Thursday, January 30, 2014

Conservative Anglicans Lack Consistency Over Nigeria and Uganda?

GLAD UPDATE: In the light of the original post below, I am very glad to now see this statement from ++Stanley of Uganda.

ORIGINAL POST

Here is a thought. Conservative Christians, including conservative Anglicans are united in their admiration of the German church leaders who made the Barmen Declaration in 1934. Courageously they took a stand against the cultural captivity of the German churches who joined in the "German Christian" movement which saw in Nazism some kind of divine embrace of German culture. Out of this opposition to the German Christian movement was spawned the Confessing Church, a kind of schismatic movement in which Christians in Germany sought to distance themselves from those parts of the German churches which were now walking hand in hand with Hitler and his thugs. Among the courageous leaders were Barth, Bonhoeffer and Niemoller. All 20th century heroes of the faith.

Ever since the story of the Confessing Church has become known around the world, it is invoked as a model for gospel engagement with and opposition to the church being taken captive by the surrounding culture. The keynote of the Barmen Declaration is Christ's lordship of the church which has no other master.

Fast forward to the unfolding situation in Nigeria and Uganda in which draconian laws against homosexuals are being considered by their respective legislatures, if not approved (see here and here). Stories are emerging in which Anglican leadership appears unable to distinguish between the cultural situation in each place (which favours the legislation) and a gospel response (which favours or should favour an approach of grace and mercy towards sexual sinners). Then there is the question of conservative Christian support from around the globe for these legislative moves. Some of which support is by way of silence - the silence in which those who ally themselves with the stances towards the Anglican Communion being taken by Nigerian and Ugandan bishops refuse to speak against their friends. Yes, ADU had been silent, so the following question I ask of myself as much as of anyone else.

Where are the Ugandan and Nigerian Barths, Bonhoeffers and Niemollers who are willing to speak out for the lordship of Christ over their churches and against the cultural captivity of their churches to prevailing preferences for draconian legislation?

UPDATE: Just after publishing the above, I see that the Archbishops of England have issued a communique to "all Primates" and to the "Presidents of Nigeria and Uganda" gently reminding the addressees of the importance of care and not condemnation of homosexuals.

THEN we might also read this statement pertaining to India.

14 comments:

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Peter for the link with the latest statement from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, affirming their insistence on the maitnenance of the stand taken at Dromantine, affirming the need to 'care for and be-friend' those whose sexual-orientation - through no fault of their own - is different from 'the norm'.

This statement been long-awaited by those Provinces of the Church that have been horrified by the anti-gay legislation supported by the Anglican Leaderhip in certain GAFCON-friendly countries, that seeks to criminalise gay and lesbian people - and their friends and families who do not betray them to the authorities for severe punishment.

I have commented on kiwianglo.

I can almost hear a hearty chorus of "We have a Gospel to proclaim"

Shawn Herles said...

Peter,

What makes you think Liberal Western notions of how to order society have anything to do with the Gospel? And who really is captive to the culture? Your definitions of grace and mercy are subjective opinion, not straight Biblical exegesis, and are heavily influenced by the Liberal sea you and I swim in.

Outside of Western Liberalism, who else thinks all the laws are "draconian"?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
I do not think it a "Liberal Western" notion to be concerned about countries introducing legislation with draconian punishments for sexual sin. "Draconian" is not a peculiarly "Western Liberal" take on harsh imprisonment let alone execution.

In particular, given, praise God, the huge presence of Christian churches in Nigeria and Uganda, it is a simple Christian plea that those churches might work for grace and mercy. Not a Western Liberal plea.

It would be worth asking, would it not, simply as someone concerned for fairness, whether the two parliaments have similar proposals in mind for fornication and adultery?

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Peter,

the problem is that I do indeed see Western Liberalism in your response. "Draconian" is indeed a subjective idea, that I suspect has a lot to do with specifically Kiwi cultural notions. Many Kiwis consider any death penalty for any reason "draconinian" while many Americans do not.

I am not saying the laws are right or wrong, that requires a much more careful analysis than sweeping condemnation or sweeping affirmation.

