Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The African Anglican Hierarchy Should Repent

From L. Muthoni Wanyeki, the executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission:

The American Episcopal church has backed down to preserve the unity of the Anglican family worldwide. It has promised to exercise restraint with respect to the ordination of any more gay or lesbian bishops. And it has promised no longer to authorise the use of rites to bless same-sex marriages.

African Anglican bishops are, for the most part, celebrating. As far as they are concerned, they have won a major victory regarding interpretation of religious texts relating to homosexuality. Kenya’s archbishop has gone so far as to say that the capitulation is not enough — he is demanding no less than full “repentance.”

My personal opinion, for what it is worth, is that the African Anglican hierarchy itself has something to repent. It has proceeded as though African gay men and lesbians do not exist, even though some are also members of its flock. It has endorsed the prejudice and stereotypes about African gay men and lesbians — namely that they are both “unAfrican” and “unholy.”

At the worst end of the scale, consider this. On July 7 this year, two black South African lesbians were executed in Soweto. It is believed that they were followed home after a party. They were removed from their car, taken to a field and gang-raped before being executed.

Their deaths were not isolated. Another woman, also known to be a lesbian, was killed in Cape Town around the same time. And, in line with the ignorant idea that lesbians can be “fixed,” over 10 women known to be lesbians were raped. An atmosphere of fear has been created.

That is South Africa. Closer to home, the Tanzanian Lesbian Association has had to help relocate two lesbians following the publication of a picture of them kissing under the banner: “Uchafu”...

...Prejudice and stereotypes both cause and enable systemic discrimination. When they are “sanctioned” by those considered to be authorities, the logical outcome is the kind of hate crimes now being witnessed in South Africa...

...What the African Anglican bishops have essentially said is that African citizens are “right” in their prejudices and stereotypes about African gay communities. It is thus the African Anglican hierarchy that should “repent.” If we do not stop and check ourselves, we can rest assured that the damage ultimately caused will not just be to the Anglican family worldwide. The damage will be to our own.
Unfortunately, those who sanction such hate crimes are not limited to Africa, as we have recently seen in this conversation. The manager of the linked site made the following statements, in which his intended target was a certain "collection of whiny, effeminate bedwetters," which is his colorful description of the House of Bishops:

...I’m already reaching for my pistol...“reachin’ for my pistol” is an old expression I use around here. No threat is being made...but they shouldn’t find fault with those who want to pick up their sword...
This "no threat" threat was then dismissed as "humor," with few finding fault in the manager's choice of words.

What is most disturbing is that even after it was pointed out that such language might be misunderstood as sanctioning hate crimes, the manager not only refused to remove the troubling comments, but continued to make further derogatory statements.

For the record, this manager may very well be one singularly disturbed person. I am not suggesting that he is representative of most ultra-conservative Anglicans in North America. The responsible reaction would have been to simply remove the questionable comments, rather than the childish rant about sissies and "men being men" offered by the manager of the site.

Honorable men and women admit their mistakes and then do what they can to correct them. When someone who claims to speak for the Church in Africa, or a parachurch organization in North America, sanctions such ugly rhetoric, they share the responsibility for the hate crimes that may result. They should step up and do the right thing; admit their error and show true repentance for their actions.


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