Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What is good for Uganda's goose is good for TEC's gander

The recent murder of David Kato, a Ugandan gay activist, has occasioned much comment and pronouncement, including one by the primates at their just concluded meeting. Good may yet come of his death if homophobia is checked rather than further fuelled by the kind of language we read reports of from both the country at large, and from some sections of the Anglican church there.

One thing that interests me as an Anglican pondering the nature of our communion together around the globe, is the manner in which a great number of Anglicans outside of Uganda have absolute certainty not only that homophobia is wrong in all human contexts, but is endemic in Uganda, and entwined into the character of Uganda Anglicanism.* Consequentially, many Anglicans outside Uganda have no hesitancy, indeed seem to feel strongly that it is an obligation to speak into the situation there. (The concern about homophobia in Uganda was there before the murder which now highlights it with renewed intensity).

This speaking up is a good thing! At the heart of true evangelical faith, of the central interests of the English Reformation is the presupposition that what is true is true everywhere. There may be local developments in practice  (the 39A understands that) but not in doctrine. There may be localised pastoral responses to difficult human situations but there is one morality: murder is wrong everywhere, telling the truth is right in all places. The outrage over David Kato's death is the outrage of subscribers to belief in the universality of morality.

One question then is whether other aspects of Communion life today involve universal doctrine or local practice. Where universal doctrine is involved we might usefully reflect on whether we are consistent around the globe in promoting it (or, conversely, resisting change to it).

My understanding of the Anglican Covenant is that it is a 21st century document which reiterates the presupposition that Anglicanism is not an expression of Christian faith in which truth is relative. Truth matters to Anglicans and the Covenant will be a modern endorsement of that fact. It is precisely the document which would enable member churches of the Communion to formally call the Ugandan Anglican church to account for accusations that it is intrinsically homophobic (that is, intrinsically bound to demonise homosexuals in a manner contradicting doctrines of neighbourly love and prohibition of hatred for fellow human beings): a call made on the basis that what is true is true everywhere (and thus there is no local Ugandan truth justifying homophobia).

The Ugandan church may be able to account for these claims (for which, after all, people such as myself are aware of through media reports and are thus unaware of the extent to which they may involve exaggeration such as moving from the statements of a few individuals to drawing conclusions about a whole church). But on what basis, without the Covenant, would a 'fair trial' of this church take place in the context of the Communion?

As a Communion we seem able to objectify what is going on in Uganda on the basis of a universal understanding of what is true and right with consequential accusations and charges. There are no voices being raised which say 'this is not what we should be doing because local development of the faith means it is up to Ugandan Anglicans how they conduct themselves.'

But this only makes the contrast all the more clear when we observe the obstruction which occurs when global Anglicans raise questions about what is going on in TEC (that is, an attempt, under the rubric of 'pastoral provision', to change doctrine concerning marriage): We are autonomous. The Communion has neither authority nor power nor right to speak to member churches. Local development of the faith is the Anglican way.

What is good for Uganda's goose is not good for TEC's gander.

[*Sentence slightly rewritten after discussion in comments].

7 comments:

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

The first thing that I have trouble getting past is this;

the easy manner in which a great number of Anglicans outside of Uganda have absolute certainty that homophobia is (a) wrong in all human contexts,

the easy manner in which a great number of Anglicans outside of Never Never Land have absolute certainty that racism is (a) wrong in all human contexts,

the easy manner in which a great number of Anglicans outside of Never Never Land have absolute certainty that slavery is (a) wrong in all human contexts,

the easy manner in which a great number of Anglicans outside of Never Never Land have absolute certainty that misogyny is (a) wrong in all human contexts,

the easy manner in which a great number of Anglicans outside of Never Never Land have absolute certainty that genocide is (a) wrong in all human contexts,

the easy manner in which a great number of Anglicans outside of Never Never Land have absolute certainty that sex trafficking is (a) wrong in all human contexts,

the easy manner in which a great number of Anglicans outside of Never Never Land have absolute certainty that infanticide is (a) wrong in all human contexts,
...

Peter Carrell said...

Yes, David, I think many Anglicans have easily come to those conclusions.

Bryden Black said...

Me thinks David that perhaps thou dost protest too much - because thou dost not like where the dots are truly going in Peter's post ...

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

Brydan, I equate all of the things that I used to replace homophobia as moral evils with homophobia. Perhaps the two of you could enlighten me, in which human context would homophobia not be wrong?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
I spoke of some easy certainty around a list of things, not one thing alone. If I were speaking of that one thing alone I would not have used the word 'easy'. The list includes some things which some of us are uncertain about, such as the extent of homophobia in Ugandan society. Not having lived in Ugandan society I am not prepared to rely on media reports alone for the good and bad characteristics which make up that society.

The point of my post does not rest on the word 'easy' but on whether we are consistent across the Communion in our approach to what we believe, raising the question whether the Covenant does not serve us well in respect of that consistency.

Your own church has signed to the Covenant and that is encouraging, in my view. Are you encouraged by that signing?

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

Perhaps you should look into what you wrote, because as written, it appears that you think that there are contexts where homophobia would be appropriate.

Your own church has signed to the Covenant and that is encouraging, in my view. Are you encouraged by that signing?

That is a reaction brought about by our national personality to not rock the boat or cause problems for others. "Can't we all just get along?"

Do not read too much into Mexico signing the Covenant. We were Episcopalians a mere 16 years ago and TEC still has a financial commitment to ACMexico. Mexico would never betray our mother church.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
I now see your point and will rewrite slightly.

I shall follow the progress of Mexico re TEC and Covenant!