The Anglican Communion and Gays – When God is silent
20 Feb 2006: Dar es Salaam - The gathering of the Anglican Primates in Tanzania ended with a strong rebuke of the Episcopal Church in the United States who had been given until end Sept 2007 to confirm their position of restrain from blessing Gay unions or consecration of Gay Bishops based on the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10. The call “to listen to the experience of homosexual persons” under the same Lambeth resolution was conveniently ignored with the Nigeria Church not taken to task for their strong persecution against Gays. Parallel references were made to the slave trade of Zanzibar forgetting that justice for gays and Lesbians cannot be comparable to the blacks who had never been called sinners on the account of being black. The justice and basic dignity for gays impact all. When we closed our doors to gays, we too impaired our communion with Christ and loose much moral and spiritual ground to seek grace from God who would not justify our wickedness. It is ultimately a losing situation for all sides for the Nigerian Church who made up of half the communion will remain in abject poverty and the Episcopal Church will move further away from biblical faith on account of its misused by the Nigeria and Asian Primate to defend a morally and biblically indefensible position. At the end, the core message of the Gospel of Christ redemption and love will be silenced.
The Anglican Primates celebrated the end of the slave trade at Zanzibar but ironically their gathering perhaps represents the agreement to increase repression against Gays in Africa. The dispute has been initiated by the Nigerian Churches, which has supported strong persecution against gays. The remembrance Service led of Archbishop Rowan Williams was held at the Cathedral Church of Christ now stood as a memorial to the Christian efforts led by David Livingstone (1813-1873) to stamp out the slavery trade. The altar, which he preached, marks the site of the Auction block and the area where the slaves were tied and beaten. The crucifix at the Church is made from the wood from the tree under which Dr. Livingstone’s heart was buried in Zambia. In 1873, the treat of a British bombardment forced Sultan Barghash to close the slave market at Zanzibar. At its peak, more than 45,000 slaves passed through Zanzibar every year. The Europeans also took slaves but in 1822, the Omani Arabs signed the Moresby treaty to criminalize selling of slaves to the Western Nations. For many the events that have taken place have turned back the historical heritage of the 77 million strong Anglican Church against injustice and it has now become the new slave drivers, instruments and messengers of injustice and not the messengers of Gospel of Peace with God through Christ alone which it was called to become.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has made the instruments of unity override integrity and to do what is morally right. He has been willing to reject the Episcopal Church in America led by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori who has supported the basic rights of Gays, on insistence by the Global South, a grouping of Anglican Churches in Africa and Asia led by Peter Akinola, the Archbishop of Nigeria, and John Chew of South East Asia. The Global South has tended to interpret the bible literally as compared to the much more liberal Western Counterpart. However, the bible when read literally in context is at worst neutral to Gays in loving relationships, and at best supportive or consented to such relationships. The negative verses raised are but a smoke screen as they referred to the straight Jews worshiping other gods and the sexual religious practice. The Gay issue has been over sensationalized to come against the Episcopal churches for their generally liberal teachings that Christ is only a way to God. Gay rights have been used to expel the Episcopal Church and to “prune” Liberal Churches calling them Apostates and “non Christians”. At the end, it is the name of Christ that suffers as the Anglican Communion looses all moral rights in view of this wicket scheme to use gays as the ultimate scapegoats irrespective of its good intentions to return the communion to a more biblical faith.
Williams, urged the Primates to open their eyes to suffering felt by "minorities of one kind or another" in a sermon that also commemorated the end of slavery. "Today we remember the abolition of the slave trade, and that reminds us that ... for thousands of years, people did not see the evil of slavery," he said, standing in the cathedral built in 1874 on the site of Zanzibar's slave market. Indeed, the Primates have sinned greatly and there is great blood in their hands. Gays have been persecuted and condemned for over one thousand years led by Islam and Christianity. In the greatest of irony, it is now the Africans who have quickly forgotten the evils of slavery and are now the greatest protagonist against Gays. We remained great sinners because we have not understood the grace of God. When much grace is given and received, only then we can give grace. If we do not understand the grace of God, we can only but make it cheap and not recognized God’s grace of delivering the people of Africa from Slavery. Perhaps, the core of the problem lies in the theology of the Anglican Church where for the Liberals, Christ is but a great savior and not the only Savior (John 4:42), and secondly for the conservatives we still remains as great sinners needing the law but not a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). When such core teachings are not debated, we have broken communion not with each other but with Christ.
