Opposition to Uganda anti-gay bill is chance to build unity in churches

Opposition to Uganda anti-gay bill is chance to build unity in churches

London, UK - NOV 24, 2009 The religion and society thinktank Ekklesia is observing that opposition against the 'anti- homosexuality' Bill currently being proposed in Uganda is a prime opportunity for the churches to create some unity around issues of sexuality which so often divide them.

Ekklesia is proposing that Christian leaders should be able to speak with one voice on this issue, whatever their views on sexual ethics, and find common ground on which to build for the future.

The Bill being proposed in Uganda would introduce the death penalty for certain sexual activity between consenting adults. Whatever people's views on sexuality within the churches, says the thinktank, Christians should be able to join together to oppose the measures.

But Ekklesia also warns that continued silence from church leaders on the issue will also speak volumes. A failure to speak out will be widely seen as revealing the 'real' attitudes of many in the churches to gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

An online petition launched by Ekklesia urges the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who has so far remained silent on the issue, to speak out against the Bill. The petition has already brought signatories from priests, ministers and other church leaders around the world and those who, despite differing beliefs over homosexuality, have come together to expose the hollowness of the religious rhetoric used by the Bill's supporters.

Ekklesia's associate director Symon Hill said: "This is a rare chance for Christians of many views to stand united, whatever their beliefs about sexual ethics. Many Christian leaders and groups have already condemned this Bill. But those that refuse to do so run the risk of never being taken seriously in future debates on sexuality or human rights.

"Given the importance of Anglicanism in Uganda, it would be right and proper for the Archbishop of Canterbury to make a statement. It is all the more important given that the Archbishop of York, who grew up in Uganda, has said he has no plans to speak out against the Bill."

Christian organisations in Britain which have condemned the Bill include Accepting Evangelicals, Changing Attitude, Courage UK, Ekklesia, Fulcrum, Inclusive Church and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM).

The campaign against the Bill is led by Sexual Minorities Uganda.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1. The petition calling on the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Christian leaders to speak out against the Bill in public can be found at:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Uganda_Christians/index.html

2.The Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill prescribes life imprisonment for any sexual activity between adults of the same sex, with the death penalty for anyone whose same-sex partner is disabled or is under 18. Ministers or priests would face three years imprisonment if they failed to report an incidence of homosexuality of which they became aware.

3. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill is proposed by David Bahati, a member of the Ugandan Parliament who emphasises his commitment to Christianity. It is supported by the Minister for Ethics and Integrity, James Nsaba Buturo, a member of the Anglican Church of the Province of Uganda.

4. The office of the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, recently responded to a letter by the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM), stating that he had no plans to comment on the Bill.

5. Formed in 2001, Ekklesia was listed by The Independent newspaper in 2005 as among 20 influential UK thinktanks. According to Alexa/Amazon, it has one of the most-visited religious current affairs websites in Britain. It runs a news and comment service, examining religion in public life, and raises £250,000 a year for peace & justice causes

Keywords: uganda