The proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda is helping me to see with greater clarity the fault lines in the Anglican Communion which are driving us, in one direction, towards possible schism and in the opposite direction towards a growing determination to uphold the sanctity of life for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Changing Attitude is of course committed to the sanctity of LGBT people. We do not accept that verses in the Bible prohibit, judge or condemn LGBT people who commit themselves to loving, faithful, intimate same-sex relationships. We do not believe the Bible condemns people who are born intersexed or experience themselves as transgendered. There is nothing in all creation that condemns people because of their sexual identity nor for loving, intimately, another person, whatever their gender or identity.
That’s the Changing Attitude position. We uphold the sanctity of all life, the diversity of God’s creation, the freedom God gives us in creation to relate to God as people with total freedom to accept or reject, love or hate, respect or despise. We believe ourselves as Christians to be called by God to accept, love and respect one another, unconditionally, however challenging that may be.
Anglicans in Uganda, the Global South and the networks around the Communion claiming orthodoxy and fidelity to scripture, take an entirely different stance, although they do not all stand on quite the same spot. All believe the Bible’s teaching about homosexuality is clear and unambiguous, they believe that homosexuality is a sin and condemned by God. Some believe all ‘active’ homosexuals will go to hell. Others believe ALL homosexuals will go to hell. There are people in these categories, including those Ugandan bishops who have expressed an opinion, who support the Bill and its punishment of homosexuals and anyone who tolerates a homosexual person. This is the position maintained by many African bishops who have voiced their opinion.
Others in the GAFCON/FoCA/ACNA axis would not go as far as that. But they haven’t expressed disagreement with their allies in Uganda, leading to the conclusion that they do indeed, implicitly support the provisions of the Bill.
Then there is a rather more traditional Anglican category, the leaders who believe that quiet diplomacy achieves more than making public statements. Some FoCA/ACNA leaders may fit this category. They may be involved in quiet diplomacy behind the scenes, trying to persuade Archbishop Henry Orombi and other Uganda bishops to modify support for the Bill.
If so, Ugandan church leaders are telling them to mind their own business. Mr Joshua Kitakule, the Secretary General of IRC has said people should not interfere in the process of legislation in Uganda, the Bill has not been understood by human rights activists and homosexuals and people need to be educated on the proposed law.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has the responsibility of negotiating between these, at present, irreconcilable positions. When he did comment about the Bill, he was critical but did not commit himself to oppose it. He prefaced his remarks in the interview with the word ‘overall’. “Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades.”
Changing Attitude can’t see any elements of the Bill which could be supported by an Anglican committed to what the Communion has said in Lambeth 1.10, Windsor and Dromantine. I have said this before and I will continue to repeat it, because this is where the Communion stands and this is the position the Archbishop has repeatedly called the Communion to respect.
If there are elements of the Bill which do not contravene Anglican policy, they need to be identified. I don’t believe there are. I am not arguing for obedience to Lambeth 1.10 etc. That is impossible for LGBT Anglicans. I am arguing that conservatives are ignoring primary elements of 1.10. Windsor and Dromantine while condemning Changing Attitude, LGCM, Integrity and other LGBT organizations for our pro-LGBT stance, and the Episcopal Church in general for daring to allow the election of a partnered lesbian as a bishop.
How has it come to pass that the majority in our Communion claim to be following Biblical values and faithful to the teaching of the Church when they aggressively support the persecution, incarceration and dehumanizing of LGBT people and ignore essential elements of the very teaching they claim to uphold, let alone treat with disdain scriptural teaching about the sanctity of all human life and the universal condition of sin?
I can acknowledge that the Archbishop of Canterbury has made a statement which is more helpful than unhelpful and I have learnt this week of further, very proactive and helpful behind the scenes initiatives between the Church of England and the Church of Uganda. I am grateful for initiatives which may help modify the Bill and give Christians in Uganda pause to reflect further on the implications of what they are doing.
I am still left feeling angry, furious, that Christianity is so obsessed with sexual conformity to a heterosexist norm, so blind to its prejudice and intolerance, so far from what I believe to be true, core Christian values and teaching, so indifferent to the abuse and persecution of a minority who are every bit as faithful to God as the majority, that we are all being driven to schism, the result of which would be intolerable for LGBT people living under punitive regimes in Uganda, Nigeria and elsewhere.
Faced with this, for the future health of Christianity and for the protection of LGBT lives, we will continue to argue vigorously that Archbishops and bishops should condemn the Bill and use every opportunity to persuade Ugandan Christians to turn from hatred and prejudice towards the light, love and glorious freedom of life in Jesus Christ.
Okay, that’s flowery and dreamy, but I believe it with a passion. How can we be preparing to welcome the birth of God as a vulnerable baby when our church is proposing to consign many of God’s children to a life of hell?