Monday, 23 June 2008

The Guardian: An unheavenly silence on homophobia

Barely 24 hours into the Global Anglican Futures conference (Gafcon) in Jerusalem and the assembled leaders have already exhausted every synonym for schism, without uttering the word itself, to describe the impact of actions taken by the US Episcopal church and the Anglican church of Canada. The meeting, lasting eight days and costing £2.5m, is the climax of ultimatums and summits, spanning a decade, about the ordination and consecration of gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions.

Last night, the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, said the Gafcon movement would liberate people from religious bondage and would offer a spiritual haven for those who could not live under a "revisionist leadership". It sounds appealing to the millions of Anglicans disillusioned with western churches. But a press conference revealed acute differences of opinion between the bishops, especially, and most worryingly, on the subject of raping and torturing homosexuals.

A question from Iain Baxter, a media representative from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, aroused expressions of disbelief and outright denial from the primates. The name of his organisation raised a discomfiting titter. Homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya and is punishable by a fine, imprisonment or death.

Archbishops from these countries were on the panel. They said they could not influence government policy on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) legislation, nor could they condone homosexual behaviour because their churches would be shut down. They added one could not break the taboos of African society without suffering the consequences.

Presumably, these cultural constraints justify the punishment meted out to Prossy Kakooza, Baxter's example of someone tortured because of her sexual orientation. She was arrested, marched naked for two miles to a police station, raped and beaten. Read more
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