on Wednesday, 5 July 2023 at 11.01 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
David Bagnall ViaMedia.News Let’s Disagree to Agree: Rwanda and Homosexuality
Colin Coward Unadulterated Love How to be a Christian re-imaginer in an era of crisis
Indeed: monolingualism has much to answer for.
Mr. Bagnall’s column points out a culture which had its own unique words and understanding of same-sex relationships. But, just like many Americans of European descent point out Native American tribes with a historical apparent acceptance of same-sex relationships before European colonization, which some Native American communities reject, not wanting to be dragged into “culture wars”, I suspect many Rwandans do not want to be dragged into Anglican culture wars. Cultural appropriation is a dicey area. And, once again I see the deliberate export of American conservative Protestant ideology on “homosexuality” to another African country with insidious or invidious results,… Read more »
It’s hard to disagree with much of Colin Coward’s perceptive diagnosis of the problems in the Church of England. However, I’m just not sure about his alternative. There was little in his reimagining of the faith that would be distinctively and recognisably Christian. Surely ‘orthodox’ Christian faith has more to offer than what Coward suggests? It reminded me of Rowan Williams writing about John Shelby Spong when he said ‘ Yet I see no life in what the theses suggest; nothing to educate us into talking about the Christian God in a way I can recognise: no incarnation; no adoption… Read more »
Adam, thanks for commenting on my blog. I’m glad you think my diagnosis, at least, is perceptive, if not the alternative I am attempting to formulate – from a very orthodox Christian beginning that had already been significantly deconstructed in my mid-teens prior to 1963. The culture of the Diocese of Southwark under Mervyn Stockwood had already been influential. Mervyn was a radical socialist traditional imperialist! And a visionary, a flawed, playful, deeply convicted, self-confident, fragile man. Rowan Williams was, with Mark Santer and John Armson, on the staff at Westcott House when I was in training. Rowan’s comment that… Read more »
Hi Colin, Thanks for your gracious reply. My comment clearly doesn’t do justice to what is a very thoughtful piece. There was much in your re-imagining with which I deeply resonate. The desire to be part of a ‘prejudice and abuse-free, relationally healthy, spiritual, humane, nourishing and enriching Christian, Christ-like Church’ is undoubtedly one which surely all would share. However, orthodoxy when rightly understood (and I don’t think that is equivalent to ‘fundamentalist’) is a deep and rich well which can open up and expand the landscape of faith and ultimately human life, rather than close down and constrict. I… Read more »
David Bagnall is right in that there are different understandings of homosexuality across cultures, and across the world. If we are to comment on African homosexuality we should make some effort to study how people in Africa may understand this question. But the issue is complex. There is first the issue of various human sexual desires and behaviours. There is secondly the issue of how these desires and behaviours are understood differently (as social constructs) in differing cultures. And thirdly there is the complication that when taking about homosexuality within any culture there will always be a nested stack… Read more »
(Continued from Previous) Whilst these two examples of flexible homosexuality are of informal relationships, in other cultures, especially military cultures, such relationships have been encouraged and institutionalised. Evans Prichard – In “Sexual Inversion among the Azande (1970)” describes how “Male and female homosexual relationship seems to have been common among the Azande in past times. Between males it was approved of in the bachelor military companies. Between females it is said to have been a frequent, though highly disapproved of, practice in polygamous homes.” The paper describes how these Nigerian young men would engage in a marriage ceremony and then… Read more »
On a very simple level, I always understood the Uganda Martyrs to have chosen death rather than submit to ritual buggery by the chief, (an act of obedience and loyalty) having become Christians through the activities of English missionaries. Given that level of understanding, I could see why modern African Christians revered them, and were opposed to legalising same sex relationships. From what you’ve said, it could be that my understanding is too simple. On the other hand, I don’t know many Christians (or others) who know about the Martyrs anyway – and I think I only came across them… Read more »
Thanks for your thoughtful comment John. It is encouraging to me.
All I am trying to do here is use the hospitality of Thinking Anglicans to put out a bit of interesting information, to help people realise the complexity of these issues. It is nice to know that people sometimes read it.
I’ve said before, in response to another of your pieces, that I primarily read TA to learn, and hopefully understand, what’s going on. The whole issue is enormously complex, it appears, and cannot be reduced to simplistic ‘Bible says’ soundbites. A lot of people don’t know much church history either, and that has an impact on their understanding of current problems which are rooted in the past. The more you learn of other people’s history, the less likely you are to be too one sided about your own. Glad to encourage you. (And recently I’ve very much felt the need… Read more »
If you want to read up more on African understandings of homosexuality then the most accessible text is an online essay collection by Will Roscoe – “Boy Wives and Female Husbands – Studies in African Homosexualities”
And within that, the best texts to start with are the Introduction chapter and “West African Homoeroticism – West African Men Who Have Sex with Men”
The other fantastic book is Heterosexual Africa? (note the question mark) by Marc Epprecht.