Monday, 23 June 2008

GAFCON: press conference transcript

Iain Baxter has provided a full transcript of the responses of Archbishops Peter Akinola of Nigeria and Henry Orombi of Uganda, and also of Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, Australia to questions concerning homophobia asked at the GAFCON press conference yesterday. This is reproduced below the fold.

Responses of Archbishops Peter Akinola of Nigeria and Henry Orombi of Uganda to questions asked at GAFCON press conference 22.06.08

Iain Baxter, Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement:

One of the things in “The Way, the Truth and the Life,” one of the key points that you’ve written is to “prepare for an Anglican future in which the Gospel is uncompromised and Christ-centred” But the gospel is already compromised by bishops who support the jailing of lesbian and gay people throughout Africa, which then leads to rape, which leads to torture of people and yet they are not prepared to speak out against this and change the laws in their countries.

Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria: I am not aware of any.

Iain Baxter: You’re not aware of any who are in jail for being lesbian or gay?

PA: I am not aware of any.

IB: But these are the laws in your countries.

PA: But where, give me an example?

IB: I can give you an example: one woman who has claimed asylum in the United Kingdom, she has applied for asylum, her name is Prossy, she is a Ugandan lesbian, she has been… first of all she was jailed, she was raped in the police station, before that she was marched for two miles naked through the streets of Uganda, the British government has accepted this, the fact that she was tortured, and have agreed this in her asylum application, but however they are saying she could be sent back safely to a different village in Uganda and she is appealing.

That’s one example. The laws in your countries say that homosexual acts, actions are punishable by various rules. I don’t need to argue. Do you support these laws, or do you think they should be repealed?

PA: OK. Every community, every society, has its own standards of life. In ancient African societies we had what are called “taboos”, things you should not do, and if you break the taboos there are consequences.

Alright, so in your Western society many of these have arisen but in some of our African societies many things have not arisen and this happens to be one of them. In fact the word in our language does not exist in our language. So if the practice is now found to be in our society it is of service to be against it. Alright, and to that extent what my understanding is, is that those that are responsible for law and order will want to prevent wholesale importation of foreign practices and traditions, that are not consistent with native standards, native way of life.

So if you say it is good for you, it is not good for us …. If they say it is not right for our societies then it’s not right, and that’s it..

Archbishop Henry Orombi, Uganda:

Can I just come back to say that, that’s an example given for my country. There’s very little influence to stop the legislation of a law, an institute, in practice by the church. The church’s practice is to preach, to proclaim, so that people who find themselves in a position where they go away from the word of God, the same word of God can bring them back to life. And that is in Uganda as already Archbishop Akinola is saying.

I would be in trouble if I were to say to my people in Uganda that tomorrow I can officiate at a same-sex marriage in my church. First of all the church will be closed.. Two, I might even be fired from my job because the question they are going to ask me is “Have you not read the word of God? And teach us now.”

Simply saying that the Christian faith that we practice, which was brought from the West, by the way, taught us what biblically sexuality is. We’ve embraced that faith, we are practicing that faith, and moving away from that faith would be a contradiction to what we have inherited. First of all our communities will not accept them because they will want to let them know that if that is your orientation you can come back to life. It’s a possibility there. We believe there is a possibility culturally. Secondly, we believe there is a possibility according to Christian faith. And we believe that, that God can bring you back when you have gone out of what is supposed to be intended by God. Now there is a complement in believing there is transformation, there is restoration, that makes us stand on the word of God which can bring change to people, as it has done to us over a period of time.

When we first received missionaries, way back, if we go back to 1886 we had a young man and a king and he wanted to have a sexual, homosexual, relationship with him. Now this young man had already taken a new standard of Christian faith and said “No we can’t do that because the word of God says this.” They paid for their lives. This man on the 3rd of June was commemorated and about a million people went to remember them. So the thing which is plain in our African society, other than government rule, it is culturally our community of faith, and where they stand is rock solid now, the amazing thing is that it is the western church that brought this Christianity to us. We believed it, we are practicing it, and now the western church is advocating for something which is contrary to what their ancestors brought us.