The day after the primates meeting on Feb 21 is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, which marks a 40-day period of fasting and penitence before Easter. It should have been as in Mark 1:14-17, a time of repentance of turning back to God and reviving our call to be fishers of men – to spread out the net of the Gospel of Christ for He is coming back ushering in the Kingdom of God. We are called to follow Christ and He will guide us to be actively involved in preaching of the Gospel of good news of God’s love and redemption. Instead we have followed our own carnal nature and have become the persecutors of men and shutting the gates of heaven for gays. We have caught a gay fish in our nets, spend much effort in debating on the fish, throwing back the fish into the sea and lost our overall focus on the Gospel. Whilst the Anglican South urged the Episcopal Church to reflect, the Archbishops has been silent – on the suffering, pain, discrimination and persecution of Gays in their nations and in Africa. Not only being neutral, they joined in their respective nations to encourage it. It would be pertinent to reflect that when the leaders of the church become great sinners unrepentant of the great harm and the injury they have caused to Gays and diverted from Gospel Christ centered message, it is God who becomes silent for we have not followed Christ.
At the meeting of the Primates in Tanzania, the focus has been on how to censure the Episcopal Church when the focus should have been whether the Anglican Communion has impaired communion with God. Isaiah whose name aptly describes Yahweh as our savior prophesized that the reason for their unanswered prayers lie not in God not answering but that their indifference and injustice to the poor and outcast in their midst was a hindrance to receiving from God. But God did ultimately answered by sending His son Jesus Christ for which Isaiah prophesized the coming of the messiah. Indeed, it was an anti-climax when Jesus came 700 years later, for He did not bring salvation from the foreign occupiers but He brought equality at the cross at Calvary. Whether one is rich or poor, rejected or accepted, if one believed in Jesus, he becomes a child of God. There is only one class in the kingdom of God, not whether rich or poor, but whether in Christ or without Christ. Isaiah was not only addressing our indifference to the poor and the outcasts for which the affirmative action to help these groups would clearly demonstrate Christ compassion and love through us. Isaiah was addressing the issue of justice. The religious leaders were supposed to be champions of the oppressed (Isa 58:6), and to be their helping hand (Isa 58:10) and their ‘light’ of hope. But no one did (Isa 59:4). Not only were the religious majority indifferent, they became the instigators and perpetrators of injustice and speaking lies and creating schemes of oppression. In Isa 59:2, it was these sins that stopped God’s move in their community. There is nothing new under the sun. The sins by the Anglican Communion against Gays may hinder God’s move in this communion just as He was silent in Israel. Ultimately, it does not matter whether the communion is seriously impaired but whether the Anglican Church has broken their communion with God.
What is the Christian communion? In the right context, Isaiah reminds us that God will "even" bring gays to His Holy Mountain, ie to the inner sanctuary of the temple of God at Jerusalem and in this dispensation of Grace, into the Church, into the body of Christ as Christians. God has not been silent because He loves Gays and are knocking at the doors of the church to let them in. Whilst the Anglican Primates has been silent and not attending to open the gate, God is knocking harder that even the Episcopal Church so humanistic and far from a biblical faith could not but hear the call of God in this area for justice. God will accept Gays, their prayers, their burnt offerings and sacrifices, which in this dispensation of grace is the identification with Christ death and sacrifice at the cross for mankind. God accepts Gays at His altar, at the Cross of Calvary, for His church will be called a house of prayer where God can be found through Christ for all nations or peoples groups including Gays. The promises that God made in Isa 56:7, He will fulfilled and is fulfilling for not one prophecy or word of God will return void or unfulfilled. Praise be to God.