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« Homosexuality and Spiritual Evolution | Main | Camp Hetero Horror »

June 09, 2005


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I'm curious whether the conservative stance that the African bishops have taken is a reflection of an "indigenous" set of values, or the result of an "imported" set of ideologies from various (mostly evangelical) missionary groups that have brought relief and religion to people in those regions.

I don't have a very good understanding of the history of the Christian church in modern Africa, and I'm curious how the involvement of American missionaries in particular has influenced the beliefs the people they have ministered to.

I'm sure that there are all sorts of assumptions I'm making that are troubling here.

John G

What I find so frustrating with the African bishops is that they condone and engage in polygamy, which runs against the value system of much of the rest of the Christian, let alone Anglican, community. And yet, they continue to practice a local tradition like that while condemming the right of other communities to create and practice their own local traditions in relation to queers.


Brian, in my experience, it's both. There are (as there are in many places) social and cultural taboos against homosexuality.

But there is now also a sort of literalism where the Bible is concerned. A Ugandan I know in the United States says that when you discuss a topic with a Ugandan Christian, the response more often than not is, "Where does it say that in the Bible?" Also, Bishops in many places are treated as a sort of religious royalty - they are still called "Your Grace," in some places, for instance, and respected in a way that they aren't in the West.

Don't forget, though: the Diocese of South Africa is not anti-gay (and South Africa itself has anti-discrimination written into its Constitution), and in fact ex-Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks up for gay people quite often in the press and in the Church.

So it's not a monolith - but it almost is. This has something to do with Islam as well, many people think, and with conflicts between Christians and Muslims, that bleeds into the churches and mosques.

John Ballew

Another piece of the equation, unfortunately, is that many African Christians seem to be intimidated by competition with fundamentalist Islam. I believe there is a fear of looking less "righteous" in the eyes of the people. The result is a sort of race to the bottom to see which religion can be more arrogantly self-assured in it's role as spokesperson for God. Meanwhile, God weeps.

Matt Kennedy+

Hey Brian,

Can you name one African primate who "condone[s] and engage[s] in polygamy" ?

The fact is, Brian, that there is no African primate who does this. This scurrilous accusation is simply malicious rumor.

The African churches have had to deal with the delimma of new male converts who have more than one wife. If the Church forces a divorce they condemn the ex-wives to social ostracization and economic poverty. The delimma has largely been resolved by allowing men who convert to keep their wives so long as they limit their sexual relationship to their first wife and vow that they will raise their children to marry only one spouse of the opposite sex. IN this way multiple marriages in certain areas are being elimated within one generation.

This is a far far cry from engaging in or condoning multiple marriages.


In other words, they make an exception. It's the same thing with divorce; an exception is made for heterosexuals when there isn't any other path open to them. An exception is always possible for heterosexuals, in every case.

If you're gay, though, forget it. If you want to join the Church, and already have a partner of many years that you support and love, and have promised to care for, for life, it doesn't matter: out they go. You don't even have to be sexually active; this is exactly what happened in the case of Jeffrey John in Britain.

Same thing, different day.

Matt Kennedy+

Here is the exception the Church gives to people with homosexual orientations. You are more than welcome to come to church just as you are, just like everyone else. But the homosexual act is a sin so after you commit to becoming a Christian, just like the African man with two wives, you will be expected to make a commitment to refrain from sexual relations outside the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman.

It's called celibacy. Adulterous and promiscuous heterosexual fornicators, along with African converts with multiple wives are given the same deal. Sex is legitimate only within the bounds of heterosexual marriage. The "exception" has been there all along and remains to this day.

BTW, the purpose of the measure in Africa is to eradicate multiple marriages. My guess is that you would be quite unhappy with any exception with a similar goal in dealing with homosexual unions here because you do not accept the premise, accepted in Africa, that the biblical teaching on marriage is true in an absolute sense.

Joe Perez

Matt: "But the homosexual act is a sin so after you commit to becoming a Christian, just like the African man with two wives, you will be expected to make a commitment to refrain from sexual relations..."

Matt, thanks for the reminder (like anyone reading this board needs one) that primitive, unfortunate beliefs about sexuality aren't confined to African Christians but occur among all races and nationalities.

The original point of my post was not to rehash debates that religious fundamentalists love to sidetrack us with, but to higlight a terrible truth: because of the African bishops' conservative beliefs about homosexuality, they are willing to let people starve to death. This is what the world has come to.

Matt Kennedy+

No, Joe, thank you.

