates Council
The Most Rev’d Nicholas D Okoh
Primate Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion),
Vice Chairman GAFCON Primates Council
The Most Rev’d Henri Isingoma
Primate, The Anglican Church of Congo
The Most Rev’d Stanley Ntagali
Primate, Church of Uganda
Bishop Isaac Ater
For the Most Rev’d Daniel Deng Bul
Primate, the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan
CC : The Most Rev. Albert Chama,
Archbishop of Central Africa; The Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Southern Africa; The Most Rev. Jacob Chimeledya, Archbishop of Tanzania, The Most Rev. Daniel Sarfo, Archbishop of West Africa; Rev Canon Grace Kaiso.
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