Homosexuality in the Communion–Once Again…

There’s a statement out from the Primate of Sudan said to be representing the views of 150 bishops from 17 provinces commending that Gene Robinson “should just go away from the Anglican world and be a normal Christian”.

This is not really news. (Except, of course, the revelation that Anglicans are not normal Christians…)

I’ll remark on what are the two most important parts of it from my read.

  • The real key quote: “Asked whether there were homosexuals in Sudan, Deng said, ‘They have not come to the surface, so no, I don’t think we have them.'” It’s one thing to look at homosexuality as it currently is lived out in the Western world, to analyze it as we analyze other behaviors, and to come to the conclusion that the Bible, Church tradition, and reasoned evidence in light of scientific and spiritual truths leads one to believe that Christianity does not and cannot sanction it. It’s another entirely to reject a thing without having a grasp on it. This statement shows that Archbishop Deng is speaking from a paradigm that fundamentally does not intersect the North American situation. (And I’d wager a great deal we do exactly the same when we shoot off our mouths about polygamy…)
  • Some interviewer asked if conservative Americans were behind the statement; the archbishop denied it. Based on the people and clergy that I have personally known from the Global South… Actually, back up… From the African people and clergy I have personally known, all of them have been vehemently opposed to homosexuality. I do believe some Westerners are of the opinion that conservative Americans are driving African and other Global South bishops to say something that they wouldn’t ordinarily say. And I think that’s false. I think the Africans would be saying this even if there were no conservative American party. As we all know, however, there is and they are stirring things up in the sense that their support emboldens primates like Archbishop Deng and others to say what they believe with reduced fear of reprisals, financial and otherwise.

One third point…: Along the lines of the first question, I wish a reporter had asked if there were any divorced people in the Sudan and what the Archbishop’s opinion might be of them as parishioners or clergy…


I think it’s important to include this. These fuirther statments found at Anglican Mainstream give us a bit of background for the archbishop’s paradigm and some of the issues that make this whole situation harder:

“This issue of homosexuality in the Anglican Communion has a very serious effect in my country. We are called ‘infidels’ by the Moslems. That means that they will do whatever they can against us to keep us from damaging the people of our country. They challenge our people to convert to Islam and leave the infidel Anglican Church. When our people refuse, sometimes they are killed. These people are very evil and mutilate and harm our people. I am begging the Communion on this issue so no more of my people will be killed.

“My people have been suffering for 21 years of war. Their only hope is in the Church. It is the center of life of my people. No matter what problem we have, no material goods, no health supplies or medicine; no jobs or income; no availability of food. The inflation rate makes our money almost worthless and we have done this for 21 years. The Church is the center of our life together.

“The culture does not change the Bible; the Bible changes the culture. Cultures that do not approve of the Bible are left out of the Church’s life; people who do not believe in the Bible are left out of our churches. The American church is saying that God made a mistake. He made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Adam.

Globalization is a complicated force that we still have no clue how to handle.

22 thoughts on “Homosexuality in the Communion–Once Again…

  1. Christopher

    It’s also important to know that homosexuality is punishable by death in The Sudan, which as we know, when laws exist…

    And I’ve known Africans from Tanzania, Nigeria, Mali, South Africa, and Rwanda who are not opposed to homosexuality in toto, so I think things may be more complex than this.

  2. Christopher

    What it comes down to imho opinion is that this Communion is willing to allow the deaths of homosexuals if it will save everyone else. It may a majority calculus; that doesn’t make it Christian.

  3. Derek the Ænglican

    What a surprise, then, that the archbishop doesn’t know of any…

    Indeed, my point is that things are often *much* more complex than they appear to. Sound-bites really don’t cut it.

    I suspect, too that homosexuality is not the only issue that draws Muslim ire…

  4. The young fogey

    This Punch-and-Judy show is just as predictable and relevant…

    It also reminds me of professional wrestling. Who one thinks the baby-face and heel are seems to correspond to the latitude of one’s homeland.

    An African bishop says a mixture of things true and crude/hurtful/lost in translation.

    American liberals then get to play the SWPL game of showing off to other upper-middles through displaying righteous indignation. More partial truth, this time about charity and rights.

    Repeat ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

    The Anglican Communion should make up its mind which side it’s on, the Episcs’ or the Global South’s (at the end of the programme somebody will be sent home), and +New Hampshire should cut out the pity-party world tour, go home and just do some bishopping.

    Unless he converts to the Catholic faith or I go into schism and heresy we’ll never be in communion (also true of Abp Deng) but if he did that he’d get more of my respect.

