Editor's note: The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle is a San Diego human rights activist and is president of St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation. He is an expert on Ugandan LGBT issues through his work with Bishop Christopher Senyonjo.
As a cradle Anglican and Episcopalian priest, I was shocked to learn that out of 80 countries that currently criminalize homosexuality, 45 are former British colonies and whose modern elites are largely Anglicans.
The legacy of Anglican and British rule and morality in many parts of the modern world needs careful and urgent scrutiny right now in the light of two impending decisions that will save of destroy millions of human lives, in the name of God.
The first decision concerns the Ugandan parliament’s debate on Friday whether LGBT Ugandans should suffer death penalty or life imprisonment for being gay. The second decision will come on June 10 when the UN will decide its future strategy for HIV that excludes a significant minority of LGBT people in 80 countries because it is illegal to provide them with prevention information and health services. We also exclude sex workers and IV drug users from national HIV strategies in the same 80 countries.
In Uganda, the Bahati Bill, also known as the “Kill the Gays” bill, was created by a fellow Anglican (and AIDS orphan raised by a Ugandan bishop) with his provincial church supporting his bill. Half the countries who will deny basic information and health services to minorities within their national boundaries will do so because of religious and largely Anglican beliefs that strongly influence public policies. Public health and human rights advocates have spoken for a decade about the risks of creating these significant “holes” in the fabric of comprehensive national health policies and sabotaging the UNAIDS goal for universal access to health care that appears to be lead by ... yes, the Anglican Communion.
Uganda has clearly been the focus of attention in recent years and a proposed solution to LGBT and AIDS issues are before Parliament and the public eye. My simple question is this: Do Anglicans want to be remembered 50 years from now as being the major religious obstacle to global human rights violations and failed public policy on HIV? Or do we want to be remembered for being a global community that disagreed about a lot of things, but drew the line at protecting the sanctity of human life and its nurture of families of birth and families of choice?
The Bahati Bill, (for some Anglican’s the first fruits of their new world order flowering in the Pearl of Africa, Uganda) undermines both human life and requires family members to report on each other if they are gay or even suspected of being so. Can a member of a congregation in Newport Beach in Southern California or Truro, Va., pray for their Nigerian or Uganda bishop as their pastoral overseer who is publically supporting these kinds of bills, while these Christians enjoy the freedoms and democracy of North America? If these laws appear reasonable for Ugandans then one might assume, the clergy, vestries and convocation of North America might agree the laws of North America should be changed accordingly?
The Ugandan church is convinced God is calling them to be the new missionaries to North America and their seedling congregations that have left the Episcopal Church in recent years are viewed as their beach head in this Godless world.
Bahati has done more than any Anglican I know to make it crystal clear of these Ugandan intentions. But what does this mean practically speaking? If I have a gay son, niece or a co-worker who is lesbian and pray in churches under spiritual authority from Uganda or Nigeria, then can I imagine having to report them to the local police, knowing they will go to prison for 7-20 years -- just for being gay? Or maybe they should just be executed?
This is what our fellow Anglican bishops in African are supporting. We can praise Jesus and wish everyone a happy Easter (as bishop Mimms of CANA recently shared from Nairobi), but the truth of our complicity in the creation of the Ugandan nightmare and its implications for thousands of North American Anglicans is profound.
Globalization has brought us closer to each other and there is no going back … and God invites us to destroy or give life. If we cannot fully support what is going on in Uganda on these issues, we must share our concerns and take a position about the dignity, rights and responsibilities we have to one another that can be applied in both countries.
Please take a moment to send an email or even better to leave a phone message requesting the Convocation of Anglican Churches of North America (CANA) to make a statement on the proposed Bahati Bill that will be debated in the Ugandan Parliament on Friday.
The Archbishop of Canterbury made his position very clear:
The Archbishop of Canterbury is very concerned at the news that the proposed ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’ is once again under consideration by the Ugandan Parliament. Dr Williams wishes to reiterate his views, first expressed in December 2009:
"Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can't see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades. Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible - it seeks to turn pastors into informers."
The Episcopal Church made their position clear:
The Episcopal Church joins many other Christians and people of faith in urging the safeguarding of human rights everywhere. We do so in the understanding that "efforts to criminalize homosexual behavior are incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ" (General Convention 2006, Resolution D005).
This has been the repeated and vehement position of Anglican bodies, including several Lambeth Conferences. The Primates' Meeting, in the midst of severe controversy over issues of homosexuality, nevertheless noted that, as Anglicans, "we assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship" (Primates' Communiqué, Dromantine, 2005).
The Episcopal Church represents multiple and varied cultural contexts (the United States and 15 other nations), and as a Church we affirm that the public scapegoating of any category of persons, in any context, is anathema. We are deeply concerned about the potential impingement on basic human rights represented by the private member's bill in the Ugandan Parliament.
The Church of Uganda made their position clear:
1. Ensure that the law protects the confidentiality of medical, pastoral and counseling relationships, including those that disclose homosexual practice in accordance with the relevant professional codes of ethics.
2. Language that strengthens the existing Penal Code to protect the boy child, especially from homosexual exploitation; to prohibit lesbianism, bestiality, and other sexual perversions; and to prohibit procurement of material and promotion of homosexuality as normal or as an alternative lifestyle, be adopted.
3. Ensure that homosexual practice or the promotion of homosexual relations is not adopted as a human right.
4. Existing and future Educational materials and programmes on gender identity and sex education are in compliance with the values and the laws of Uganda.
5. The involvement of additional stakeholders in the evaluation of the gaps in the existing legislation, including, but not limited to, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, its Department of Immigration and other relevant departments.
6. The undertaking of a comprehensive legislative and literature review of all the laws and literature related to the subject at hand in order to identify the actual gaps in the existing legislations.
The Church of Uganda said it appreciates the following objectives in the bill:
a) provide for marriage in Uganda as contracted only between a man and woman;
b) prohibit and penalize homosexual behaviour and related practices in Uganda as they constitute a threat to the traditional family;
c) prohibit ratification of any international treaties, conventions, protocols, agreements and declarations which are contrary or inconsistent with the provisions of the Act;
d) prohibit the licensing of organizations which promote homosexuality.
We are still waiting to hear from the remaining Anglicans in North America who have provided support and shelter for David Bahati over the years? When he last visited the USA in December he stayed with leading members of Truro Church in Virginia who have close associations with the secretive organization, The Family.
Today I am launching a new internal conversation with fellow Anglicans who have been complicit in the creation of the climate of rampant homophobia in Uganda and other parts of the African continent. As fellow Anglicans, we cannot point the finger at fellow Americans without taking inventory of our own complicity in creating a reign of terror and murder in Uganda (David Kato, a fellow Anglican who was denied burial rites by the Church of Uganda which is closely aligned with these North American churches).
The Bahati Bill is clearly the fruit of many years of labor, evangelism and so called orthodox teaching between the African Anglican Churches and North American Anglicans and we would like to give CANA the opportunity to state its position in public before the Bahati Bill is discussed in parliament this Friday.
I enclose some telephone numbers and emails for fellow Anglicans and friends to share our common curiosity with bishops and other leaders of the Anglican Churches in North America who have yet to state clearly their positions. We have hyst hours to go before this defining moment in Anglican history is etched in stone.
CANA toll free number (888) 460 5556
Bishop David Anderson: bishop.anderson@CanaConvocation.org
Bishop Martin Minns: harry.zeiders@CanaConvocation.org
Presiding Bishop Robert Duncan: (724) 266 9400 firstname.lastname@example.org
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." - Edmund Burke