But my point is that we need to look much harder at our own cultural captivity in the West, before we can speak with authority to any other country.

MichaelA said...

"Stories are emerging in which Anglican leadership appears unable to distinguish between the cultural situation in each place (which favours the legislation) and a gospel response (which favours or should favour an approach of grace and mercy towards sexual sinners)."

Peter, it would be good to cite some of these stories, and their sources. Your article will carry more impact with that.

Fr Ron has come up with this accusation before on ADU, and I have asked him what he was referring to, but he never responds.

Even Thinking Anglicans with its multiple links actually has very little on Anglican reactions.

It would also be good to clarify what the legislation current says – it originally made commission of homosexual acts liable to the death penalty. It is now said to impose life imprisonment instead (which is almost as absurd) but I am still trying to get a clear report.

This is important when these things hang in the balance in Uganda. It is clear that the President is opposed to this bill (even though he is in no way sympathetic to the LGBT cause, as such), yet he has to be careful – he can disallow it, but it can then be forced through by a 2/3 majority in Parliament.

"Where are the Ugandan and Nigerian Barths, Bonhoeffers and Niemollers who are willing to speak out for the lordship of Christ over their churches and against the cultural captivity of their churches to prevailing preferences for draconian legislation?"

A fair question. It would be a lot easier to evaluate this if we had some facts.

BTW, for our own sake, we should remember that "prevailing preferences for draconian legislation" are present right here in Australasia. The State government in NSW is about to pass mandatory sentencing (i.e. prison) laws for assault whilst intoxicated, and there was the scandal (my word) of mandatory sentencing being imposed for quite mild offences in the Northern Territory not long ago (in practice the burden fell mainly on the aboriginal population). Perhaps you in NZ are immune to such preferences but we certainly are not. Nor do the churches always speak out against it.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
I do not think executions for murder are draconian. There are arguments for and against capital punishment for murder which have nothing to do with whether such punishments are draconian or not.

But if the States introduced capital punishment for sexual sin, would it be a merely "subjective" use of the word "draconian" to describe such an introduction as draconian?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi MichaelA
I was trying to summarise reading over some time re Anglican leadership supporting legislation. But here, courtesy Google, are two links, one for each country:

http://premiumtimesng.com/news/140323-anglican-bishop-urges-jonathan-to-sign-anti-gay-marriage-bill-into-law.html

http://www.bilerico.com/2013/12/anglican_bishop_praises_uganda_anti-gay_law.php

I entirely agree that what is good for the goose is good for the gander: whereever our churches are captive to culture we need to speak up. Ditto re draconian punishments which 'do not fit the crime.'

MichaelA said...

Peter,

Thanks for those links.

First, re the link to a July 2013 article in the Premium Times of Nigeria:

I had thought that the bill imposed a penalty of life imprisonment for homosexual acts. I certainly would regard that as horribly draconian, and I would have a real difficulty with Anglicans who supported it. However, at present, I haven't been able to find any recent confirmation that that provision is actually in the new Nigerian law. It is in the Ugandan law, but I don't know if it is in this law. Can anyone confirm?

I have found this article in Al Jazeera, which says that the law as actually passed in the Nigerian Parliament and recently assented to by the President does three things:

1. outlaws gay marriage. The penalty is said to be 14 years.
2. outlaws public displays of same-sex relationships. Penalty not stated.
3. outlaws belonging to gay groups. Penalty not stated.

See http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2014/01/nigeria-passes-law-banning-gay-marriage-2014113151626685617.html.

These don't seem to be focussed on what people do in private.

14 years for entering into a gay marriage seems harsh, but its interesting by comparison that the penalty for entering into a bigamous marriage in Australia is 5 years. People who believe in bigamy and polygamy (including some Muslims and some Mormons) no doubt find that harsh too. But at least it is clear how to avoid imprisonment – don't contract a gay marriage in Nigeria, or a bigamous marriage in Australia.

