Thinking Anglicans

Understanding international church sexuality conflicts

Savi Hensman has written a research paper, entitled Better understanding of international church conflicts over sexuality. It is published by Ekklesia.

There is an abstract and table of contents here, and the full paper can be downloaded as a PDF file from this link.

Savi has also written a blog post on the topic, see How do we negotiate the global church sexuality conflict?

In various denominations, debates on sexual ethics and treatment of minorities have sparked heated international controversy. This is sometimes seen as a conflict between a ‘liberal’ west and ‘conservative’ south. But the reality is more complicated.

Both acceptance of, and hostility towards, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people can be found across continents and cultures. And, while those most opposed to celebrating, or even allowing, same-sex partnerships sometimes claim to be protecting their people from the influence of the west, their actions serve to reinforce global power imbalances and western domination…

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Mark BrunsonSavi HensmanTim ChestertonRod GillisLorenzo Fernandez-Vicente Recent comment authors
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Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Tks for the Savi Hensman material. Excellent! Have sent the links around to others.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

This is brilliant, Savi, thank you.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Very well done and important work, Savi.

This is great for a lay reader like me. An academic could make a chapter out of every paragraph with examples demonstrating each assertion… But I’m glad it was easier reading.

I can’t find the link right now, but one of the American conservatives who helped export homophobia to Uganda is being sued in Massachusetts for human rights violations. I hope that it’s successful and part of a trend. It is such an outrage for Western corporations and religious people to do things that aren’t legal in their own countries…

Dr Edward Prebble
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Dr Edward Prebble

As usual, an outstandingly helpful and insightful essay. It is worth reading in full only 14 pages.
Her argument (that the opposition to liberalising of sexuality attitudes in regions such as Africa is itself a manifestation of western imperialism) is well supported and cogently expressed.
Well done, Savi.

peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

Cynthia, regarding the televangelist being sued in Massachusetts, a name or anything would be really helpful. I tried a generalized Google search on televangelist lawsuits in Massachusetts, and it wasn’t helpful. Speech is still speech. We may loathe what a speaker says, we may find it unChristian, but as long as it is speech, it is still protected in the USA. So, unless it can be shown that this televangelist actively conspired to physically harm gay people in Uganda, I’m concerned. “exporting homophobia to Uganda” is rather vague. Even if this televangelist urged Uganda to imprison gay people, that is… Read more »

Laurie
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Laurie

An excellent piece of work. Thank you, Savi.

Nathaniel Brown
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Nathaniel Brown

I believe the evangelist in question is Scott Lively, who has also bragged about adding to the homophobia in Russia.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

If I’ve found the case referred to, the caption is this: UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS Civil Action No. 12-30051-MAP SEXUAL MINORITIES UGANDA, Plaintiff, v. SCOTT LIVELY, individually and as President of Abiding Truth Ministries, Defendant. The paragraph below, which summarizes the litigation, is taken from a court discovery ruling dated Feb. 14: This underlying case concerns Plaintiff’s complaint that Defendant, in concert with others and through actions taken both here and abroad, has fomented an Case 3:12-cv-30051-MAP Document 102 Filed 02/14/14 Page 1 of 12 2 atmosphere of repression against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (“LGBTI”)… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

As for whether Lively’s alleged activity was protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution, the judge noted (at a preliminary stage of the proceedings) that– ‘Plaintiff contends that Defendant’s conduct has gone far beyond mere expression into the realm not only of advocacy of imminent criminal conduct, in this case advocacy of a crime against humanity, but management of actual crimes — repression of free expression through intimidation, false arrests, assaults, and criminalization of peaceful activity and even the status of being gay or lesbian — that no jury could find to enjoy the protection of the First… Read more »

Anthony Archer
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Anthony Archer

I think Mr Scott Lively can safely be ignored.

Laurence Cunnington
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Laurence Cunnington

Savi Hensman does write well, I always think. Clear, concise and assuming little prior knowledge – if only more academics could produce work in such a readable style.

Geoff
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“Even if this televangelist urged Uganda to imprison gay people, that is still speech.”