  5. Derek the Ænglican

    American liberals then get to play the SWPL game of showing off to other upper-middles through displaying righteous indignation. More partial truth, this time about charity and rights.

    Feel free to mock—just don’t expect it to forward your argument.

    Here’s the bottom line for me. Yes, I’m sick of arguing over this too, but it needs to continue and must continue. As you are well aware, homosexuality is a capital crime in the Sudan and a jailable crime in many other places in Africa. My clearly detestable bourgeoisie sensibilities have a problem with this; apparently your more developed libertarian ones do not. Good to see “culture of life” is a disposable talking point.

    I can’t put pressure on the Sudanese or other African governments. I can’t change opinions there. What I can do is try to keep my church in discussions with their church. My church can continue to push the notion that all people are to be respected even if you don’t happen to like what they do together. That’s one of the things continued conversation is about—challenging other churches to remember parts of the Gospel message they’ve either forgotten or ignored. That’s why it’s important that I talk with you, with Roman Catholics, and with others with whom I have disagreements.

    This comment sounds as if those who disagree with you would stop talking, everything would be better. I tend to disagree and I’ll remind you of that…

  6. Christopher


    I agree, understanding another’s context is important. I don’t think I’ve said otherwise. I’m enough aware of some of the complexities in different areas of the African continent to not dismiss this wholesale, or to think that we all think alike, even in terms of categories and their existence or not. I also think that continuing to talk with and argue with and pray with others is important. But that’s hard to do of course when the only representative at such a conference is disinvited. I’m sure Bishop Robinson has put up with quite a lot from fellow Christians, but it seems fellow Christians cannot even abide the presence of the likes of him. So much for whose contexts count.

    And so I’ve become weary and wary of the use of context as a reason all of its own. Lisa Fox at My Manner of Life offers some further insight on this as well. I’m tired of it being okay for others to use context as a reason, but it’s not okay for TEC. The ABC has used such arguments similarly while being dismissive of the complexities gays face in such contexts or even in his own back yard. His comments a couple of years ago about a bombing in a gay bar still leaves a lot to be desired.

    What comes across is that we can justify harming gays in the name of context and at the same time we don’t have to bother with the contexts of gays at all. Context then becomes a more passive way to coerce, as long as only the right sorts of contexts are discussed.

  7. Derek the Ænglican

    My point in reminding us of his context was neither to excuse nor condone. Internet debate is too easily disembodied debate where we can unconsciously assume that other people’s worlds are like ours. My point was that his context serves us a reminder of the kinds of ethical calculus that appear to become acceptable in environments of unmitigated violence.

    I’m not “justifying” hurting anyone in the name of context. You should know better than that.

  8. Dan

    “The Anglican Communion should make up its mind which side it’s on, the Episcs’ or the Global South’s (at the end of the programme somebody will be sent home), and +New Hampshire should cut out the pity-party world tour, go home and just do some bishopping.”

    Fogey, I agree with you to the extent that I think Bishops should stop the political campaigning and get down to their episcopal duties of serving priests and parishes in their own dioceses. However, you bit about coming down on one side or the other is arguably counter to what Anglicanism is (the too often referenced via media. The Church ought to be able to rise above the political tensions of classical liberalism (the common heritage shared by all conservatives and liberals), rather than siding with conservative or liberal and thereby giving in to nihilisim.

  9. The young fogey

    Derek: Psalm 115:1. It’s not about agreeing with me but objective truth which I try, and fail, and try again, to live up to every day.

    I don’t see a logical connexion (inseparability) between upholding that truth on sexual morals and persecuting and killing homosexuals in the Sudan.

    Again St Seraphim of Sarov agreed with Abp Deng on the matter yet is not known to have cheered beating up gays.

    Dan, you bring up an interesting point as Anglicans from the time of the Henrician schism, and all 16th-century Protestants, agreed with Catholicism on the issue dividing the conservative- and liberal-Protestant Anglicans today. (Until 1930 they all agreed on contraception too.) So the conservatives can cite a lot of precedent in your own church. The question then is ‘Is the traditional teaching on the matter inherent in Anglicanism like the Anglican conservatives claim or is it just a cultural accident from the 1500s to be sloughed off with ruffed collars for men and the second-person familiar in the standard English language?’ IOW you and Derek may well be right that going with the flow of contemporary society (like the deists and Freemasons including America’s founding fathers and many English clergy in the 1700s) is of the essence of Anglicanism and traditional teaching on this issue is not.

