Friday 18 December 2009

The Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill is an open invitation to a witch-hunt

This is the dramatic judgment of The Times today in a leading article about the proposed Bill. “It must be seen for what it is: a bigoted and inhumane Bill that will cause suffering for thousands of innocent people.”

The Times reminds readers that the deep prejudice against homosexuality in Africa has been fanned by the row within the Anglican communion over gay clergy and by the tentative attempts by a few gay Africans to call for greater tolerance. Political groups have seen easy advantage in exploiting this prejudice. Branding homosexuality as a Western perversion is an easy way to hit out at perceived Western cultural dominance for the Church. The link has been reinforced not only by the recent visit of leaders of US conservative Christian ministries that promote therapy for gays to become heterosexual but by the campaign waged by Anglican conservatives in the Global South/FoCA alliances.

People who have written to Lambeth Palace have been receiving responses in an email from Marie Papworth:
“Thank you for your message and for taking the trouble to write about this deeply painful issue.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury is very clear that the Private Member’s Bill being discussed in Uganda as drafted is entirely unacceptable from a pastoral, moral and legal point of view. It is a cause of deep concern, fear and, to many, outrage. The Archbishop has publicly stated that “the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it can be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades.

“For its part the Church of Uganda has clearly restated its opposition to the death penalty. As the Ugandan Church continues to formulate its position on the bill as a whole, the Archbishop has been working intensively behind the scenes (over the past weeks) to ensure that there is clarity on how the proposed bill is contrary to Anglican teaching.

“Marie Papworth
Press Secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Palace, London, SE1 7JU”

Almost 5,000 people have joined the Facebook group Anglicans who want THIS statement from Canterbury, which calls on the Archbishop to repent of his earlier statement and issue this one instead:
"The proposed legal actions that would make homosexuality punishable by death in Uganda, and the lack of outrage regarding this proposed action by the Church of Uganda, raises very serious questions not just for the Church of Uganda and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole."

"The proposed legislation has not yet become law, and could be rejected, with the Anglican Church of Uganda leading the opposition. That decision will have very important implications. The bishops of the Communion have collectively acknowledged that offering pastoral care and listening to the experience of homosexual persons is necessary if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold."

In a post to the group today in the light of the email from Marie Papworth above, Susan Russell questions how deep does concern and how unacceptable the Bill have to be before the Archbishop of Canterbury uses his moral authority to speak out on behalf of gay and lesbian Ugandans who cannot speak for themselves?

Susan believes that speaking out to protect gay and lesbian lives in Uganda is less important than speaking out to protect the Anglican Communion from a lesbian bishop and that the leader of the Anglican Communion is more concerned about preserving institutional unity than he is protecting innocent Ugandans.

She invite members of the group to: Send another email; Write another letter; Post another blog; urging the Archbishop to use the power he has as the moral leader of this worldwide Anglican family of ours to speak the truth of God's inclusive and abundant love for ALL people.

I invite readers of this blog to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already, and email or write as Susan suggests, to Lambeth Palace.

The Times recognizes the Bill as bigoted and inhumane, an open invitation to a witch-hunt that will cause suffering for thousands of innocent people. It will cause suffering for tens of thousands in reality, not only those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered but their parents, brothers, sisters, extended family, teachers, pastors and priests. The Bill will solve none of the problems it claims to target but will criminalize innocent people because of their sexual identity.

It will also exacerbate the potential for schism in the Anglican Communion between conservatives who want to further criminalise LGBT people and those working not only for full inclusion but for Christian truth, justice, the protection of human life and fidelity to those elements in church teaching which affirm these core values.


  1. This is the reply I got from the Archbishop of York's palace... after all he is Ugandan by birth. I wrote to him in the middle of November, I've not heard anything back from him as yet.

    "Dear Jennifer ******,
    Thank you for taking the time to write to the Archbishop expressing your views on Uganda. I will forward this email to the Archbishop. He will respond in ways he believes are appropriate at the right time.
    With best wishes,
    Karen Inglis"

    I also note that he mentions Uganda in his interview with the The Daily Telegraph (2 days ago) although he says nothing about the terrible Bill that is being debated there. Has he actually said anything about it? I can't find anything.

    John Sentamu is a very political clergyman and I would have thought he might have offered some words...

  2. I hear what Susan Russell is asking, but what value in a moral statement that is only made because it's drummed out of someone by thousands of letters and complaints?

  3. The point is that it isn't being drummed out of them, the letters and complaints are forcing them to analyse why they won't speak out, to look to their conscience and ask themselves if they are truly following in Christ's footsteps if they fail to speak out on issues such as this.

    As Bonhoeffer pointed out, you cannot say "I follow Christ" only to prevaricate when the going gets tough, you either do or you don't. And as Jesus Himself was a radical political character, as well as the Son of God, we who follow should be standing by the oppressed and the marginalised, feeling the violence and insults with them, not simply tutting and shaking our heads.

    If we can stick our necks out in the world, then so should the so-called leaders.

    The power structures of the churches have become politicised and the hierarchies are more like government than church, which leads them to act and think along secular lines, i.e. Rowan Williams desire not to see the Communion break up.

    It is one thing to lead a religious organisation, but if you can't be with the weak and persecuted, the oppressed and the victimised, then you fail in a very simple mission; to be as Christ.

    This is why it is so important to keep the pressure up on the leaders of the churches, to give them pause for thought and to think, "What would Jesus do?" to quote a well worn evangelical soundbite.

    You and I, and all the other queer people in the world might be fighting our everyday battles, but Rowan, John, bishops and archbishops the world over aren't (with the exception of Desmond Tutu of course) and they have to be reminded just how fragile humanity really is, from time to time, in order that they might see the mission of the Church as laid out by Christ.