Africa / Faith and religion

U.S.-based church votes to support LGBTI Africans

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda, whose acceptance of LGBT people incurred the wrath of the anti-gay Church of Uganda.

A progressive U.S.-based church has voted to promote fair treatment for LGBTI people in Africa, especially in countries with strong anti-gay Anglican churches such as Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya.

The LGBTI-friendly Episcopal Church, which approved same-sex wedding ceremonies earlier this week, passed a resolution today that instructed church officials to “work in partnership with African Anglicans who publicly oppose laws that criminalize homosexuality and incite violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex people.”

The resolution (A051, “Support LGBT African Advocacy”), builds on the work of the Chicago Consultation, a church group striving for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion, to which the church belongs. That initiative is opposed by many Anglican churches in Africa — most prominently those in Nigeria and Uganda — which have worked to strengthen their nations’ anti-gay laws.

After conservative Anglican bishops in Africa criticized the original version of Resolution A051 in late June, it was revised slightly to emphasize the fact that support for LGBTI Africans is not new and is not un-African.

Procession during the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which voted July 3 to support African opponents of anti-gay laws. (Colin Stewart photo)

Procession during the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which voted July 3 to support African opponents of anti-gay laws. (Colin Stewart photo)

The revised resolution, as passed, urges Episcopalians “to build relationships with and learn from  Anglican African scholars who are already offering Biblical interpretations that affirm the dignity  and humanity of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex people.”

It also cited a communiqué approved in 2005 by worldwide Anglican leaders meeting at the Dromantine retreat center in Northern Ireland, stating that:

“The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship.”

Bishop Gene Robinson (Photo courtesy of CambridgeBlog.org)

Bishop Gene Robinson (Photo courtesy of CambridgeBlog.org)

(The resolution did not mention the portion of the communiqué stating that many church leaders “have been deeply alarmed that the standard of Christian teaching on matters of human sexuality [of 1998,] which should command respect as the position overwhelmingly adopted by the bishops of the Anglican Communion, has been seriously undermined by the recent developments in North America.” Those developments included the Episcopal Church’s vote in 2003 to accept the selection of Gene Robinson as its first openly gay bishop.)

Resolution A051 was approved by Episcopal bishops  and delegations of priests and lay people meeting in the church’s General Convention in Salt Lake City.  They took notice of the dangers that LGBTI Africans face, voting  to “recognize and commend the unconditional love and support that families, communities, scholars, and activists have shown to their Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) sisters and brothers in Africa who are at risk of violence, discrimination, and imprisonment.”

The resolution also “encourage[s] parishes and dioceses to offer prayers for the safety of our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex sisters and brothers, their families and communities, and for the scholars and activists who tirelessly work on their behalf. ”

It also instructed the church’s “Executive Council to compile, for church-wide reference and use, a listing of information and resources developed by African Anglican leaders and organizations working to curb anti-gay and anti- transgender violence, discrimination, and marginalization.”

Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of the Anglican Church of Uganda (Photo courtesy of Red Pepper)

Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of the Anglican Church of Uganda (Photo courtesy of Red Pepper)

Stanley Ntagali, the conservative archbishop of the Anglican Church of Uganda, decried the resolution, calling it “an extension of [The Episcopal Church]’s arrogance and imperialism toward the rest of the world.” He said proposals for dialogue from churches such as the Episcopal Church are “Trojan Horses.”

“Should [The Episcopal Church] try to come in and influence our Bible scholars away from the clear and plain sense meaning of Scripture, we shall consider them a wolf who has invaded our flock in order to pick off individuals with the intent to steal, kill, and destroy the Church of Uganda,” he said.

Leaders of the Church of Uganda “are not participating,” Ntagali said.

His church has gone farther than that to defend its hard line against LGBTI people.  Before his time in office, the Church of Uganda prohibited Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, age 83, from celebrating the Eucharist and stripped him of his pension because he welcomed LGBTI people at worship services and counseling sessions.

The U.S.-based Episcopal Church serves 2.5 million members in the United States and 16 other countries, including  Honduras, Taiwan, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the Virgin Islands and parts of Europe.

For the full text of Resolution A051, including two earlier versions, see Episcopal Church resolution on African LGBT advocacy, 2015.

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