African Anglicans Discuss Homosexuality Issue, But No Word on Split

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:15 PM EDT


Nairobi, Kenya (CNSNews.com) - The Anglican Church in Africa has yet to announce whether it will make good on its threat to sever links with the church in the West over the homosexuality dispute, but a religious scholar here said cutting links with specific dioceses in North America was a more likely outcome.

Dr. Constantine Mwikamba of at the University of Nairobi expressed doubt that the Anglican (Episcopalian) church in Africa would cut links with its "mother" church in England.

The November 2003 consecration of a homosexual as Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire and the decision by some Canadian dioceses to bless same-sex unions threatened to divide the 77 million-strong global Anglican Communion.

Bishops in Africa and Asia spearheaded the opposition, and African churches threatened to end all links with Western colleagues, including financial ones.

During the past week, 15 Anglican archbishops from Africa, Asia and Latin America meeting in Nairobi said a recent apology offered by the denomination in the U.S. did not go far enough to heal the rift.

The church in America should instead have repented for an action that was contrary to their faith, said Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, while his Kenyan counterpart agreed.

"[Making an] 'apology' does not make sense to us. The biblical word is 'repentance'," said Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi.

The leaders did not, however, confirm that they would be cutting links.

The weeklong meeting was called to discuss recommendations by an Anglican commission aimed at resolving the dispute.

In a report issued last October, the panel urged the U.S. church not to ordain any more homosexuals but also called on conservative African bishops not to interfere in the affairs of other dioceses.

"I don't think they will be able to resolve this issue - it's complex," said Mwikamba.

"The Anglican Church as a community depends one to the other. So, there is a need to sort out the problem ... this is a very tricky situation."

Because the African churches rely on those in the West for funding, African bishops may be compelled to soften their stance -- but not to the extent of tolerating homosexuality within the church in Africa itself.

Mwikamba said the bishops' stance was in line with traditional African culture, which sees homosexual acts as unnatural.

Anglican leaders in Africa were annoyed by the liberal push for homosexuality, and took the position that "you do not just go around doing whatever you want for the sake of pleasure."

"The Christian community all over the world is grappling with how it can face the challenges presented by the modern society," Mwikamba said.

South African Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, who did not attend the Nairobi meeting, has taken a different line on the dispute.

He said African bishops' preoccupation with the homosexuality issue was diverting attention from many ills affecting Africa, such as civil wars, AIDS and poverty.

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