It's good to know just how "inclusive" and "tolerant" progressives are. The opinions posted here with regard to Africa and those "primitive" Africans have much in common with those of the average klansman than I thought. It's a good thing to know that we have so many "enlightened" leftists here intent on bringing true culture and learning to the "dark continent." It's difficult to understand how these "primitives" have survived this long without the benefit of your leadership and guidance right Joe?


I was going to write some snappy rejoinder here, but heck - why not just let the last post stand as it is?

Blatant misrepresentation, and the playing of the race card, in order to "win" an argument, can speak for themselves. And so can the usual plea for tolerance from the intolerant. (Yes, "intolerant," I'm afraid, because guess what, Matt? Yours is not the only opinion - and in fact, your position on the issue is not even supported by the facts.)

It's not true, either, that the Church only "welcomes" gay people under the conditions you lay out. ECUSA makes no such demand.

It's interesting that some seem to think that the "choice" offered here - you can have either membership in the Church OR a happy and productive life that includes love, but not both - would actually be attractive to anybody.

I'm still looking forward to the day heterosexuals sign up themselves for "lifelong celibacy for no apparent reason."

But I'm not holding my breath.

Matt Kennedy+

Joe you answered my original post with a simple dismissal, "Matt, thanks for the reminder (like anyone reading this board needs one) that primitive, unfortunate beliefs about sexuality aren't confined to African Christians but occur among all races and nationalities." so I felt no obligation to respond with anything more elevated.

I would love to hear the "facts" you speak of. My guess is that you might be referring to recent findings with regard to biological/genetic homosexual pre-dispositions? It may suprise you (because, Joe, I get the sense that you rarely take the time to actually read the arguments of those you so obviously disdain) that most orthodox anglicans have no trouble agreeing with the relevant scientific findings in this matter.

In fact, if borne out, these findings simply confirm what the Scriptures have revealed: humanity is fallen and that falleness sinks even to the level of our genes.

In any case, we are all very far gone from what God intended when he created humanity.

Heterosexuals must struggle with genetic predispositions as well. IN fact most evolutionary biologists believe that male promiscuity is hardwired. And yet, if true, I think even you would agree that such a finding would not be an argument for the blessing of multiple sexual promiscuous unions?

For the church to deny the complete fulfillment of sexual urges on the part of hetero or homosexual men and women is a far far cry from denying their complete humanity or their capacity to love and/or to be loved unless you reduce the definition of "love" and "humanity" to the capacity to engage in the sex act and/or you establish intercourse as an essential aspect of human nature apart from which human beings are no longer fully human? If so our differences are far greater than I thought and I would argue that you have some serious philosphical problems to deal with.


I'm not Joe.

And if you can't have a discussion without the ad hominems, I'm just not at all interested.

Matt Kennedy+

lol, Sorry, I should have adressed bls, not Joe. I must have gotten confused


In any case, we are all very far gone from what God intended when he created humanity.

Then why don't you guys worry about yourselves, and drop the fixation on something you don't, and really can't, know very much about?

And that, BTW, was the actual topic here to begin with: why conservative "beliefs" (and that's all they are, Matt: "beliefs") about homosexuality now trump assistance to sick and starving people.


(Sorry, this phrase above - "In any case, we are all very far gone from what God intended when he created humanity." - should have been in italics, which don't seem to be accepted on this site.

I was responding to something in one of Matt's previous posts.)

Matt Kennedy+


"why don't you guys worry about yourselves, and drop the fixation on something you don't, and really can't, know very much about?"

One of a pastor's key roles, as I'm sure you know, is protecting the people of his parish from spiritual harm. If it is true that sin damages a person's relationship with God then knowing what is sin and what is not sin becomes very important to a pastor. If God reveals that a certain behavior, say adultery, is a sin then it is a good thing, not only for the pastor not to commit adultery but also that he or she teach his or her people to steer clear of adultery.

If someone in the church on a national or local level were to begin teaching otherwise, that adultery is natural and because it is natural it is therefore something to be blessed, it would be necessary for the spiritual care and well-being of the parish for the pastor to refute this teaching and seek to clarify and defend the revealed teaching.

This would be the pastor's duty regardless of the most evident fact that the pastor himself or herself is also a sinner.

Joe Perez

Matt: You're right. I dismissed your comment about the sinfulness of homosexuality because it's a separate issue from the topic that inspired the original post. My view on homosexuality as a "moral issue" can be found here.

I don't like to repeat myself.

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