Supplementary Question from Riazat Butt of the Guardian:

I’d like to come back on the question asked by Iain Baxter earlier..

I didn’t actually hear you condemn at all the rapes of gays and lesbians in your countries. He wasn’t asking you if you could change government legislation he was asking you whether the Gospel had been compromised by the way they had been treated. Is there something in Christianity about forgiveness?

HO: If you were for the Shogah in Kampala a few weeks ago the gay demonstrated in the country and they were not arrested. The gay led a press conference and they were not arrested.

RB: We’re not talking about freedom of expression, he was specifically referring to the use of torture and rape.

HO: I would not believe a thing like that is done in the public knowledge of the people of Uganda because the gay people who are Ugandans are citizens of the country and we would cherish the fact that we would want to send it our people. For some of those things probably you get information in England and we may not even get information, I don’t know how they get their information.

Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen:

Can I add to that, because I think it needs to be said, on behalf of these brothers, if not by themselves, any violence against any person, is in Christian terms wrong, and that the suggestion that these things occur, which of course occur in the west, it’s not just an African problem, if they occur in the west, if they occur in Australia, I would be the first to condemn it.

I certainly have public condemned and will continue to publicly condemn any violence against any people and in particular gay and lesbian people. I am certain that this is, I understand, what Archbishop Orombi says and that is exactly the position and I am very glad that this opportunity has arisen for the question to be raised again because I thought it was not answered in the answers which were being given to the others side of the question. But I think I am right in speaking for all of us here and, indeed, if that were not the case I would certainly stand alone here and say it but I am sure I speak for all in saying that any such violence, any such behaviour within the prison system, for Christians of another variety, or whatever, is condemned by us.

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Comments

Now, tell me again: just *who* is shaping the faith to meet the standards of local culture?

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 3:46pm BST

Archbishop Jensen's summary doesn't quite square with Archbishop Orombi's statement, methinks.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 4:03pm BST

Gosh, this is even more damning than the very poorly transcripted/edited version on Stand Firm.

+Jensen:

"Can I add to that, because I think it needs to be said, on behalf of these brothers, if not by themselves..."

"On BEHALF OF"!!! Why not BY THEMSELVES?

"But I think I am right in speaking for all of us here and, indeed, if that were not the case I would certainly stand alone here..."

"I THINK I'm right"? What's to think about?
"if that were not the case..."? How could there be any doubt?

Posted by: MJ on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 4:29pm BST

The funny thing is that what AB Orombi is defending as "Anglican" and what his missionaries taught is not so much the local "Culture" as the British Colonial laws of the 1880ies, still on the books im many former colonies around the world.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 5:15pm BST

I'm sorry it all reads very disingenuous and un-Christian.

Posted by: the Reverend boy on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 5:33pm BST

I actually think it is a matter of translation, an issue of language. I do not believe the archbishops were in any way condemining violence towards GLBT. It seems what they were responding to was the difference of how traditional African culture has typically not discussed homosexuality in the way that it is being debated in western cultures. Point blank, I don't think they understood the questions.

Posted by: J Blair on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 5:35pm BST

Awareness, Mr(s) Blair.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 5:41pm BST

"It seems what they were responding to was the difference of how traditional African culture has typically not discussed homosexuality in the way that it is being debated in western cultures. Point blank, I don't think they understood the questions."

If you ask Nigerian Davis Mac-Iyalla about this, one of the banned, you will discover that the question is very well understood and very much alive in Africa.

When a lesbian woman is beaten and raped for her sexuality, it is quite clear that she's bleeding and in pain. What's not to understand, in whatever culture?

It is patronising to believe that African Christians are incapable of recognising violence and condemning it.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 6:19pm BST

And therein lies the problem - you cannot expect one belief to take account of all of these cultural differences. This is why listening processes do not work, because people are so very deeply homophobic that they refuse to engage, which would mean challenging the very basis of how they think.

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 6:35pm BST

J Blair:

English is the official language of both Nigeria and Uganda. Both Akinola and Orombi seem to have no difficulty in communicating in English when they wish to speak to the rest of the Anglican Communion.

