The persecution and death of Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato is horrifying by any human standard. That some North American Christians have contributed to the atmosphere of prejudice and hatred that plagues sexual minorities in Uganda as well as other parts of Africa is a well documented fact. Reverend Kapya Kaoma’s 2009 essay “Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches & Homophobia” was, as Religion Dispatches writer Kathryn Joyce pointed out, “the result of a yearlong investigation into the relationship between conservative clergy on two continents, which has hastened divisions within denominations and has ‘restricte(ed) the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.'”
All Anglicans should repudiate the efforts of those who would export their battles over social, theological and sexuality issues to Africa. African churches have even been pressured to sever ties with ‘mainline’ funders in exchange for ‘conservative’ support, and in some cases have become recipients of a more fiercely anti-gay message than is delivered here in North America. I fear some North American Anglicans are complicit in such efforts — either by association or design.
While I hope no Anglican would identify with American Scott Lively – a Holocaust revisionist whose book The Pink Swastika suggests that Nazism was a ‘gay plot’ – or even with more ‘respectable’ Christian figures such as Rick Warren who has also fueled anti-human rights flames in Africa, some North American Anglicans who identify with more ‘conservative’ views concerning human sexuality have failed to speak out with a strong voice against proposed Ugandan laws which would impose the death penalty on sexual minorities.
It is unacceptable that any Anglican should stay quiet when the Anglican minister who presided at David Kato’s funeral, Thomas Musoke, ‘launched into an impassioned anti-homosexual rant’ (in the words of Vancouver Sun writer Tara Carman) during the funeral service. What Anglican malpractice – a clear abuse of both pastoral office and pastoral common sense. When a mourner took the microphone away from the pastor, the mourner was whisked away by police.What would Jesus have done?
The whole funeral fiasco is a significant Anglican embarrassment, leading the Vancouver Sun‘s Carman to identify Anglicans with ‘violence perpetrated against Uganda’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community by certain churches, media outlets and elements in the government’ (Vancouver Sun, Saturday January 29, page C5).
What do we as Anglicans in the far away Diocese of New Westminster do about Pastor Musoke and Ugandan and other African Anglican leaders who stand by while people are shamefully persecuted and killed? We pray, of course. We pray that God’s Holy Spirit might move all Anglicans and all those who name the name of Jesus Christ to be prophetic voices for the Dominion of God. And then we act.