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Scapegoats, for Christ's Sake!
>Reading about the African Bishops refusing to discuss homosexuality left
>me with a number of questions.
>1. Were there no African bishops speaking in favor of discussing
>homosexuality? What were the South African bishops saying? Where was
>Desmond Tutu, who has spoken out strongly for homosexual rights, or his
Africa is a huge place. You are right not to expect it to be monolithic.
There are vast discrepancies in wealth, education, and culture.
Part of the utility of the lesbigay issue for African and Asian bishops
alike is that it seems to be a way that they themselves can experience a
unity that has rarely been theirs with one big exception--namely the unity
they have experienced in being devalued and exploited. The lesbigay issue
gives the illusion of being a chance to reverse that evil. They feel that
they have caught the West with its pants down. It should suprise no one
that most cannot resist pointing the finger, for after all, "WE don't do
things like that!" Unstated but very much informing that accusation are
bitter memories of all the West's unjust stereotypes of Africans as
Many African bishops actually believe Africans "don't do things like
that." As recently as 1989, Most Rev. Yoha Okoth, then the Archbishop of
Uganda, told me at Christine Barney's dinner table (when she and Jack
Spong were courting), "Ugandans don't have AIDS and we don't have gay
people." He was a sincere and loving Christian and all too grimly had to
acknowledge the error of his first claim very shortly thereafter when
whole villages were wiped away.
You call attention to the the greater compassion from Bishop Tutu. Bishop
Tutu was not invited to the Lambeth Conference. No other retired bishops
were invited either. (See also the book manuscript on African
Homosexualities at http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/africa.doc) Bishop
Tutu is a voice crying in the wilderness, making way for others all over
Africa who will begin to know and speak the truth, as indeed has Bishop
Buchanan, Bishop of Johannesburg, who has spoken at Lambeth with
courageous candor regarding lesbigay Africans.
Africa and Asia are not the only parts of the Anglican communion to rage
with hostile and degrading language about lesbigays. In another part of
the Anglican Communion a bishop asked his brother bishops, "Have any of
you discovered a queer priest as I recently did, and shouldn't we have a
uniform way of getting rid of them?" The same bishops who heard that
question studied the issue for six years and then passed a resolution that
advised no one to ordain homosexual persons. Do you recognize the
province? It was our own. A bishop from Florida asked about "queers" in
a House of Bishops meeting in 1973 or 1974. The P.R. folks of the day
created the "Task Force on Homophiles and the Ministry" (Anglossolalia).
One of the strong opponents of lesbigays at that time was Saul of Newark,
a.k.a Jack Spong, then an unholy terror to gay priests. The House of
Bishops' hostile resolution passed in 1979 and remained the stated advice
(though never a canon) until the canons were emended in 1994 to assure
lesbigay access to being considered for ordination.
In short, we should not be arrogant in calling others backward who are
manifesting the same attitudes which until very recently were the reigning
attitudes of the church we love so well.
I know. I was there, loving this church when no more than 2-3 bishops
would even talk to me. In the archives I have letters from ECUSA bishops,
some of them still living, that can rival anything that you have heard out
of Lambeth; and many of those 'enemies' are now our good friends.
How long did you yourself take in coming to know and affirm the person
that God made you to be? Months? Years? It took me almost three decades,
and I had far more at stake in that transition than do folks half way
around the world who think they do not even know folks like you and me.
Should not our experience teach us patience? Not acquiescense, not
compromise, but faithful, loving patience.
We must not return evil for evil, lest we delay the very conversion which
God wants us to help effect.
There is much, much pain, real pain from real rejection that causes Asian
and African bishops to rejoice in feeling clearly on the side of Scripture
in judging and condemning us. This is about homosexuality in that they
truly hold these convictions, but homosexuality alone cannot account for
the animus that these bishops bring in opposing it. Homosexuality is
merely the pre-text. The main text here is the opportunity to respond to
unrequited injustice. We lesbigays merely serve as the scapegoat.
It is very important that we be in solidarity with those who now seem our
enemies. The rejection and expulsion with which they treat us have been
their lot and portion for centuries from the arrogant West, in ways that
you and I cannot imagine.
They are wrong about us, of course. But they don't know that yet. They
have not moved among us as co-workers and pilgrims together. Right now
they maintain strict Segregation: that makes it easier for them to
sustain their ignorance of God's redemptive acts in our own lives.
Jesus cried from the cross, "Father, forgive them. For they know not what
they do!" So must we pray.
>From what reverses can we muster such a prayer and pray it with
sincerity? >From Calvary, my brothers and sisters. There is no other
fountain of such mercy. God intends to use you and me to continue God's
mighty work of redemption. Rejoice!
Louie Crew, English Dept., Rutgers, Newark, NJ 07102 973-485-4503
Chair, Rutgers University Senate. Board of Governors.
Homosexuality is not a decision; heterosexism is.