U.S. Episcopal Breakaways Add to Homophobia in Africa
cyncooper printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Oct 12, 2007 at 11:11:19 AM EST
A division over the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the Episcopal Church in the U.S. is serving to strengthen rising homophobia in African nations, according to Lisa Vives, the executive director of the Global Information Network, which monitors and distributes news from Africa.  While several publications have reported on the division in the Episcopal Church in the U.S., Vives has been able to see how anti-gay activities in the U.S. are becoming tools and prods in disturbing, growing homophobia in Africa.
The swing of U.S. clerics to alliance with African Anglican churches that are widely known for anti-gay activities strengthens and bolsters a homophobic rampage in Africa that is sweeping across nations.  

Fiercely anti-gay African clerics are, in some cases, the leaders of anti-gay movements and measures in Africa.  The African clerics are consolidating power and prestige by consecrating American clerics who breakaway from the U.S. body because they wish to pursue anti-gay policies which had been softened in the U.S.

African governments, often at the insistence of Anglican bishops, have adopted increasingly harsh anti-gay measures, Vives wrote in an article distributed through the Inter Press Service (IPS).  

(G)overnments have been hardening their policies regarding gays and lesbians. In Zimbabwe, a "sexual deviancy" law passed in 2006 makes it a criminal offence for two people of the same sex to hold hands, hug, or kiss. Other countries criminalising homosexuality include Algeria, Angola, Benin, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone, among others.

Adding fuel to the fire are anti-gay U.S. clerics in the Episcopal union who are defecting to an association with anti-gay churches in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Nigeria rather than be associated with the U.S. body of churches, which, to their dismay, permitted the consecration of the Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson, a gay man, as bishop in New Hampshire.

One key figure in these machinations is Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola.  Vives reports:  

(Akinola) was also behind a proposed bill in the Nigerian National Assembly that would impose five-year sentences on same-sex couples and would outlaw all "political organising on behalf of gay rights.

In 2007, Akinola formed the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a U.S.-based missionary branch of the Nigerian Church. Under African bishops like Akinola, conservative U.S. clergy are consecrated as their bishops in the United States.

Just last month, Rev. Bill Murdoch and Rev. Bill Atwood from Massachusetts and Texas, respectively, were consecrated as suffragan Anglican bishops in All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi, in a ceremony conducted by the Archbishop of Kenya.

There are 3.5 million Anglicans in Kenya, 15 million in Nigeria, and 77 million worldwide.  The Anglican-affiliated Episcopal Church in the U.S. has 2.3 million members in 110 dioceses and 7600 congregations.  Thirty-two U.S. congregations are now affiliated with churches in Africa, reports Vives, and another 23 have voted to leave.

The head of the Anglican Church in Kenya, Bernard Nzimbi, "entrenched his anti-gay position by consecrating Angilican Clerics Bill Atwood and Bill Murdoch as bishops," wrote the Johannesburg, South Africa Mail & Guardian Online in a September article headlined "Africa welcomes US gay-bashers."

"Since the talk about gay marriage started, many congregations in America have been looking for oversight from overseas," (Nzimbi) said.

....An Anglican bishop in Zimbabwe, who asked not to be identified, said homosexuality is a "sin" and urged gay and lesbian people to "repent."

....Bernard Malango, the Anglican bishop for Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Botswana, described the consecration of Robinson as bringing "darkness, disappointment, sadness and grief" to the parishioners in his province.

In a September meeting in New Orleans, the Episcopal bishops condemned these `boundary" violations but also agreed to avoid choosing anyone for bishop whose "manner of life presents a challenge" to the wider church, although it called for "unequivocal and active commitment to the civil rights, safety and dignity of gay and lesbian persons."  It's a compromise that may not last, notes Vives.

"I think this is far short of what was asked for. It's a technical slide-by at best," said Martyn Minns, a former Episcopal rector who jumped ship to take a position in a competitor Virginia-based Anglican "convocation" under Nigeria's Akinola.

A gay and lesbian advocacy group that has monitored the situation expressed alarm at the continuing African consecreation of U.S. clerics, according to South Africa's Mail & Guardian.

Phumi Mtethwa, of the Lesbians and Gays Equality Project, condemned the "export of hate and exclusion" from the US, saying the consecration of conservative North American clerics on African soil is an attack on freedom of sexual orientation.

The Institute of Democracy Studies, when active, released a report in 2001 that called the conservative movement within the Episcopal Church in the U.S. "part of a broad right-wing movement" to uproot churches from within.  The publication, by Lewis C. Daly, was "A Church at Risk: The Episcopal 'Renewal Movement."

by cyncooper on Fri Oct 12, 2007 at 11:26:31 AM EST

We have written quite a bit about Peter "The Persecutor" Akinola and the American schismatics who have place themselves under his "authority."

It should be a wake-up call to mainline Christians, especially Epicopalians, that the "renewal" groups affiliated with the Institute on Religion and Democracy look to the theocratic Akinola for leadership.

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Oct 12, 2007 at 05:49:19 PM EST

Yes, and that's why I think it's so important that Talk2Action topics move further out to other writers who can begin to build the connections and articulate them to new audiences.  

by cyncooper on Fri Oct 12, 2007 at 08:43:02 PM EST
is the religious right and what to do about it.  That covers a lot of turf. I am always interested in learning about writers who can address these things.

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Oct 12, 2007 at 09:33:56 PM EST
Jim Naughton did a long article on the Institute for Religion and Democracy and its involvement in politics of the Episcopal Church.

http://www.edow.org/follow/Following_the_Money.pdf - 375k - 2006-06-07

And, Father Jake on the T2A linklist is a good resourse, as are a number of his links including "Episcopal Cafe" (Naughton administers that blog for the D.C. diocese).

by NancyP on Sun Oct 14, 2007 at 06:37:50 PM EST

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