I don't think "torture" and "rape" are terms that need special definitions in different cultures.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 6:37pm BST

J Blair, if you really believe that, then I have a bag of magic beans I'd like to interest you in, at a very fair price.

Posted by: poppy tupper on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 6:58pm BST

NO mention of Christ in the city he walked and taught in....in either the hand book, ironically called " The way, the truth and the life" or in Akinola's sermon.

Defending the sanctity of marriage without mention of Christ's teaching ...as these self proclaimed belivers in the clarity and perspicuity of God's Word cannot agree what it means!!!

Come on its not homophobia thats missisng but Jesus Christ!

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 9:24pm BST

Poppy, I did like that.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 9:24pm BST

The more the bishops speak, the deeper a hole they dig for themselves.

Posted by: counterlight on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 9:24pm BST

If the culture/laws still effective on the African books are way too indebted to British empire and its missionaries, circa 1880 - one might suspect that the narratives of dirt and disgust and danger are equally likely to be similarly indebted to the best of European negative 19th century thinking on the hot button subjects - topics we now call, sexual orientation variance, gender variance, and the new going frame of nurture x nature, neither one alone nor the other.

Jensen has his work cut out for him, as sooner or later he must be tarred with tar from the same African brushes, or stand silently by while they trash talk and go all dewy and golden about the many different and privileged ways in which, say, African lesbians back home can be mistreated with large state and cultural and religious approval, right across the boards.

If there ever were potent cases which argued this allegedly innovative thing in Anglican circles, i.e., big tents which include and stand us in peace across our differences - surely these GAFCON bishops and archbishops are that case, incarnate.

Let she who has ears listen to what the Spirit is saying to we who are believers in Jesus of Nazareth, all around the planet.

Posted by: drdanfee on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 9:38pm BST

Homosexuality, like heterosexuality, originated in Africa. It is a fundamental part of our evolution as a species that a minority of the population is oriented that way, and it has always existed in every society. No one can say that homosexuality per se is an import of Western lifestyles, only acceptance of it is. For Akinola to claim that there is not a word for it in his language is disingenuous, as Davis Mac-Iyalla has informed us before. The emerging gay rights movement in Uganda is forever hampered by the Martyrs of Uganda, because of one evil king who happened to be gay.

When The Bishop of London remarked last week that the contoversy of St Bart's shouldn't distract us from the "global issues of peace, justice and poverty that confront the peoples of the world" as part of the Church's "big agenda", he will no doubt appreciate that, for many of us, justice for gays in Africa is just one of the many justice issues around the world that comprise the "big agenda".

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 10:11pm BST

When The Bishop of London remarked last week that the contoversy of St Bart's shouldn't distract us from the "global issues of peace, justice and poverty that confront the peoples of the world" as part of the Church's "big agenda" Hugh of Lincoln

Oh yes, how sad to be "distracted" with such, seemingly unimportant, clearly unpleasant, woozie subject as SAVING the lives of fellow LGBT Christian/others in Africa/beyond... offering love and a "blessing" instead of outcasting and abominating and preaching puts us in a bit of a pickle...what?

How wasteful/rude to think of enlightening OUR world when Akinola and Orombi still, can/do revert to perpetuating their mysterious taboo mischiefmaking and superstitous blather at Church...don't these ++gents from Nigeria and Uganda get it? There job description is to lead Christians by exhibiting a POSTIVE moral guide...a guide that doesn't include destroying the LGBT Integrity Community Center in Uganda or endorsing brutal anti-human rights laws in Nigeria...or attempting to thieve Church property in the U.S.A./Canada.

The Bishop of London wants to deal with more tasteful/pasturized missions I suppose.

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 11:35pm BST

"I do not believe the archbishops were in any way condemining violence towards GLBT."

No. They weren't. That's the bloody problem. Despite being offered several opportunities, these two satanic men refused flat out to say that torture and murder were wrong.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Tuesday, 24 June 2008 at 12:08am BST

“The more the bishops speak, the deeper a hole they dig for themselves.”