    IOW as another writer recently put it, Evangelicalism, Methodism and Anglo-Catholicism were examples of Anglicans half-hating their own inherent liberalism and regarding that essence of Anglicanism all those reactions were wrong.

    (Can a church set up to be subservient to the state really do more than cater to modern received opinion wherever it happens to be?)

    There’s the objective truth on that question – not about homosexuality but about Anglicanism – and then there’s the matter of a rich minority and poor majority holding opposing views on it. ‘Money talks, bullshit walks.’

    As the two sides are implacably opposed and indeed the Lambeth Conference has literally gone broke, it seems the notion of an Anglican Communion, a 19th-century imitation perhaps of the Orthodox communion, which unlike the Orthodox has contradictory theological camps (so there are really four Anglicanisms, Catholic, Central, Evangelical and Broad) with no authority holding them together other than a vague association with British political power (the Anglican church followed the Union Jack around the world), is passé. The sun has set.

    As I’ve said before, none of that affects Episcopalians in any way nor should it, whether your church remains Anglican or leaves/is expelled. No-one can shut you down except you.

  10. Derek the Ænglican

    YF: I definitely pray Ps 115:1 along with you.

    What we fundamentally disagree on is the nature of the truth. You believe in an infallible church. Therefore you can claim an objective truth.

    I believe in an infallible God who reveals himself to fallible humans. While the Holy Spirit directs and guides we have God-given free will that we can and do use to misunderstand (whether willfully or not) the revelations of the Good God. I believe that all my heart that the words of the creeds are true and that the Scriptures are God’s self-revelation to us whose truths and depths surpass the frail and fallible human words from which it is constructed.

    I also believe that human interpretations of the Scriptures as read through the creeds are inherently less than objective…

    Am I just going with the flow of contemporary society? Was Chrysostom when he advocated the eradication of the Jews–or was that objective truth?

  11. bls

    It’s so interesting to me that the effort to point out the Church’s viciousness against homosexual people is blithely described by the so-called “orthodox” to be a “pity-party.”

    Gay people are the ONLY group anybody could possibly use this term against and get away with it. Imagine if governments all over the world were throwing any other group of innocent people in jail; imagine further if you think anybody would refer to the movement to stop this as a “pity-party”!

    Well, you can’t. Interesting, as I say – but unfortunately quite the usual thing, from “orthodox” religionists.

  12. bls

    (And thanks for mentioning Chrysostom, Derek. Somehow the “infallible” church got infected with a deep anti-Semitism – and somehow the “orthodox” seem always to ignore this.

    Oh, yes, I know: fallible individuals, infallible church.

    At some point, though, the question becomes: what, exactly, does the church consist of, if not of these fallible individuals? Who makes the rules in this infallible institution if not these fallible individuals? And what good is the theoretical notion of an infallible church to us, people who by defintion live an incarnational faith and who worship a God who acts in history?

    Vanity, vanity. A chasing after wind.)

  13. The young fogey

    Yes, infallible church, fallible people.

    I really don’t think +New Hampshire wasted all that time, money, fuel and ozone to fly all the way to England and talk nonstop to the press because of what a non-Christian government in a country not his is doing to homosexuals there. The Gene Robinson Show is ultimately about Gene Robinson… and, along the way, trying to force the poor majority in his ‘communion’ to obey who he thinks are their betters.

  14. Derek the Ænglican

    So sorry YF–I didn’t realize that you were his confessor.

    If we don’t listen to arrogant, self-aggrandizing folk in the Church I’ll run & throw out my Athanasius, Jerome, and Luther volumes immediately. (For if we judge them as you judge +New Hampshire they’re far more guilty… )

    However, in case you hadn’t noticed the archbishop of the Sudan just put out a statement on +New Hampshire. It’s something that has come to the level of consciousness that he has now had to address–something that the gays and lesbians in the Sudan have apparently failed to do. No, he doesn’t agree–but it’s now on the table.

    Something that jailing and execution tends to prevent.

  15. Derek the Ænglican

    Oh–on the fallible people, infallible church issue…

    Was Pope Adrian IV’s gift of Ireland to the Kings of England a political matter or a theological matter as the bull Laudabiliter declares?

    How do you determine the difference?

    And I’m assuming, of course, that it makes no difference at all that Adrian IV was English himself…

  16. The Anglican Scotist

    Who can really know why Sudan said what it said? Maybe it was entirely their own doing, maybe not.

    We (TEC) can probably agree retaliation of any sort is off the table–we should continue working as closely with Sudan as we can.