I am concerned about 2 and 3 because of the potential vagueness – criminal law should be clear so that people know what they can and can't do. But I don't know the actual wording of these provisions. Plus of course, I don't know the penalty. I wouldn't be nearly as concerned by a fine or maximum 2 months imprisonment as I would be by ten years, for example. By comparison, in some states of Australia, a person found guilty of "doing an indecent act with intent to insult or offend" can be slapped with two years imprisonment - there is a LOT of leeway in what that actually means!

Your second link goes to a very short story stating that a Ugandan bishop Luwalira has praised the new Ugandan law. It states:

"The bill strengthens the country's laws banning gay sex and makes "repeat offenses" punishable by life imprisonment. It also contained a clause making it a crime not to report gay people, although there are conflicting reports as to whether or not this provision has been dropped. The bill also bans the "promotion" of homosexuality."

I cannot see any justification for life imprisonment as a punishment for consensual sodomy, repeated or not. I understand the President of Uganda was of the same opinion but felt he lacked the political power to stop the bill. He might be happy if a fuss is raised about it overseas, giving him an excuse to step in.

Its interesting that the bishop himself did not appear to know whether failing to report gay people has been criminalized – and he lives in Uganda! That begs the question of why he is praising an Act of Parliament (or any document) if he doesn't know what it says.

BC said...

Peter, it might be worth drawing attention to the Papal Nuncio to India, on the grounds of respect for human dignity, speaking out against a law making homosexual acts illegal.

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2013/12/11/gay-people-are-not-criminals-says-cardinal-gracias/

This strikes me as a good example, from a theologically conservative context, of the type of counter-cultural witness urged by your post.

BC said...

Correction - apologies: not the Nuncio but President of (RC) Episcopal Conference of India

MichaelA said...

Hi Peter, you may want to add yet another update to this article!

The Archbishop of Uganda has issued a communique which makes clear that:

(a) The Ugandan legislation does not contain certain provisions alleged in the media;

(b) The Anglican Church of Uganda has been actively lobbying to reduce the stringency of the law.

This is a direct comment by the Archbishop, as opposed to second- or third-hand reporting.

The opening paragraph is telling:

"The Church of Uganda is encouraged by the work of Uganda’s Parliament in amending the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to remove the death penalty, to reduce sentencing guidelines through a principle of proportionality, and to remove the clause on reporting homosexual behaviour, as we had recommended in our 2010 position statement on the Bill.
This frees our clergy and church leaders to fulfill the 2008 resolution of our House of Bishops to “offer counseling, healing and prayer for people with homosexual disorientation, especially in our schools and other institutions of learning. The Church is a safe place for individuals, who are confused about their sexuality or struggling with sexual brokenness, to seek help and healing.”

See: http://www.kendallharmon.net/t19/index.php/t19/article/52768/#more

Father Ron Smith said...

"This frees our clergy and church leaders to fulfill the 2008 resolution of our House of Bishops to “offer counseling, healing and prayer for people with homosexual disorientation, especially in our schools and other institutions of learning."

Another form of 'mind Games', that, according to reputable pyschological authorities do more harm than good, leaving the victims more confused than when they started.

This 'treatment' automatically presumes that homosexuals are 'suffering' from a disorder - a fact disproved by modern science.
But then, what else can one expect from people who insist on out-dated biological and sociological mis-information? The fact that this is offered as a 'spiritual cure' is more devastating to mature Christians.

When is Nigeria going to offer 'adjustment therapy' for rampant heterosexuals?

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, I found this link provided on your side-bar, under the banner of 'FULCRUM', the well-known Evangelical web-site, to be very thought provoking. I think it deserves a thorough read by those of your contributors who believe that 'Sola Scriptura' is the only way. See:

http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/articles/and-how-do-i-know-when-i-am-wrong-evangelical-faith-and-the-bible/

Regards, Ron

MichaelA said...

Hi Peter, the Archbishop of Kenya has responded to the communique from ABC and ABY. See: http://gafcon.org/news/a-response-to-the-statement-by-the-archbishops-of-canterbury-and-york

Its takes a rather different view of the Archbishops' communique.