The Africa Connection to the Attack on the Mainline Churches
Three years ago, in an essay
in The Public Eye
magazine, I outlined how the neoconservative and Religious Right campaign to divide and conquer the historic mainline Protstant denominations has been underway for more than a quarter century. Led and organized by the Washington, DC-based Institute on Religion and Democracy, conservative "renewal" groups, have pitted Christians against one another, while seeking schism, and ultimately neturalization of the progressive social witness of the churches. Neoconservative Catholics and evangelicals, and conservative foundations -- outsiders with no history of membership in, or any legitimate interest in the internal functions of the churches -- have taken a disproportionate role in underwriting and coordinating these attacks.
Now the progressive think tank Political Research Associates (which publishes The Public Eye) has issued a major study that advances our understanding of this campaign by detailing the African connection. Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches and Homophobia documents the role of IRD and related renewal groups in seeking to mobilize African Christians against the mainline denominations of which they are members
The PRA press release states, in part:
Sexual minorities in Africa have become collateral damage to our domestic conflicts and culture wars as U.S. conservative evangelicals and those opposing gay pastors and bishops within mainline Protestant denominations woo Africans in their American fight, a groundbreaking investigation by Political Research Associates (PRA) discovered.
Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia, a new report by... Reverend Kapya Kaoma, exposes the U.S. Right's promotion of an agenda in Africa that aims to criminalize homosexuality and otherwise infringe upon the human rights of LGBT people while also mobilizing African clerics in U.S. culture war battles.
U.S. social conservatives who are in the minority in mainline churches depend on African religious leaders to legitimize their positions as their growing numbers makes African Christians more influential globally. These partnerships have succeeded in slowing, if not stopping altogether, the mainline Protestant churches' recognition of the full equality of LGBT people.
In the United States, Kaoma focuses on "renewal" groups in The Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church USA, and Presbyterian Church USA; U.S conservative evangelicals; and the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a neoconservative think tank that has sought to undermine Protestant denominations' tradition of progressive social justice work for decades.
In Africa, Kaoma investigates ties U.S. conservatives have established with religious leaders in Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya and the impact of homophobia exported from the United States to these Anglophone countries.
As Kaoma argues, the U.S. Right - once isolated in Africa for supporting pro-apartheid, White supremacist regimes - has successfully reinvented itself as the mainstream of U.S. evangelicalism. Through their extensive communications networks in Africa, social welfare projects, Bible schools, and educational materials, U.S. religious conservatives warn of the dangers of homosexuals and present themselves as the true representatives of U.S. evangelicalism, so helping to marginalize Africans' relationships with mainline Protestant churches.
The investigation's release could not be timelier, as the Ugandan parliament considers the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009. Language in that bill echoes the false and malicious charges made in Uganda by U.S antigay activist and Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively that western gays are conspiring to take over Uganda and even the world.
"We need to stand up against the U.S. Christian Right peddling homophobia in Africa," said Kaoma, who in recent weeks asked U.S. evangelist Rick Warren to denounce the bill and distance himself from its supporters. "I heard church people in Uganda say they would go door to door to root out LGBT people and now our brothers and sisters are being further targeted by proposed legislation criminalizing them and threatening them with death. The scapegoating must stop."
While the American side of the story is known to LGBT activists and their allies witnessing struggles over LGBT clergy within Protestant denominations in the United States, what's been missing has been the effect of the Right's proxy wars on Africa itself. Kaoma's report finally brings this larger, truly global, picture into focus...
For his 16-month investigation, Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia, traveled in the United States and Uganda, Kenya, and Nigeria, attended the notorious antigay conference of Uganda's Family Life Network in March, and documented concerns among the region's clergy that U.S. conservatives are contributing to corruption among bishops with their lax requirements for donated funds.