afrol News, 24 July - The Anglican Archbishop of Southern Africa, Ndungane Njongonkulu, heads the church's defence against a homophobic statement written by the archbishops of Nigeria, Central Africa and Rwanda. He demands a less hostile debate around human sexuality.
The question of human sexuality - or, more exactly, the role of gays and lesbians in the church - has marred the Anglican worldwide Communion the last year. The conflict line has been between the liberal churches of the North and the conservative churches in developing countries. There is one big exception, Archbishop Ndungane of Southern Africa.
At a gathering of over 60 worldwide Anglican leaders held yesterday at Truro Episcopal Church, Fairfax - a suburb of Washington - to discuss the issue of "human sexuality", Archbishop Ndungane answered the critiques from his conservative colleagues.
The at Fairfax discussions particularly had focussed on the upcoming General Convention of the Episcopal Church, USA, where it may be decided to confirm the election of Canon Gene Robinson, the first openly gay man to be elected bishop in the Anglican Communion. The other chief concern of the conservatives is that an upcoming Anglican world convention may vote to approve the blessing of same-sex unions.
The conservative lobby was led by Archbishops Peter Akinola of Nigeria, Bernard Malango of Central Africa, Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda, Yong Ping Chung of South East Asia and Peter Jensen of Sydney, Australia. These had written a letter to other archbishops of the 'Global South', asking that they confirm their agreement with a statement that they had drafted. The text of the statement read:
"We, primates of the global south of the Anglican Communion wish to indicate to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church of the USA that, should the Convention decide to confirm the election of Canon Gene Robinson as bishop or approve the blessing of same-sex unions or both, then we will convene within three months to confirm our view that ECUSA has thereby placed itself outside the boundaries of the Anglican Communion and that appropriate action will follow."
Archbishop Ndungane Njongonkulu - based in liberal Cape Town - headed the liberals' answer to the statement by responding to the request expressing that he "cannot in conscience and faith agree to support this draft statement".
- I believe that it is wrong and contrary to our Anglican Tradition and understanding of Canon Law to presume to interfere in the affairs of another Province, he said. "Such actions are a major threat to the fabric of our Communion. Let us respect the integrity of each Province."
Archbishop Ndungane earlier had stated these opinions, as another gay Canon, Jeffrey John, had been elected the Bishop of Reading (England) and the Canadian diocese of New Westminster had blessed the union of a gay couple. As Nigerian Archbishop Akinola severed the links to the Canadian diocese and threatened to do the same with Reading, Mr Ndungane said it was not his business to interfere in the affairs of others. He and his African colleagues rather should concentrate on the widespread human suffering in Africa, he held.
Yesterday, the Southern African Archbishop was keen to proclaim that the Anglican Communion is bound together by shared links with the See of Canterbury and that "it would be profoundly inappropriate for any Province or any group of Provinces to presume to take on a role which properly belongs to the See of Canterbury, and with the whole Communion acting with the See of Canterbury."
- We need to approach each other with the love of Christ, he said. "We need to recognise that there are those who love our Lord on both sides of this difficult debate around human sexuality."
At the end of the statement the Southern African Archbishop said, "I would therefore plead with you my brothers to draw back from the way envisaged by the draft statement, and rather seek other ways of addressing our differences in the Body of Christ."
Nigerian Archbishop Akinola however seemed unimpressed by Mr Ndungane's plead. The Church of Nigeria still is without contacts to the Canadian diocese of New Westminster, blaming it for "heresy" and denying its members church services in Nigeria - no matter whether these are same-sex couples or man and wife. Archbishop Akinola also holds African churches need to get economically independent from the rich churches in Europe, America and Canada, "who have long used their wealth to intimidate the financially weak Churches in Africa."
- Our boldness in condemning the spiritual bankruptcy of these churches must be matched by our refusal to receive financial help from them, said Mr Akinola. Archbishop Ndungane, on the other hand, emphasised another reality. "We are faced with matters of life and death," he reminds his colleagues. "Seventy-five percent of the world's people who are living with HIV or AIDS are in sub-Saharan Africa," he says, urging not to forget this primary issue of the Church.
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