Precisely the conclusion of The Telegraph ; = )

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 24 June 2008 at 7:15am BST

Hi

Thanks for a very useful post.

I think I tend to agree with J Blair so why have a good at the post in such unsavory terms. I think we should be wary of trying read too much into the answers.

I think it does highlight what a huge cultural gap with have to over come before we can understand what different sides are talking about in this debate. Which is why the listening process is so important and why it is sad we don't manage it very well.

Posted by: Waywalker on Tuesday, 24 June 2008 at 8:58am BST

I hope that the BBC and ITN will carry reports of this press conference. I trust that the Times and the Telegraph will have a full account of the opinions expressed and the statements so clearly NOT made. Perhaps the 'Sunday Programme' might manage now to report on the conservative opinions that implicitly support the rape and torture of men and women? Sadly, I doubt it.

Posted by: Commentator on Tuesday, 24 June 2008 at 9:17am BST

Mark Russell, Chief Executive of the Church Army in the UK, has written a commendable blog piece:

"I know many bishops in England who do not agree with everything other bishops say, or do not agree with some of the things they have done, but are committed to being together, to pray together, and to seek to demonstrate Christian love to their flocks. I commend them for their leadership and Godly example. It is in marked contrast to some bishops at GAFCON who refused to condemn violence against gay people in their home countries. Quite honestly that is disgraceful, it sullies their cause, and is totally un-Christian. I find it ironic that these are the very bishops shouting the loudest that Rowan Williams is un-Christian! You cannot justify violence in God's name. Period. To the eternal credit of Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, he condemned the violence when the african bishops refused. Those who perpetrate violence against gay people in Africa now can use this silence to justify their behaviour. Christians must speak up and say this is wrong.
The irish novelist Brian Moore once said there are 2 hidden kinds of lies in the world. The lies of silence, where good people do not speak up when wrong is done, and the lies of truth, where lies are told so often they pickle into truth. We need as Christians to speak up against these lies when we see them.
Whatever your views on Christianity and sexuality, violence against gay people is wrong, and homophobia is wrong. Jesus died for all people whether straight or gay, and he loves everyone equally."

http://russellmark.blogspot.com/2008/06/countdown-to-lambeth.html

A couple of other pieces worth reading are:

"Archbishops fail to condemn violence against lesbians and gays" from Ekklesia - http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/7356

"When Jerusalem turns to Little England" by Simon Barrow - http://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/ourkingdom-theme/anthony-barnett/2008/06/23/when-jerusalem-turns-to-little-england

Posted by: MJ on Tuesday, 24 June 2008 at 10:21am BST

"foreign practices and traditions"

Yet more untruth. Homosexuality is NOT something imported into Africa by the evil white enslaver to oppress Africans. Post colonialist bigotry. I imagine I'd think it a pretty attractive drum to bang too if I was African. It's not a Christian thing to do, though, misrepresent your history to justify your unChristian behaviour.

"This man on the 3rd of June was commemorated and about a million people went to remember them."

This is incredibly significant, and one the Left seems to have ignored. To Ugandans, TEC blessing gay relationships is a statement that some of their most cherished martyrs died for nothing. I haven't seen it addressed anywhere, but it is extremely disrespectful not to explain why we too would venerate these people, and why what they resisted is not the same thing at all as what TEC wants to bless.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 24 June 2008 at 12:51pm BST

no homosexuality in the african tradition? what of this collection and analysis of ethnographer's reports.

http://www.amazon.com/Boy-Wives-Female-Husbands-Studies-Homosexualities/dp/0312238290

Posted by: winnowing on Tuesday, 24 June 2008 at 2:46pm BST

Ford makes a good point re: the Ugandan martyrs.

We absolutely need to be able to articulate the distinction between same-sex relationships based in love and mutuality and same-sex relationships which amount to rape. I know we all know that, but that doesn't mean that those raised to the veneration of the Ugandan martyrs will intuitively see that distinction.

