Seeking the Truth in Love – Michael Doe

STTIL(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

Michael gives a neutral, gentle and fair-minded guide to different shades of opinion.

The book arose out of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. Michael had been asked to head up a working party on ‘human sexuality’ (in practice, this was about homosexuality – there wasn’t one of ‘animal sexuality – though from what some of the African bishops said, you’d have thought there was.) It recommended the passing of Resolution I.10 which included: We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.

Unusually, the recommendations of the working party were overturned. Tensions had been brewing for some time. Conservatives in the ‘global south’ had produced a hard line statement against homosexuality (and there is evidence that some wealthy North Americans had bankrolled their churches and provided them with heavily biased information.) (Now, most aid pouring into Uganda is from faith-based charities and this probably panders to a continuing narrowing of belief in which progressive voices ate unheeded.)

The first we knew of this was on teatime television news on a hut summer’s Friday in August which showed Nigerian Bishop Emmanuel Chukwuma confronting Richard Kirker of the Gay and Lesbian Christian Movement outside the Conference, performing an exorcism and praying that God would ‘deliver him’ from his homosexuality.  Kirker said afterwards, “it was threatening – he was waving his hands in my face and it was very hard, in fact impossible, to get a word in edgeways.”

That evening, I was with a friend in the garden of the Hope and Anchor pub in Clifton/Hotwells and heard some young men from a nearby table commenting on this event. What interests me is that some years ago these lads would have condemned gays. Now they were condemning the church as a laughing stock. This culture change and how we deal with it is at the heart of this book.

Right Reverend John (Jack) Spong of Newark, New Jersey told the Today programme that the way society views homosexuality had changed in the last 25 years. “We’re living in a world of vast cultural differences.

These are the difference that Bishop Michael spells out. He stands by the ‘three-legged-stool of Anglican divine Richard Hooker – Scripture, tradition, reason and experience (including the experience of homosexual and lesbian Christians). This is important because the global south settles everything by an appeal to (their understanding of) scripture alone, which isn’t the classical Anglican way.

One of the prime-movers was Gregory Venables, bishop of the Southern Cone but he speaks for a diocese the size of a small parish. Then again, so do most of the American, progressive bishops. By contrast, the Nigerians and Ugandans account, numerically, for a majority of Anglicans worldwide.

Bp. Michael explains that the then Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, speaks powerfully, with authority. Exorcisms are something he performs routinely as a leader. He later called gay men ‘worse than dogs’.

In Uganda, one story looms large in the collective psyche: in 1886, a group of young male Christians martyred because they would not submit to sexual advances of king Mwanga’

From their perspective, we in the West have gone astray into liberalism and sexual immorality. They accuse us to continuing imperialism in seeking them to follow our supposedly more advanced culture. The Archbishop of Uganda said, ‘They have turned their backs on the Gospel the missionaries brought to Africa. It is now our duty to uphold it.’

As well as being accused of cultural imperialism, we are open to accusations of racism if we point out that clergy training in Uganda does not deal with stuff which is standard in England. Some biblical teaching is done by two newly qualified primary school teachers and no staff would question the literal interpretation of the six day creation or the historical existence of Adam and Eve

The Ugandan bishops said that ‘Uganda stands on the Biblical authority and accepts that homosexuality is a sin which could only be adopted by the church if it wanted to commit evangelical suicide.’ In our Western world, the opposite is true. Those young men in the pub, which I mentioned earlier, would dismiss Christianity as unjust, even evil, in their treatment of a minority group. It is akin to condoning racism.

Ugandan bishops have supported the introduction of draconian laws against homosexuality. Bishop Chukwuma said’… this is the voice if god talking.  Yes I am violent against sin.’

Bp. Michael explained that ‘as many as one third of all youth suicides in the United States are committed by homosexual persons, and more gay and lesbian young people in New Zealand died at their own hands than of HIV/AIDS at the height of the epidemic in that country.’ p. 81

He quotes the late (evangelical) Michael Vasey “for countless gay and lesbian people the Bible has brought death, not life. Many speak of the Bible as a ‘six-gun,’ a pistol loaded with six texts that are used as bullets— Bible bullets—to kill lesbian and gay people in a contest about whether they can be full members of the community of faith.” P. 85

He tells stories of pastoral encounters which have made him think.

Throughout, he manages to avoid saying exactly where he stands. His final chapter, ‘Where now?’ urges us to be honest and consistent in our use of Scripture (having taken delight in pointing out one or two evangelical inconsistencies in earlier chapters), to be critical of what we have received from history, take seriously modern knowledge which former generations did not know, and to treat homosexuals and lesbians with the respect and love they are entitled to in Christ.

return to the home page

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: