Does the Church of Uganda really have no position?

Evidence continues to accumulate that the Church of Uganda supports the anti-homosexuals bill before parliament.

The latest news is the key role in support of the bill taken by Joshua Kitakule. Mr. Kitakule is Inter-religious Council of Uganda Secretary General, [irony alert] “Head of Peace and Justice Division, Church of Uganda Planning, Development and Rehabilitation Department, responsible for designing, developing and implementing peace and human rights activities,” and has served as a member of the Economic Empowerment Track Committee for the Global South Primates.

Five weeks ago the Church of Uganda announced it was “studying the proposed ‘Anti-homosexuality bill’ and, therefore, does not yet have an official position on the bill.” But why would it not flatly oppose the bill if, as it also said, it “upholds the sanctity of life” and “is committed at all levels to offer counseling, healing and prayer for people with homosexual disorientation, especially in our schools and other institutions of learning.” From George Pitcher’s reporting of his recent interview with Rowan Williams, it might appear the Church of Uganda and the Archbishop of Canterbury are in agreement about the bill:

“Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades,” says Dr Williams. “Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.” He adds that the Anglican Church in Uganda opposes the death penalty but, tellingly, he notes that its archbishop, Henry Orombi, who boycotted the Lambeth Conference last year, “has not taken a position on this bill”.

Telling or not, Williams didn’t make a simple declarative statement, “I oppose/support this bill”, either.

There is very good reason to believe the Church of Uganda and Archbishop Orombi support the bill, or would support the bill if the death penalty was reduced to life imprisonment. Its “no official position statement” also reiterated a statement by Orombi made earlier in the year. As observed by Church Times,

It also quotes a comment made in April this year by the Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Henry Orombi: “I am appalled to learn that the rumours we have heard for a long time about homosexual recruit­ing in our schools and among our youth are true. I am even more concerned that the practice is more widespread than we originally thought. It is the duty of the Church and the govern­ment to be watchmen on the wall and to warn and protect our people from harmful and deceitful agendas.”

He made the remarks in the wake of the right-wing Family Life Net­work conference in Uganda in March, addressed by Christian speakers from the United States. Participants publicly “confessed” to bribing school­children to become gay, and the Network petitioned the Ugandan government for new laws against homosexuals. [Emphasis added]

In short, Orombi stirring support for new laws against homosexuals early on. There is more recent evidence that Orombi and the Church of Uganda support the bill that resulted.

First, immediately after the Church of Uganda released its “no position” statement its provincial secretary who issued the statement clarified for the press that,

“It is an important law, but the provision related to the death penalty may prevent this law from being passed, because death should not be accepted as a punishment. Therefore propose another form of punishment instead of death.”

Second, Orombi has nothing to say about the position by one of his bishops who recently wrote in Spero News,

Ugandan Parliament, the watch dog of our laws, please go ahead and put the anti-Gay laws in place.

Finally, earlier this month the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda held

its biennial Consultative Assembly on the 3rd and 4th December, 2009, at Imperial Resort Beach Hotel, Entebbe.

The consultative Assembly brings together all Bishops of the Uganda Catholic Church, Bishops of the Province of the Church of Uganda, District Khadis of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, Deans of the Uganda Orthodox Church and the Fields and Presidents of the Seventh Day Adventist Uganda Union Church.

[36% of Ugandans are Anglican, second only to Catholics at 42 percent. Christians of all denominations make up 85% of Uganda’s population.]

The Monitor reported on the IRCU meeting:

[T]he spiritual leaders came up with several recommendations that are opposed to homosexuals.

“Government should cut ties with donor communities and other groups which support ungodly values such as homosexuality and abortion,” one of the resolutions reads.

The Secretary General of IRC, Mr Joshua Kitakule told Daily Monitor that development partners should not interfere in the process of legislation in Uganda.

“Those countries should respect our spiritual values. They shouldn’t interfere,” he said. “All senior religious leaders have been given copies of the Bill to read and educate people in the churches and mosques,” he added. Mr Kitakule said the Bill, which was tabled last month by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, has not been understood by human rights activists and homosexuals.

“The Bill is ok. But it has been misunderstood. We need to educate people on this proposed law,” he said.

Bishops from the Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, Seventh Day Adventist churches as well as Muslim kadhis agreed to defend the Bill in their centres of worship.

Mr. Kitakule is also “Head of Peace and Justice Division, Church of Uganda Planning, Development and Rehabilitation Department, responsible for designing, developing and implementing peace and human rights activities.”

On the IRCU homepage Archbishop Orombi appears prominently.

If the Church of Uganda does not oppose the bill it appears destined to pass. The head of the opposition in parliament predicts, “

These are our social values, these are our beliefs,” says Wadri. “The idea of homosexuality in Uganda is absolutely inconceivable.” If Uganda was to be expelled from the British Commonwealth, Wadri argues, “then let us go.”

“As for this matter, there will be no dissenting voice,” says Wadri. He claims not a single member of parliament will vote against the bill. “It has the overwhelming support of the population.”

Being expelled from the Commonwealth appears more likely than being expelled from the Communion.

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