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Society | Gay - Lesbian

Botswana's Church leaders denounce gay Bishop

afrol News, 9 December - The Anglican Church in Botswana has joined a growing list of African Anglican dioceses that have refused to recognise the consecration of Revd Gene Robinson as Bishop-Coadjutor of the Diocese of New Hampshire in the United States, because of his sexual orientation. Bishop Robinson entered the history books last month when he was consecrated as the first openly gay bishop.

According to Rodrick Mukumbira from the African Church Information Service, Revd Theophilus Naledi, Bishop of Botswana, has now said that his diocese does not recognise the consecration of Gene Robinson. "The Anglicans in Botswana believe that the only valid marriage is between a man and a woman, and that is what the Bible teaches," he said. "We do not condone any other sexual relationship or form of marriage that does not involve a man and a woman."

He added that Anglicans in Botswana believe that sexual relationships between same sexes are "ungodly, unnatural, unbiblical and not in conformity with the Church's teachings on the subject of marriages".

- We do not accept the practise of homosexuality and that bishop [Robinson], Bishop Naledi said. "We do not recognise him as a bishop, and we would not allow him to minister in our church."

The Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Central Africa, the Most Revd Bernard Malango, has also made it clear to the Diocese of New Hampshire that his province does not recognise Gene Robinson, and will have no ties with him or his diocese. Archbishop Malango presides over Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Jan Nunley from the London-based Anglican Communion News Service today reported there has been a "cascade of declarations" from the world's Anglican churches regarding the consecration of ECUSA's first gay bishop. Archbishop Yong Ping Chung of the conservative Province of South East Asia this week became the latest to assert its disassociation with ECUSA.

First to declare themselves in a state of "impaired communion" with ECUSA over Gene Robinson's consecration had a group of Anglican primates of the Global South let by Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, who wrote on 3 November that "the overwhelming majority of the Primates of the Global South cannot and will not recognise the office or ministry of Canon Gene Robinson as a bishop.... A state of impaired communion now exists both within a significant part of ECUSA and between ECUSA and most of the provinces within the Communion."

But what impaired communion may entail is not made clear by the statement. "We cannot now uniformly define the further implications of this impairment created by ECUSA," the statement concludes. "As each province lives into the 'emerging' character of this impairment of communion according to the theological and legal demands of their respective churches, we pledge support of each other in our common response to the wilful decision of ECUSA authorities to oppose the Communion's teaching."

The Global South statement was followed by a cascade of declarations from individual provinces and dioceses.

On 4 November, the Anglican Church of Kenya issued a statement declaring that the province "will not recognise the ministry of this one Bishop." While supporting "those Bishops, Clergy and laity in various dioceses in ECUSA who continue to uphold the historic faith and order of the Church," the Kenyan statement said that those who support Gene Robinson's consecration "have, by their own action, impaired communion."

On 6 November, the Anglican Church of Tanzania declared that it would not recognise Gene Robinson or "any homosexual person who may be consecrated in future" as bishops, and stated that it is "not in communion, namely, Communion in sacris," with bishops who consecrate homosexuals to the episcopate, ordain them to the priesthood and diaconate, license them to minister, or permit the blessing of same sex unions in their dioceses, as well as all homosexual priests and deacons and clergy who bless same sex unions.

Bishops of the Anglican Church of Nigeria declared on 15 November that they "condemn in its totality this consecration. We and our people will not recognise Gene Robinson and his ministry as bishop" and said the church is "breaking relationship not only with the Diocese of New Hampshire but with all the bishops and dioceses in ECUSA that have joined" in the consecration.

Revd Peter Adebiyi, Bishop of the Nigerian Diocese of Lagos West, told the 'Church of England Newspaper' that Nigerians in the United States were being instructed to leave Episcopal churches and "give us time to set up our own" congregations. Further, American priests would not be allowed to work or visit the church in Nigeria, nor would Nigerian priests be able to work in ECUSA, according to the newspaper.

The House of Bishops and Standing Committee of the Church of the Province of West Indies declared a state of "impaired communion" on 17 November, adding that they will "maintain a formal relationship with the Episcopal Church (USA), as part of the Anglican Communion, while keeping the matter under critical review. However, we cannot accept the ministry of Canon Gene Robinson as a Bishop."

Uganda's House of Bishops resolved on 21 November to "deplore, abhor and condemn in the strongest possible terms" Gene Robinson's consecration and same-sex unions and that the church "cuts her relationship and Communion" with ECUSA "and with any other Province that shall follow suit". By 4 December, the church's provincial secretary, Canon Stanley Ntagali, had been forced to backtrack slightly, stating that the Ugandan church "will continue to have partnership" with Americans opposed to Gene Robinson's consecration.

Although the Province of Central Africa, which includes Anglicans in Zambia, Botswana, Malawi and Zimbabwe, has not yet issued a statement, Archbishop Bernard Malango published a letter written to Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold on 12 November in which he chastised Bishop Griswold for participating in Gene Robinson's consecration after having signed a joint statement with the rest of the primates at their meeting in October. That document said that "as a body we deeply regret the actions of the Diocese of New Westminster and the Episcopal Church (USA)."

- In charity and heartbreak, I call you to repent, Archbishop Malango wrote. "Until that time, you have broken our fellowship. To sit with you and meet with you would be a lie. We are not one. We do not share the same faith or Gospel. You should resign and let someone else lead; someone who shares the faith of the Communion - the faith of the church catholic."

Bishop Griswold explained in a letter to the US House of Bishops on 11 November that the phrase "as a body" was a compromise worked out in the meeting, at which Archbishop Malango was present. "I have been asked on a number of occasions how it was that I participated in the development of the statement following the meeting of the primates last month and then appear to have acted in contradiction to the text."

- As the statement was being carefully crafted, he answers, "the primates quite purposefully included the phrase 'as a body' in acknowledging their 'deep regret' about actions of the Episcopal Church, intending the phrase to allow for a variety of opinions, while at the same time acknowledging the sentiments of the group as a whole. The statement was an effort by the primates to be descriptive of our collective concerns."

Somewhat less strident than most was a statement made by Bishop Mouneer Anis of the Episcopal Church in Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa on 11 November. Bishop Mouneer declared that Egyptian Anglicans were "saddened" by Gene Robinson's consecration, even though "we accept that there should be diversity in the church" and that "we should welcome and include [homosexuals] in the Church and help them as well as heterosexuals to live in holiness".

Nevertheless, the Cairo statement said, "We stand with the historical churches that uphold the apostolic teaching. We also share the same understanding of this issue of practicing homosexuality with our Muslim brothers and sisters with whom we live in the Middle East."

Bishop Meschack Mabuza of the Anglican Church in Swaziland, part of the Province of Southern Africa (CPSA), said on 13 November that in his personal view "at present the church is divided on these issues, mainly because of self-interest and personal gain on the part of church leaders".

- In our own culture as Swazis, the issue of homosexuality is unacceptable even though it does exist in our midst, he said. "Personally, I have yet to be convinced of the theological acceptability of homosexuality," Bishop Mabuza added, but reasserted his commitment to join with other Southern African bishops in continuing dialogue about the issue. His leader, CPSA Archbishop Ndungane, on the other hand has been the strongest defender of ECUSA's right to mind its own business. Archbishop Ndungane is currently promoting debate about homosexuality in his Southern African Church Province.

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