White Anglicans accused of pressuring African churches on anti-gay agenda

By staff writers
October 4, 2007

Lesbian and gay Christians in the UK have criticised primarily white conservative Christians for pressurising African Anglican leaders to back them, and have said that the US Episcopal Church's compromise in saying it will not ordain gay people or bless partnerships at the moment is likely to backfire.

The response comes after a press release from the conservative Church Society network in England, effectively telling African Anglican churches meeting in Mauritius over the next few days to take a series of measures to outlaw Western churches who take a different view to them.

The bishops will be meeting under the banner of CAPA (Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa) which includes the provinces of Burundi, Congo, Central Africa, Egypt, Indian Ocean, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Southern Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and West Africa. CAPA is chaired by Archbishop Peter Akinola - an outspoken opponent of recognising lesbian and gay people.

Church Society says it wants African bishops to declare that the US House of Bishops has "abandoned orthodox Christianity", refuse to recognise their orders, refuse fellowship with them, boycott the 2008 Lambeth Conference 2008 and call for its suspension, and "require the withdrawal of The US Episcopal Church as a body from the Primates Meetings, The Anglican Consultative Council and future Lambeth Conferences."

But those who believe the Gospel is a gracious invitation to all, irrespective of race, class, gender, sexuality and other human distinctions, are outraged at what they see as a conscious attempt to pressurise African leaders.

The Rev Richard Kirker of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) told Ekklesia: "This meeting of African bishops in Mauritius comes at a critical time. The pragmatic decision taken by [US] Episcopal Church bishops to abandon lesbian and gay people in the cause of unity while at the same time declaring their right to full inclusion, has not gone down well with conservatives. It did not go down well with us at LGCM either.

He continued: "The problem is that now TEC has placed itself in a position very close to that of the Church of England the rejection of the American bishops' compromise will be seen as an attack on English polity too.

"We can expect to see a major effort from the white conservative pressure
groups like the Church Society telling African bishops what they should say and do particularly as some of their leaders are now bishops of African provinces."

Mr Kirker concluded: "The Windsor Report saw a gay inclusive church as having a legitimate case to argue, the conservatives are determined to see that openness to debate and the possibility of change closed down for ever, they are not prepared to compromise - and to be honest, neither are we."

Church Society is a 170-year-old historic conservative membership organisation which claims as its forbears the Church Association and National Church League. Its narrow understanding of the biblical message is rejected by other Christians, including many evangelicals, but it says: "We have never courted popularity."

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.