Kampala’s Daily Monitor reported June 10, 2012, that religious leaders at the annual conference of the Uganda Joint Christian Council called on parliament to move the anti-homosexuality bill forward to prevent “an attack on the Bible and the institution of marriage.” A resolution to that effect was signed by Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kampala; Jonah Lwanga, Archbishop of Kampala and All Uganda, of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Alexandria; and Henry Luke Orombi, the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda. (According to The Living Church, Orombi earlier opposed the anti-homosexuality legislation. Apparently, he has changed his mind—a change in strategy, no doubt, rather than a change of heart.)
The legislation has received worldwide condemnation by human rights groups and other organizations, including the U.S. State Department. The draconian measure has had an on-again-off-again history, but it once more appears to be under active consideration by a legislative committee. (For the benefit of those who are familiar with the legislation, I will skip an enumeration of its vile provisions. A recent post by Peter Montgomery offers a quick review of the bill and its legislative history.)
I am calling attention to the declaration by the three archbishops simply to suggest how far apart are the attitudes toward homosexuals within the Church of Uganda and The Episcopal Church. The Ugandan church wants persons who engage in homosexual acts, fail to report suspected homosexuals to the authorities, or even discuss homosexuality openly to be jailed. The Episcopal Church welcomes homosexuals into its churches and, without embarrassment, makes them priests and bishops. Clearly, if both churches were to adopt the Anglican Covenant, each church could raise questions about the other under the agreement, leading to thus far undefined sanctions (“relational consequences”).
In reality, and despite the naïve doctrinal declarations of the Covenant, Ugandan and American Anglicans have very different theological understandings and significantly different cultural presuppositions. Reconciliation, if that is taken to mean that each church comes to approve the position of the other on a subject such as homosexuality, is, anytime soon at least, inconceivable. Honest discussion might lead to reciprocal understanding, but not to approval. Engagement under the terms of Section 4 of the Covenant would be mutually destructive of the principals and of the Communion generally. Contrary to the apparent beliefs (or wishes) of the Archbishop of Canterbury, some problems simply do not have solutions.
There is a silver lining, of sorts, in this situation. Archbishop Orombi has been prominent in GAFCON and was one of the signatories to the GAFCON Primates’ Council’s Oxford Statement of November 2010. That declaration said, in part,
And while we acknowledge that the efforts to heal our brokenness through the introduction of an Anglican Covenant were well intentioned we have come to the conclusion the current text is fatally flawed and so support for this initiative is no longer appropriate.In other words, there is every reason to expect that the Church of Uganda will either never take up the matter of Covenant adoption or, if it does so, will reject the pact. That being the case, it does not matter what The Episcopal Church does with the Covenant, at least with respect to Uganda, as the dispute-resolution procedures of Section 4 will never come into play vis-à-vis the two churches. Five other African primates signed the Oxford Statement as well, so their churches, too, are unlikely to engage with other Anglican churches under the Covenant.
If this is the case, what is the point of the Covenant? The Anglican Communion, having spent untold Christian-hours and dollars (pounds, pesos, etc.) on developing and discussing the document that will soon come before the General Convention, has produced an agreement that is patently unfit for the purpose for which it was intended. To pretend otherwise is delusional.
Uganda is yet another reason for The Episcopal Church to reject the Covenant. The General Convention can justify the time needed to discuss the Covenant only insofar as discussion is needed to discern the most effective and definitive way of saying “no.”