It’s unusual these days to find an Anglican American conservative leader saying anything outrageously anti-gay. Perhaps it’s because recent polls have shown it’s no longer so cool to be homophobic in the US, or because liberals are standing up to them and no-one wants to be lambasted across the internet. (As happened to Carl Paladino, Republican hopeful for governor of New York, this week.) Fortunately for them, the ACNA etc. have already passed the anti-gay baton firmly to the Africans.
At the All Africa Bishops’ meeting in August, Archbishop Orombi of Uganda reiterated his position, “Homosexuality is evil, abnormal and unnatural as per the Bible. It is a culturally unacceptable practice”. At the same event, Archbishop Okoh, the new Primate of Nigeria pledged allegiance to the anti-gay crusade, and also made the startling claim, “The Church in the West had vowed to use their money to spread the homosexual lifestyle in African societies and Churches; after all Africa is poor. They are pursuing this agenda vigorously and what is more, they now have the support of the United Nations.” Now the Archbishop-elect of Rwanda, Onesphore Rwaje, has confirmed that he and Rwanda are still onboard, "Anything that is contrary to God's family set-up is not acceptable; there is nowhere in the Bible where same-sex marriage is encouraged. God created a man and woman to be the basis of a family".
Given that the anti-gay standard is being carried high by Africans, the good people at home can be seen to be compassionate. If you can bear it, watch Phil Ashey of the American Anglican Council giving the “Anglican Perspective” on the “Tragedy at Rutgers”. It’s mercifully short, but to spare you the trouble of watching it, here’s the gist: quoting from the Rite 1 eucharistic prayer, Ashey explains that Tyler Clementi’s death was a tragedy. Homosexuality is a sin but we all sin. The good news we can share is that Jesus died for our sins.
His statement completely ignores the question of why Tyler was so devastated at being exposed that he took his own life. Suppose for a minute that everyone who was recorded saying disrespectful things about their parents committed suicide. We’d have people dropping like flies. Yet honoring your parents is one of the Big Ten, and homosexuality isn’t.
One can argue that our understanding of relationships between parents and children today is very different from it was 4,000 years ago. But that’s even truer of homosexuality. Four thousand years ago (even two thousand years ago) there weren’t gay or lesbian people, just people who made “bad” sexual choices.
It is the social and religious prejudice of our day that made Tyler feel his “sin” exposed was more than he could live with. If Phil Ashey really wanted to offer a compassionate response to the tragedy at Rutgers, he would be asking his constituents to reach out to the gay people around them without expecting that they would change. He would be begging the African triumvirate to find something else to use as a symbol of American depravity, not encouraging them to play the “bad cop” so American conservatives can appear to be the gentle and compassionate “good cop”.
The Rev. Carolyn Hall is a frequent contributor to Walking With Integrity. She is the former VP of International Affairs for Integrity USA and she serves as priest-in-charge at St. Benedict's Episcopal Church in Los Osos, California.