Church aid for Ugandan gays — rescue or border raid?

The Episcopal Church is divided about the proposed repeal of a policy that restricts it from aiding gay-friendly organizations in countries where the Anglican Church is anti-gay.

The proposal, D071, is under consideration by the World Mission Committee at the church’s General Convention, currently under way in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The gay-rights group Integrity USA has helped with drafting D071, says its president, but has not made it a priority.

The Rev. Dr. Caro Hall, president of Integrity USA
The Rev. Dr. Caro Hall, president of Integrity USA

The Rev. Dr. Caro Hall, Integrity USA president, said the proposal “really came on the scene too late for Integrity to provide active support, though we did run it past experienced deputies and suggested some edits. This is a truncated convention, so there really isn’t the time to work with a couple of late-arriving resolutions.”

She outlined the Episcopal Church’s opposition to unauthorized intervention in affiliated jurisdictions:

Anglican churches have geographical boundaries. The bishop of New York would never do something in Alabama without agreement from the bishop of Alabama. I would not act as a priest outside my diocese without contacting the bishop of the diocese I was visiting. The American church does not do something in the geographical area of another Anglican church without the agreement of its archbishop.

However this has been notoriously breached by some other Anglican churches operating without permission in the U.S.

Boundary crossing is frowned upon.

Albert Ogle
The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, president of St. Paul’s Foundation

That policy is reasonable under normal conditions, but not when people’s lives are in jeopardy, as they are for LGBT people in Africa, says the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, a prime supporter of the proposal and president of San Diego-based St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation.

Hall’s outline of Episcopal/Anglican policy “describes what is totally acceptable polity in NORMAL circumstances. No one would ever dream of going into another person’s jurisdiction. However, we are dealing with an emergency situation when Anglican Provinces are actively putting their people and minorities they are supposed to protect in harm’s way,” he said.

That is especially true in Uganda, where the Anglican church supports the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, known as the “Kill the Gays Bill,” and blocks aid to programs that provide AIDS prevention services to LGBT people, he said.

Ogle argues that during a crisis the church should act differently — and sometimes does:

Historically the Church of England bishops followed the “business as usual policy” during the 1930s and ’40s around the changing laws in Germany and did absolutely nothing to intervene in challenging the wave of antisemitism in the German churches, save for Bishop Bell of Chichester, who supported the Confessing Church of Bonhoeffer.

There is historical evidence that Anglicanism in the USA and in parts of Africa often turned against the colonial regimes and their spiritual leaders when life and liberty were in danger. The bishops could not breach with the polity of the day either, because they swore allegiance to the crown so it was a largely lay and priestly response to an emergency and unjust situation.

The Anglican church of Rwanda actively participated in the genocide and several leading clerics were imprisoned and some ran away, and the response of the Anglican Communion was to simply to move on, without any inquiry and merely replace the absent bishops.

Our polity often does not allow for interventions even when justice is required. The Episcopal Church may respond [during today’s hearing] in the spirit of the Church of England and continue to support oppression by its silence or resonate with its own revolutionary beginnings catching “the spirit of 76” and the Magnificat “to cast the mighty from their thrones and lift up the humble and meek.”

The World Mission Committee is scheduled to consider proposal D071 this morning.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor/publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]


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