GAFCON AND THE IMPRISONMENT OF HOMOSEXUALS
By Ronald J. Caldwell, PhD, Professor of History Emeritus
GAFCON (Global Anglican Futures Conference) has struck again. It is the reactionary, homophobic shadow government of the Anglican Communion centered in equatorial Africa. The majority of its Primates' Council is from there (Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, Sudan). On April 27, the Council issued a "Communique," as usual obsessed with homosexuality. This one, however, goes a step farther in a jaw-dropping declaration: "5. We are equally concerned for the affected communities in Chile from the recent earthquake, terrorist attacks in Kenya, and the backlash from the international community in Uganda from their new legislation." (read the whole statement at http://gafcon.org/news/communique-from-the-gafcon-primates-council). Yes, you read it correctly. It equates the devastating earthquake in Chile and bloody terrorist attacks in Kenya to the international opposition to the recent anti-homosexual law in Uganda (not the law itself, but the BACKLASH against the law).
The "Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014" was signed into law on Feb. 24, 2014 (see the excellent article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uganda_Anti-Homosexuality_Act_2014). The text of the law may be found at http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/files/2014/02/Anti-Homosexuality-Act-2014.pdf . The new law calls for life imprisonment for persons engaging in certain homosexual acts. Among additional things, it provides for prison terms for individuals who fail to turn in family, friends, and neighbors they know to be engaging in homosexual acts. This is, of course, a blatant violation of basic human rights, the persecution of a helpless, defenseless minority. The law has been almost universally condemned in the western world, especially by American, Canadian, and British leaders and practically every human rights association in the world. But not GAFCON. Quite the opposite. GAFCON is on record blasting the opponents of the this new law.
See also the article by Cathy Lynn Grossman in Religion News Service of April 28 (www.religionnews.com/2014/04/28/). Grossman points out that Robert Duncan, archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, signed the Communique as a member of the council of primates of GAFCON. Duncan has been recognized by GAFCON as the only legitimate Anglican primate in America. Duncan, however, refused to comment on the Communique. But obviously as a signatory he cannot disclaim the statement.
In another excellent commentary, on April 29. Jim Naughton wrote in Episcopal Café "Why Won't ACNA Say it is Wrong to Put Gay People in Prison?" (www.episcopalcafe.com/lead) Naughton believes that Duncan and the other breakaway leaders in the U.S. are trying to hide the fact of their anti-homosexual agenda: "ACNA's leaders in this country know that their church won't survive if its homophobic roots...become widely known."
The evidence shows that this is also true in South Carolina. A simple glace over the "Chronology" section of this blog shows the obsession with homosexuality in the Diocese of South Carolina since the days of Bishop Allison in the 1980's. The consecration of Gene Robinson in 2003 had an enormous backlash in South Carolina. Then, in the first two years of his episcopacy, Mark Lawrence made a major issue of what he called "indiscriminate inclusivity," his term declaring opposition to rights for homosexuals. The issue worked as the wedge to separate the diocese from the Episcopal Church. This was accomplished by resolutions of the October 2010 special diocesan convention which ended accession to the canons of the Episcopal Church. Once done, homosexuality was pushed aside. The "Rubric of Love," a resolution of compassion for homosexuals, had already been permanently withdrawn in the convention of March of 2010. After that, the diocesan leadership tried to bury the issue of homosexuality as they put all their emphasis on theological and organizational differences with the national church, such as the Title IV reforms. Since the schism, the diocesan leadership has carried on a campaign to rewrite history to say that it was all about God, not gays. The historical evidence says otherwise loudly and clearly.
In South Carolina, Mark Lawrence and other diocesan leaders, as Kendall Harmon, have been great advocates of GAFCON. Lawrence attended both GAFCON conferences (2008, 2013) and warmly endorsed their statements. Just a few weeks ago, Harmon gave a workshop at a diocesan convention promoting the Jerusalem Declaration, the official statement of the 2008 GAFCON meeting. Harmon just promoted the new GAFCON Communique on his blog (without mentioning its point #5). It is clear that the independent Diocese of South Carolina has strong ties to GAFCON.
The truth is that the driving issue in leading the majority of the old diocese out of the Episcopal Church was homosexuality. However much the pre-schism diocesan leaders may try, they cannot hide the truth. Moreover, time and history are against them. All the evidence shows a huge sea change in America supporting rights for homosexual persons including marriage equality. Within a decade, even a majority of South Carolinians will support marriage equality. Young people already overwhelmingly support it. In time, a church based on opposition to rights for homosexuals will shrink away.
The good communicants of the independent Diocese of South Carolina should ask themselves whether they really want to be connected to GAFCON. Their diocesan leaders are enthusiastically supporting GAFCON. GAFCON is supporting the legal persecution of homosexuals in Uganda. They have said that the backlash against the law is as bad as an earthquake or a terrorist bomb. GAFCON pretends to be a Christian leadership organization. The new law is anything but Christian. Do the good people of South Carolina really want to support an organization that defends the cruel and bizarre belief that homosexuals belong in prison, and for life? If not, they ought to reconsider the decisions their leaders have made for them.