Of course, the other thig about the story of the Ugandan martyrs is that it puts the lie to the claim that homosexuality is not African.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Tuesday, 24 June 2008 at 5:01pm BST

"Of course, the other thig about the story of the Ugandan martyrs is that it puts the lie to the claim that homosexuality is not African."

This is sad. Of course, Archbishops Orombi and Akinola, etc., know that homosexuality exist in Africa as the Ugandan martyrs point to. What they reject is the arrogant Western "We are more enlightened than you bunch of hateful, primitive homophobes" and we are going to foist our cultural accommodations that fly in the face of scripture.

These archbishops have said many times that they want homosexuals to repent and turn from their ways. "When the church in the West says, ‘We bless your homosexual union,’ they have failed people. We should love them better than that.” Of course, they are against stoning adulterers OR homosexuals. They read and heed the Bible, including John 8:7.

Posted by: robroy on Tuesday, 24 June 2008 at 6:37pm BST

But the Gafconites would rather see a return to Patriarchy, wouldn't they, judging by their attitudes,

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 24 June 2008 at 7:20pm BST

But the Gafconites would rather see a return to Patriarchy, wouldn't they, judging by their attitudes.

And the sub-ordination of all.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 24 June 2008 at 7:21pm BST

"the other thig about the story of the Ugandan martyrs is that it puts the lie to the claim that homosexuality is not African."

I don't think it does, Malcolm. It says that Africans in one culture in Uganda considered homosexual sex to be demeaning enough that it was used as evidence of submission to the will of the king, not the same thing at all. It does not imply that any of the participants in such an act were homosexual. The evidence that homosexuality IS as much a part of African culture as it is anywhere comes from Africans themselves, those who are gay and those who acknowledge that gay people were loathed in African society before the coming of the colonialists. Akinola doesn't seem to realize that his statements concerning the inherent hositlity of traditional African society to homosexuality implies the exiastence of homosexuals, since why would they have taboos against something that doesn't exist?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 24 June 2008 at 7:32pm BST

"These archbishops have said many times that they want homosexuals to repent and turn from their ways."

And they're doing it with such love that the only out gay Nigerian Christian is living in exile fearing for his life.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 24 June 2008 at 9:34pm BST

Winnowings link here to Amazon: Boy-Wives and Female Husbands, from East Africa, could illustrate the dilemma of 19th century Colonialism and the burden placed on Missionaries to defend ideologically its values in the African context.

Most interesting.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Wednesday, 25 June 2008 at 6:37am BST

"Culture wars", ideeed.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Wednesday, 25 June 2008 at 6:40am BST

"What they reject is the arrogant Western "We are more enlightened than you bunch of hateful, primitive homophobes" "

Only ever said by a few hotheads. The fear and hate mongers have to blow it up into some sort of general Western arrogance, as though everyone in the West was identical and we all thought the same way, and Spong is our guru. You won't acknowledge the truth, you'd lose a demon if you did that. For what it's worth, I think +Akinola can think and argue rings around most "liberals", he's certainly got the educational cred. I agree that it is a significant point in the right's attitude, I just think it has been blown out of all proportion by those who have learned that the best way to get people onside is to concoct a myth of the evil arrogant Western liberals trying to destroy the Church and walking arrogantly over anyone who gets in their way. It works, judging by your posts. You can't see the evidence of their homophobia even when it is explained to you. And it isn't just hotheads on the right saying Westerners believe nothing at all, have no respect for Scripture or Tradition (hypocritical, given how innovative most of their beliefs are), and are trying to destroy the Church. That is a pretty common belief. Who just called us "apostate"?

"We should love them better than that.”"

You have been repeatedly told why it is so obvious that +Akinola and his cronies do not love us and have no interest in our salvation. You have, however, been so intent on defending yourself from the attacks of the Evil Hell Bound Liberals that you have not allowed yourself to consider the obvious truth that saying hateful things about people will turn them off what you say. If you still insist in saying hateful things about people, then obviously don't want them to hear what you have to say. That's pretty simple. But then you think 5 years in jail is a loving act. You still haven't told us what you think a fitting punishment would be for being gay, BTW. I'm still waiting.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 25 June 2008 at 2:14pm BST
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