December 13, 2009

Archbishop Duncan and Uganda

It is gratifying that so many religious leaders have spoken out against the pending anti-homosexual legislation in Uganda. Yesterday, we even saw a statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury, albeit a somewhat unofficial one. In a George Pitcher interview in the Telegraph, we find this:
“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,” says Dr Williams. “Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.” He adds that the Anglican Church in Uganda opposes the death penalty but, tellingly, he notes that its archbishop, Henry Orombi, who boycotted the Lambeth Conference last year, “has not taken a position on this bill”.
In introducing Rowan William’s remarks on the Uganda legislation, Pitcher notes that “some American traditionalists have markedly failed to condemn the Ugandan proposals” Perhaps he is speaking of my former bishop, now archbishop, Robert Duncan, head of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

Duncan, I suggest, has a greater moral obligation to speak out against the draconian Ugandan proposal because he and his diocese have had very close relationships with Uganda. In November 2004, the annual convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh formally ended a five-year partnership with Rwanda and embarked on a partnership with Uganda Christian University, noting that Pittsburgh priest Stephen Noll was (and continues to be) associated with the institution. As reported by Episcopal News Service, Uganda primate Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi attended the Pittsburgh convention and delivered the keynote address at the convention banquet. It was not the last time he would visit Pittsburgh.

Another priest in Uganda with Pittsburgh connections is the Rev. Canon Dr. Alison Barfoot. Although Barfoot appears no longer to be canonically resident in Duncan’s diocese, the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Web site nonetheless devotes a page to her ministry as “the international relations assistant for Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of the Anglican Church of the Province of Uganda.” In this capacity, she often speaks for the archbishop, for example calling the recent election of the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool “funny and unbiblical.”

When The Episcopal Church deposed Duncan for his subversion of the church, Orombi was quick to lend his unqualified support to the erstwhile Pittsburgh bishop. And, of course, the Ugandan church was equally eager to declare itself in full communion with Duncan’s Anglican Church in North America upon its official establishment.

If Rick Warren, who has his own connections to Uganda and who has supported Duncan’s Anglican Communion Network and individual congregations that have broken away from The Episcopal Church, can speak out against the proposed Ugandan legislation, why can’t Bob Duncan?

Well, don’t hold your breath. The Church of Uganda is too important an ally and Duncan is too indebted to Orombi to expect any kind of critical statement from the new American archbishop. Instead, we have this item from the December 11, 2009, communiquĆ© of the first annual Provincial Council of ACNA explaining what the Council did:
And, mindful of the controversy surrounding a bill concerning homosexual behavior that is being considered by the Uganda parliament, restated our commitment to the sacredness of every human person as made in the image of God, from conception to natural death and without regard for religious convictions or manner of life. We also gave thanks for the faithful witness of the Anglican Church of Uganda and encouraged them to stand firm against all forms of sexual exploitation and in their publicly stated commitment that “the Church is a safe place” for all persons, especially “those struggling with sexual brokenness.”
(The Anglican Church of North America is a province of nothing, of course, but having a “Provincial Council” sounds impressive.)

Let’s look at this statement in detail. First, it is interesting that ACNA considers the Ugandan bill controversial. It is not controversial to the State Department, to The Episcopal Church, to the Vatican, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, to the many other Christian groups that have spoken out against it, not even to Rick Warren. All these people and groups consider the legislation irredeemably evil. But ACNA finds it only controversial. Apparently, some people in ACNA approve of the legislation or cannot bring themselves to criticize such an important supporter as the Church of Uganda.

The pious claptrap about respect for all persons rings hollow in light of the repeated calls for pastoral care of LGBT persons by Anglican Instruments of Communion and the requirement in the legislation for anyone in authority (including religious leaders) to turn in to the civil authorities anyone known to be guilty of homosexual activities. Not even attempts to “cure” homosexuals would be legal in Uganda if this law is passed.

Finally, ACNA reports that the Provincial Council “gave thanks for the faithful witness of the Anglican Church of Uganda.” Thanks for what, homophobia? And what is the sexual exploitation that that church is being urged to stand against? How can any truly consensual sex be exploitative? If homosexual acts are inherently exploitative, who is being exploited? The exploitation in Uganda, I suggest, is the scapegoating of homosexuals to distract Ugandans from the real problems of their society. And how can any church in Uganda be a “safe place” for homosexual persons if church leaders have to hand them over to prosecution once the nature of their “sexual brokenness” is known?

The ACNA statement is, of course, but a fig leaf over the fact that neither ACNA nor Archbishop Duncan can bring themselves to criticize the moral brokenness of the Church of Uganda. Although the Archbishop of Canterbury “can’t see how it [the proposed legislation] could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades,” perhaps Archbishop Robert Duncan can.

1 comment:

  1. Lionel, as usual, you are right on the ball regarding ACNA's association with the Anglican Church of Uganda. This is one good reason why TEC, the A.C.of Canada, and other Provinces of the Anglican Communion could never make a Covenantal bond with ACNA or Uganda - or any other Province of the Communion which proposes such death-dealing legislation against the LGBT community as in now being considered by Uganda.

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