ENTEBBE: Nigerian Primate Takes Firm Stand Against Homosexuality
CAPA Bishops Wrestle with issues of poverty, HIV/AIDS and life of the Church
By David W. Virtue in Entebbe
August 25, 2010
The Archbishop of the Anglican Province of Nigeria, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh underscored the primacy of the family, condemning homosexual practice for his 23-million member Anglican province, the largest province in the Anglican Communion as well as all African Anglicans.
"We do not believe two women or two men can make a family. We [also] want to correct the impression that we are not sure. We are very sure that a man and a woman is the family unit and by God's grace add children to it. That is biblical not only for CAPA [bishops] but for the entire Global South. Our position is that if there is anybody who is a lesbian or homosexual they should receive pastoral counseling."
The newly elected Primate said CAPA bishops are trying to consolidate their position on matters relating to the family, poverty, as well as the life of the church. What is foremost is the unity of the family, which is a man and a woman with children added to it.
PRIMATES MEET ROWAN WILLIAMS
Asked by VOL at a press conference what the mood was like when the CAPA Primates met privately with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Ian Ernest responded describing the fellowship as "warm. We met in a spirit of brotherly love.
"We made it clear to him that we stand for truth as it is revealed in the Word of God and we would be faithful to the word of God." There will be no compromise on hot button issues.
Dr. Williams understands the challenges of the conference. Bishop Ernest recalled Dr. Williams' message calling for leadership in health related areas even if it involves risk.
The primates heard Williams talk about the Anglican Communion as a dysfunctional family and like most families he hopes he can hold it together. He gave no indication to the Primates that he has personally changed any of his own positions. In his speech he did not address the subject of homosexuality.
Uganda Archbishop Henry Orombi said the conference had begun well. "There is a great openness. The Primates are thinking together as one. I am very pleased with the services going on."
Dr. Mouneer Anis, Middle East Archbishop said he was encouraged by the main characteristic of "one spirit" which has not always been the case in many Primates' conferences.
"At the (first) All Africa conference in Lagos there was one spirit, and here we have the same consistency in the message we are delivering. We are solid. We are unlocking our potential...it is starting to happen. The growth of the church is now showing that Africa is going to take the lead of the church in the whole world."
Dr Anis stated that the first millennium lead the whole world and shaped the Christian mind. "We wrote the theology now taught in the big universities in America and Europe. We need for the world to wake up and to see Africa shaping the Christian mind once again. I am very encouraged. I am proud to be an African."
Orombi noted that the element of powerlessness that had marked African Christianity is now gone. "We have a message for the world and the Anglican Communion, no compromise and faithfulness to the will and Word of God.
"Time is now for African Anglicanism to rise up and begin to bring fresh life to the ailing Global Anglicanism. The potentials represented today in this conference must be free to go to Europe and America with 'fresh wine' from 'new wine skins' to the Mother Church desperate for the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. I say the church of Africa must rise up. Shake off your fears, shame and superficial dependency. Take hold of this God-given opportunity and use it to His glory. Preach the gospel, evangelize and extend the Kingdom of Jesus Christ," he added.
Uganda President General Y.K. Musiveni, a self described Anglican Christian spoke to the assembled bishops and lauded his nation's commitment to Christianity.
The president said he felt a sense of historical confluence of events coming together in Uganda. "I am a first generation Christian. This country never saw anybody with a white skin till 1851. The first was an Arab in 1851. The first European was Huntington Street who came in 1864. In 1877 the first church missionary society people came to this country. When the missionaries came my parents were baptized in 1947 and joined the new religion. I joined when I was 3 years old and I was baptized without catechesis.
"This part of the world is unique. There are only three places on the globe like it. The uniqueness of Uganda is it a right on the equator, it is 1200 meters above sea level and you can find snow in Uganda. With our high elevation and high altitude we can make chocolate," he said to much laughter. "There are only two other places on the globe like this, one is a part of Kenya; the other part is Ecuador in South America."
The 400 bishops are grappling with the reality that nearly 40 million people are now living with HIV & AIDS. The re-emergence of already controlled TB and Malaria are worsening the effective control of HIV, due to shared vulnerability and determinant, causing increasing numbers of HIV related illnesses and death among individuals especially those who are infected by HIV and have no access to quality treatment and care, delegates were told.
Church institutions are well positioned to show love and care and are capable of bringing succor to people affected by these diseases as well as possessing the capacity of eliminating all forms of stigma and discrimination to those living with and affected by AIDS and TB.
Leonard Okello, International Head, HIV/AIDS programs said that every church leader in Africa and the world needs a response that is based on a simple question, "What would the Lord Jesus Christ himself do if he comes back to a world faced with the AIDS, TB and Malaria epidemic?"
HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria are the leading causes of death along with socio-economic problems in Africa, especially in the Sub-Saharan region. The rise of these diseases affects Africa's development. Insufficient strategies, insufficient financing commitment has hampered effective prevention and control of these infections within communities and the church, he said.
CAPA has developed and implemented various plans of action to accelerate responses in provinces. Diocesan key actions, practices and attitudes have been implemented that include ownership; capacity building, partnership and sustainability, resource mobilization, program management and financial accountability, research development, monitoring and evaluation.
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