    However, Sudan does seem to be in denial about home-grown homosexuality, to the point of making what will be heard as ludicrous claims that undercut the gravity of Sudan’s announcement.

    That denial should not be allowed to slide off down the memory hole, as the same type of denial came up at GAFCOn–indeed, denial seems symptomatic of GS criticism of Robinson’s ordination. That needs to be revisited: why is denial so important to the integrity of GS critique? Who needs to hear the Denial, and Why?

  17. The Anglican Scotist

    Of course, I have a theory.

    Hypothesis A: The GS thinks their North Atlantic episcopal/clerical allies want to hear the Denial as part of the GS “hard line”. The fear is that the GS does not want to look like it is softening.

    Hypothesis B: The Noth Atlantic conservative blogging elite wants to hear the Denail. The whole Separatis movement seems to be in large part driven by virtual communities–and these Vitueonline/T19/SFiF/etc folks have a much harder edge than their episcopal/clerical leaders. The online rank and file wants blood–and the Denial fits with their wants worldview.

    Hypothesis C: The GS needs the Denial in order to evade the responsibility for pastoral care it would be resposible for offering homosexuals in their provinces. ITis an unstated assumption made by the GS,it seems to me, that they would have to take a much softer line if they thought they had to offer pastoral care.

  18. bls

    Speaking of “infallible” – has anybody seen this? Here’s an excerpt, and I’ll bold the hilarious relevant part:

    The vatican representative addressing the Lambeth Conference this week, Cardinal Dias, suggested that Anglicans were suffering from ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s’ and ‘ecclesiological Parkinson’s.’ He was referring primarily to the tensions between progressive and traditional theologians regarding the inclusion of partnered gay persons and women into clerical orders. This latest commentary may be seen as but the latest in a series of insulting comments made by or on behalf of the Bishop of Rome to Anglicans – especially those in America, Canada, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia where partnered gay persons and/or women are more able to be included into clerical orders.

    These guys absolutely slay me.

    Here’s the last part of the post itself:

    Frankly, the Church of Rome while proud in so many ways of so much, should not claim a clarity of memory and honest self-assessment among its strengths.

    Need I list the many ways and moments and shadowy aspects of the Church of Rome’s long history which it so frequently denies and covers up?

    Hopefully not.


  19. bls

    YF, the things you say here really reflect far more on you than they do on Gene Robinson, I’m sorry to say. As Derek notes, you can’t possibly know what Gene Robinson’s motives are, and that you feel free to pronounce on them so negatively says much more about you than about anybody else.

    Derek, I agree that the situation in the Sudan is much worse than anything any of us have experienced. But it isn’t just about TEC and Gene Robinson; the Anglican Church of Canada is also in on this discussion, and now so is the Church of England because of the noisy “gay wedding” thing a month or so ago. These things are happening; are gay people supposed to their lives on hold for a hundred years to give Muslims in Sudan time to get over calling Christians “infidels”? (I know you’re not saying this; it’s a rhetorical question.)

    Christianity itself is “infidel” to Islam, for heaven’s sake! What are we supposed to do about that – except to love, as Christians are commanded to? Why does it come down to a choice between gay people and poor Africans? And no, we should certainly not sever relations with the Sudan over this – unless they prefer it. I often think that GAFCON is a good thing, for Anglicans who really feel they need insulation from the gay issue in their own countries. (And BTW I’m certainly not referring here to the pathetic American separatist camp.)

  20. Derek the Ænglican

    I personally believe that the GS position is best embodied by your Hypothesis C but that it feeds and fuels your Hypothesis B.

    I’ve often said that protestants in general and Anglicans in particular have a general amnesia about the Christian past. Rome, on the other hand, seems to have a very selective amnesia. Where most of us don’t know our tradition, they forget the bits that they don’t like.

    *If* we believe that God acts in history, *if* we believe that the Holy Spirit guides the Church in spite of itself, then I think we have a pretty profound responsibility to both learn our history and to be honest about the messy realities we find there. Papering over the parts we don’t like truly does not serve the Gospel—it harms it. I think both we and the Romans (oh heck–how about everybody?) needs to learn more and use it as an opportunity for embracing Christian humility…

  21. Charlie J. Ray

    I guess if you can point out the sawdust in someone else’s eye it makes the tree in your own eye correct, true and right?

    The moral law of God stands alone and apart from human opinion. When you stand before God he’s not going to ask you what did your neighbor do. No, he’s going to judge you personally. Perhaps you should consider that God might be right and you might be wrong?

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