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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Gay marriage without sex? Blame Africa, again

It should come as no surprise that yesterday's carefully-worded, Richelieuian edict, "gay marriage is ok if without sex," came as Rowan Williams headed to Africa.

America is confused about what marriage without sex would even mean. Scotland is outraged. Canada is ignoring it and embracing loving, responsible, committed relationships .

Rowan Williams, intellectual heavyweight and longtime champion of liberal body theology, has been caught in between two impulses: one, offering a smidgeon of hope to the largely progressive, gay-friendly congregations of North America and Europe; two, standing up for civil society in Africa.

Unsurprising, Williams wanted to act as a peacemaker in Africa. In his visit to Kenya last week, Williams avoided the topic of gay marriage altogether.

Alas, Williams' compromise isn't working for anyone -- not for communities in North America and Europe, and not for Africa.


Since Robinson's infamous ordination, the 70-million strong Anglican Communion has been in a state of flux.

Several developing countries, mainly from Africa, have either cut links or are contemplating doing so with the US liberals. In fact, immediately the Episcopalian Church ordained Robinson, countries like Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda became the first African countries to declare themselves formally separated from the Episcopalians.

Already, a number of the communion's African provinces have declined funding from the American Episcopalian Church to express their disgust at its decision to elect a gay bishop and allow same-sex marriages.

The church *must* take a stance for reconciliation and aid to war-torn countries, this is clear. The church *must* stand for civil society. The church *must* try to reconcile countries and continents that have lost faith with each other.

But to argue for peace among African archbishops who spit at even such humiliating tokens of rapprochement from the larger Anglican church? To cast pearls before swine. Read on:

Since the Episcopalian Church went ahead and consecrated Gene Robinson, we are not going to be with in anything; they have gone against the scriptures and what we agreed all of us as a communion.

-- Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, interviewed yesterday by

Africa needs to get its act together. The African countries that react to Williams' peace offering with disdain are in need of internal healing, and no external healing is possible until intertribal genocide, AIDS orphans, and female circumcision have been rectified. The Western church can only react with kindness: but not, perhaps, with understanding.

But we in the West have dealt with the fallout of colonialism for too long not to have learned that trying to convert other cultures to our own beliefs is a losing battle.

Progressive Christians need to hold fast to their values, and reach out to the torn African churches however they can. But they can't do so at the risk of destroying the chances of a future for their own church.

Archbishop Williams: the young, progressive church, with its many sexually active (homosexual or heterosexual) youth of modern culture, needs *you*. Come back.


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