Imprisonment sounds pretty “physical” to me; free speech isn’t an unlimited right. In every democracy, there are limitations – indeed, the US places far fewer than most, so if the suit has made it this far there it has to have some merit.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Here’s the link: http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/232101/american-who-helped-craft-ugandas-kill-the-gays-bill-to-be-tried-for-crimes-against-humanity/

We Americans have a sense of Freedom of Speech that goes way beyond what is tolerated in other democracies. I used to think it was just awesome of us to support speech, regardless. But now I have a real sympathy for laws in other places, like the UK, that to my understanding moderate hurtful/hate speech.

It would be great if the West, particularly the US (go Massachusetts!), could moderate some of these vile activities. But rest assured, the Ugandans are not responding to American money from American conservatives…

Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente
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Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente

Sorry, I’m not buying it (though I do hugely appreciate Savitri’s effort for ‘the cause’), anything and its opposite has been blamed on Western imperialism though westerners themselves seem to be able to reassess their moral principles. Are Africans unable to do this? Other nations, former colonies among them, seem to be able to. But it’s just too easy to argue that African dictatorships’ actions serve to reinforce global power imbalances and western domination. They are simply deeply patriarchal societies.

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

@ Lorenzo Fernandez Vicente, “anything and its opposite has been blamed on western imperialism …[African societies] are simply deeply patriarchal societies.” Some scholars assert that current forms of post-colonial patriarchy are, at least in part, a legacy of imperial colonialism. I can’t comment on the issues in African society. However, I’ve attached a link to an article on the subject of the impact of European patriarchy on aboriginal women and gender roles. So called “colonial lag” is an issue here. I’d be interested in knowing more, not so much from male clerics but, more from women and members of sexual… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
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I note that Savi’s blog post did not actually answer the question she raised in the title.

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

A good point, Tim. In moving towards addressing the issue, I would suggest that it is important to recognise the complexities, challenge generalisations (e.g. that this is about the west versus the rest), listen to a variety of voices from Africa, Asia and Latin America and call on religious leaders opposed to change to engage rigorously with arguments in favour.

Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente
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Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente

Rod, it’s always the same, lame, liberal claim. Women, lesbians and gay people were doing fine before the awful Christian western patriarchal colonists arrived. It’s very difficult to establish historically (as many of these societies were illiterate) and I find the article you linked to on the marginalisation of aboriginal women a very good example of reading the current opinions of (Mohawk activists/insert whichever) back into history, even if recent oral history is on their side. Matriarchal and gay-friendly societies have been few, thank God no more: but in the West!

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

@ Lorenzo Fernandez-Vincente, ” …people were doing fine before the awful Christian western patriarchal colonists arrived.” You might try running that by First Nations groups to see how it flies as a bald assertion. I wouldn’t be too dismissive about how pre-literate, or as you describe them “illiterate” societies pass on their traditions. The remains of the The Franklin expedition were found recently in the Canadian north. After years of high tech searching the lost ship was found pretty much where aboriginal oral history said it ought to be. Besides, the construction of aboriginal societies from colonial times at first… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
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I have almost zero knowledge of the history of Third World attitudes toward homosexuality, pre- and post-colonization. However, I have read Savi’s paper carefully, and I have two comments. First, I would have found the historical section more persuasive if it had been footnoted and referenced. I’m sure you have done your research well, Savi; why not share with your readers where they can find the information you reference? Second, I’m just a little disturbed by the underlying idea, that people in the African churches can’t make their own minds up and use their own critical faculties when it comes… Read more »

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

Thanks for the point about the footnotes, Tim. I certainly did not mean to imply ‘that people in the African churches can’t make their own minds up and use their own critical faculties when it comes to these issues, but are once again being told what to believe (and paid to believe it) by wealthy conservative Christians from the west.’ As I mentioned, some of the funding such churches have received (e.g. from budgets to counter the spread of HIV) are not supposed to further a homophobic agenda. As I also pointed out, some Christians in the south have not… Read more »

Mark Brunson
Guest

One could hardly claim that it’s just the Global South experiencing the phenomenon of a large populace that “. . can’t make their own minds up and use their own critical faculties when it comes to these issues, but are once again being told what to believe (and paid to believe it) by wealthy conservative Christians . . .” That has been the entire driving force behind conservative politics in the US, behind the Fox Network, behind the last congressional elections. People who are kept in poverty and ignorance are afraid, people who are kept afraid are angry, people who… Read more »