4 min

Anglican Church gone to hell

Alignment with truly homophobic church leaders in South America and Africa is worrying

Just in time for Christmas, the Anglican church is going completely to hell.

This isn’t a new development, of course. Since the advent of same-sex marriage in Canada and the appointment of a gay bishop in the US, the church in North America has been fracturing. And so what, many queers ask?

Well, as congregations here begin to align themselves with truly homophobic leaders in South America and Africa, some deeply worrying implications are becoming clear.

A growing number of Anglican factions in North America have declared themselves to be part of the Province of the Southern Cone, the Anglican church in South America. Other groups have affiliated themselves with the Anglican Church of Rwanda or with churches in other African and southeast Asian countries.

The effects of these moves will be felt both here and in those countries, and in both cases it’s bad news for queers. In the US, where gays already face waves of religious hatred, it means they now have to cope with churches run from countries where homosexuality may still be illegal and queers can face imprisonment, torture or death. That definition of “orthodox” religious belief will make the struggle for equality in the US that much harder, especially as the defectors appear to be the richest dioceses in the country.

In Canada, of course, equality for queers is more solidly entrenched in law. But it means another bloc — wealthy blocs in places like Ottawa and Vancouver — fighting for a Stephen Harper majority in the hopes it will allow for the rollback of same-sex marriage.

And it’s more than a little disturbing that people are so desperate to avoid ordaining gay ministers or blessing same-sex unions — not even actually marrying queers, just blessing their unions — that they would prefer to place themselves under the control of those who support torture and imprisonment.

But what’s more worrying is the potential effect in places like South America and Africa, where churches already work in concert with governments against queers. It’ll be that much harder for groups in Canada to try to stop the imprisonment, torture and killings of queers and to condemn churches and governments if those institutions can point to Canadian citizens and say, “Well, they obviously support our policies.”

Take Rwanda, for example, where the church now has an uncertain number of Canadian Anglicans and American Episcopalians under its control. The country is far from the worst offender against gays, and, in fact, at the moment, homosexuality is not actually illegal in the country. But Parliament is seeking to change that.

In a November report, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) quotes member of parliament Henriette Sebera as arguing, “that MPs should table a motion on it and come up with a law against the practice of homosexuality in Rwanda. She said, ‘Homosexuality is automatically illegal in our country; our culture only allows a man to have a relationship with a woman, and that is why anybody caught in that act should be punished.'”

The IGLHRC report goes on to state that: “Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini, the head of Rwanda’s Anglican Church and an influential figure in Rwanda’s social and political spheres, said: ‘Even when the government decides to legalise homosexuality our church will not accept it, it’s totally illegal and un-Godly.’ He went on to say that homosexuality is against Rwandan culture and the government should not adopt it. ‘Man was meant to reproduce and something contrary to that is destruction,’ Kolini said.

“The use of such inflammatory language and arguments are evident in some of the more disturbing articles that have appeared in the press over the last several months. In an article entitled ‘Can Rwanda Tolerate Homosexuality,’ the author, Gasheegu Muramila compares homosexuality to ‘moral genocide,’ and accuses those who practice homosexuality of harboring ‘genocidal ideology.’

“Even more dangerously, journalists have been using the media to incite violence and discrimination against homosexuals. In a recent incident, a radio broadcaster named Kenny from the radio station Flash FM aired messages over a one-week period in which he discussed the fact that homosexual activists had attended a conference in Nairobi to network with other LGBT groups and were organizing themselves to begin advocating for their rights. He warned about the danger that these individuals posed within the society, and called upon the public to hunt down homosexuals within their communities, and to find the people who are helping homosexuals to advocate for the vice, especially their leaders and partners. When someone called into the program and asked what to do when they found one of the activists, the announcer told the man to ‘burn them.'”

Now this is Rwanda, remember, where close to a million Tutsis were massacred in 1994. Now I’m not saying what’s happening to queers in Rwanda is equivalent, but the language and the use of radio to incite hatred are frighteningly similar. And this is what disenchanted Anglicans here would rather support than have to bless same-sex unions.

There’s more than a little irony involved here. It used to be Western missionaries converting Africans. Now it’s the reverse. Either way, the result is the potential death and destruction of people’s lives.

It’s also more than a little ironic that these Anglicans are in accord with the Pope who issued a pronouncement on Dec 11 that “Everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of new life… constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace.”

Remember that the Anglican church was originally formed by Henry VIII because the Pope wouldn’t let him divorce his current wife. Now some North American Anglicans have come around to following the Pope’s beliefs on marriage and are splitting from their own church.

Marx wrote that “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” He was wrong. Sometimes tragedy keeps repeating.