Lambeth '98

African Bishops Speak Out At Lambeth

From The Times, London, 24 July 1998:

African bishops outraged at sexual liberalism

AFRICAN bishops at the Lambeth Conference yesterday attacked the sexual liberalism of the Anglican Church in the West and called on its bishops to repent. They accused it of betraying the Bible on issues of sexuality.

Their attack came after the Right Rev Duncan Buchanan, the Bishop of Johannesberg, who is chairing the conference section dealing with homosexuality said he felt "shocked and traumatised" by the anger expressed in the section, which was told that homosexuality was described as the "white man's disease".

Bishop Buchanan said Africa was not "innocent" of homosexuality. "The trend of evidence seems to be that homosexuality, particularly between men, ispractised in Africa," he said.

He added: "We have got to live with diversity. If we don't live with diversity, we are not fully human." Referring to same-sex marriages, he said: "I am a prisoner of hope. If this is what God wants, it will happen."

Bishops from Nigeria and Uganda condemned the conference, the ten-yearly meeting of Anglican bishops from around the world, for allowing the agenda to be hijacked by the issue of homosexuality. They made it clear that they would not tolerate any compromise on traditional standards from the conference. And they also indicated that they would unite to oppose any attempts to set up a commission to study the issue.

The Right Rev Wilson Mutebi, Bishop of Mityana in Uganda, where 22 Christian converts were martyred in the 19th century after they refused to be sodomised by the King of Uganda, said: "The issue of homosexuality is leading the Anglican Church astray. The Bible for us is a very important document.

"A Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ. If they take pages out of the Bible, they are removing the person of Jesus Christ from the Bible. Ultimately, therefore, there will be no Church. The Bible clearly states that homosexual practice is wrong. Homosexuality is a sin. Any bishop who says this is not true, we consider to be out of communion with us. We are calling on them to repent."

The Right Rev Benjamin Kwashi, Bishop of Jos in Nigeria, said: "We know that homosexual practice is not the will of God. The Church should be discussing mission, preaching the Gospel, caring for the poor, being an instrument of peace.

"As black Africans, we have had our share of insults. The Western Church is affluent. But we have no material possessions, nothing. We are suffering to preach the Gospel. We are told we are less intelligent, that we are not far away from witchcraft. On top of that, we are being oppressed with this issue of homosexuality, which is a Western problem. If the Western Churches want to be homosexual, they should not make us change as well. Affluence and theology are different things."

The section on homosexuality, which has 60 bishops in it, with about two conservative or traditionalist bishops to one liberal, is expected to produce a report next week advocating traditional biblical ideals. The liberal minority on the section are then likely to produce their own, dissenting report. The 750 bishops and archbishops attending the conference at Kent University in Canterbury will then decide whether to adopt a resolution on either side in the third week.

- Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent, The Times London