On the day that US Episcopalians published a guide on liturgical and ceremonial resources for clergy and same-sex couples, half way around the world, the archbishop of Uganda rallied hundreds of African bishops to "shake off their fears, shame and superficial dependency and re-evangelise the 'ailing' churches of the west," reported The Guardian of the UK.
"The potentials represented today in this conference must be free to go to Europe and America with 'fresh wine' from 'new wine skins' to the mother church desperate for the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. I say 'the Church in Africa' must rise up. Shake off your fears, shame and superficial dependency," conference host and Ugandan Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi told the audience.
Archbishop of Uganda Henry Orombi (left) and
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams
Andrew Brown of the The Guardian noted the archbishop's call to be a straightforward defiance of the policy of Anglican Communion against "border crossing": the practice of African churches setting up branches in North America to try and claim the churches, the congregations, and a share of the money of the liberal Anglicans there. Brown wrote: "But it's worth noting that he now wants to move into Europe as well. To say this to the face of the Archbishop of Canterbury is not parking a tank on Rowan's lawn; it is parking one on his foot."
Meeting in Entebbe, Uganda, from 23 to 29 August 2010, conservative bishops in Africa issued a statement on Sunday denouncing homosexuality and criticising Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, for failing to punish Anglican churches and priests that welcome gays and lesbians.
Reverend Ian Ernest of Mauritius, the head of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa, told the Daily Nation: "It is for us (Africans) to redress the situation," adding that he has severed all ties to the Episcopalian churches in Canada and the US that have allowed gays to enter the clergy.
"Homosexuality is incompatible with the word of God," Orombi was quoted as saying in a AFP report.
"It is good Archbishop Rowan is here. We are going to express to him where we stand," he added.
"We have told him and he understood us, that (there's) no more diplomacy on that matter, homosexuality. We made our minds very clear and he is going back knowing there is no gray area on our part," Orombi was quoted by CNN’s Belief blog.
Head of the Anglican church worldwide, Williams is struggling to keep the communion together amid disagreements over the ordination of female bishops in Britain, and of openly gay bishops in the United States.
“Homosexuality is evil, abnormal and unnatural as per the Bible. It is a culturally unacceptable practice. Although there is a lot of pressure, we cannot turn our hands to support it,” Orombi was quoted as saying in The Daily Monitor.
The report further added that the anti-gay comments from the bishops would likely provide a “boost to proponents of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (2009), before the Ugandan Parliament which proposes life imprisonment for acts of homosexuality and introduces ‘aggravated homosexuality’ as a serious crime” in which offenders must face the death penalty.
The conference which was jointly organised by the Church of Uganda and the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) had reportedly attracted some 400 bishops from across the African continent as well as the Indian Ocean and the Diocese of Egypt. Other attendees included Archbishop John Chew of Singapore and Southeast Asia (Kuching, Sabah and West Malaysia) who is also the Chairman of the Global South, and Bishop Robert Duncan who leads the Anglican Church in North America, a group that opposes the ordination of gay priests. The group also does not recognise Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori – the first woman to be elected to head the US Episcopal Church, the US branch of the Anglican church.
Meanwhile, gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has called on the Archbishop of Canterbury to put gay and lesbian human rights before the unity of the world-wide Anglican Church at the annual Christian Greenbelt Festival in Cheltenham last weekend.
“Archbishop Rowan Williams and the Anglican Church have a lot to answer for, because they have put church unity before human rights,” Tatchell told the crowd.
While he chided other religious leaders who were effectively condoning homophobia by being silent on the African issue, he praised two senior African clerics for their supportive and outspoken stand – former Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and retired Ugandan Bishop Christoper Senjyonjo. As a result of his gay-affirmative stance and support for LGBT rights in Uganda, Senyonjo, 78, was stripped of his retirement pension by the Church of Uganda.