The openly heterosexual Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Orombi, has an OpEd in today’s Times of London accusing the Archbishop of Canterbury of betrayal and colonialism. This OpEd comes just as the openly heterosexual bishops at Lambeth are finally discussing that purple elephant in the room, human sexuality. I talked to someone in our office who just returned from a week at Lambeth and am following along with the Lambeth discussions as best I can through bishops’ blogs and news reports, and will refrain from commenting until the Conference is over. For now, I will just take issue with ++Orombi’s OpEd, which actually contained a few valid points, but was for the most part tired, shallow, inaccurate, and perhaps power-hungry.
++Orombi’s article is subtitled “Those who violate biblical teaching must show repentance and regret before we can share communion with them.” A pre-requisite to understanding his article is to know that the only real way to learn about biblical teaching is not by reading the Bible for yourself, and certainly not by reading it in a historical context. No, the way to learn about biblical teaching is to ask ++Orombi for his interpretation. To take any other approach would be to wander astray. He begins the article by writing that he loves Jesus and the Anglican Communion, which is why he and others are boycotting Lambeth – perhaps implying that those who are there don’t love Jesus?
We believe that our absence at this Lambeth Conference is the only way that our voice will be heard. For more than ten years we have been speaking and have not been heard. So maybe our absence will speak louder than our words.
Sir, if absence is your goal, why did you choose to be present through this OpEd? If you think silence might be louder than words, perhaps you should have kept silent. I certainly would have appreciated it more, anyway. George Pitcher at the Telegraph agrees, passing along these remarks from a “senior church figure.”
It's Orombi's way of getting into the conference," he replies. "If he's got something to say to us, he should have come here to say it. It's a sign of how frustrated the boycotters are that the Anglican Communion is getting on with its business without them. And it's a very childish response.
++Orombi’s alleged silence goes on to say,
Even though some scholars have tried to explain away specific biblical passages that refer to homosexual practice, the fact remains that nowhere in Scripture is homosexual practice affirmed or presented as a legitimate alternative to heterosexual relationships.
He’s absolutely right that some scholars disagree with him about the meaning of those few, those very few, passages, and he does not try to refute them – he later merely reasserts his position that the Bible condemns homosexuality. The above quote, though, really torks me. ++Orombi is right, the Bible never affirms homosexuality as a legitimate practice. It also never affirms a man’s right to drive a John Deere tractor, to explore the North American continent, or to write an article in a British newspaper. Should we assume these practices are all forbidden given their lack of positive Scriptural affirmation? For good reason, I have always found this it’s-only-ok-if-the-Bible-says-so approach to be narrow and outdated. Those who hold to it in their words, like ++Orombi, never hold to it in their actions. To say the Bible gives us a laundry list of life’s donts is one thing, but to say it lists all of the dos is another. The Archbishop goes on.
There have been numerous other “betrayals” to the extent that it is now hard to believe that the leadership in the American Church means what it says. They say that they are not authorising blessings of same-sex unions, yet we read newspaper reports of them. Two American bishops have even presided at such services of blessings. Bishops have written diocesan policies on the blessings of same-sex unions. It is simply untrue to say they have not been authorised.
This paragraph shows that either ++Orombi has a severe lack of understanding of American polity, or is a liar. The Episcopal Church in the United States has never, to my knowledge, said that same-sex blessings are not occuring. What it has said is that the national church discourages them and does not want them to occur, but at the same time, each diocese has a certain amount of autonomy and must decide these things largely for themselves. The same-sex unions are not endorsed by General Convention, the House of Bishops, or the Presiding Bishop, but that’s not the same thing as saying they are not happening, and given that our church polity is different than Uganda’s, we are unable to stop those two bishops from doing what they will. ++Orombi is reflecting his own polity onto us and sticking his head in the sane whenever the true facts come along. More:
Anglicans may say there are four “Instruments of Communion,” (the Archbishop of Canterbury; the Lambeth Conference; the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates' Meeting). But de facto, there is only one - the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The peculiar thing is that this one man, who is at the centre of the communion's structures, is not even elected by his peers. Even the Pope is elected by his peers, but what Anglicans have is a man appointed by a secular government. Over the past five years, we have come to see this as a remnant of British colonialism, and it is not serving us well. The spiritual leadership of a global communion of independent and autonomous provinces should not be reduced to one man appointed by a secular government.
++Orombi is off his rocker to suggest that the ABC is the only instrument of communion. The truth is that ++Williams has no real power and that all provinces are autonomous, but otherwise this paragraph raises an interesting point, the first time I can say that about ++Orombi. We're even in partial agreement. Given that the ABC has no real Communion-wide power but is in charge of the Church of England, the founding province of this Communion, I would not go as far as to say that he should be elected by his fellow primates. But perhaps he should be elected by the CoE's bishops, much like our PB is elected by our bishops. That would be democratic and would remove the secular government of England from the picture.
If the ABC did indeed have strong power, then yes, the current setup would smack of colonialism. However, he doesn’t, so it doesn’t, and I am growing rather tired of these cries of colonialism. They are the conservative movement’s most common claim, but when you get right down to it, their operative defintion of “colonial” is “not putting us in charge,” much the way many Americans define “bias” as “something that doesn’t agree with me or affirm my own bias.” The truth of the matter is this: Neither the United States, Canada, or the ABC wish to push a liberal view on Africa. We are happy to break bread together amidst our differences. ++Orombi and his GAFCON ilk, however, who do not represent all of Africa but hail mostly from it, DO wish to force their conservative theology on the Communion. We are go-along-to-get-along; they are my-way-or-else. We want communion, not power; they want power, not dialogue. So tell me once more, WHO’S behaving colonially?
He goes on:
How can we go to Holy Communion, sit in Bible study groups, and share meals together, pretending that everything is OK?, that we are still in fellowship with the persistent violators of biblical teaching and of Lambeth resolutions?
I know how. By abandoning the notion that Bible studies and meals must be echo chambers, and the idea that you can only talk to those who will say the same thing. By embracing discourse and dialogue the way the American bishops who voted against +Gene’s consecration have done, and the way Jesus did when his disciples got a little arrogant or Nicodemus a little confused.
The Church of Uganda takes its Anglican identity and the future hope of the global Anglican Communion very seriously. We love the Lord Jesus Christ, and we love the Anglican Communion. Lord, have mercy upon us.
We do too, sir. God bless you and your fellow Ugandans, Africans, and primates.
(And on a PC note, I want to be sure to point out that the use of the word "boy" in the title of this post refers to the old child's story "The little boy who cried wolf," not to any other issue.)