Don Armstrong’s silence, and other news on that anti-homosexuals bill

Does it really matter that the Rev. Don Armstrong has not condemned the anti-homosexuals bill in Uganda? His former friends in the Anglican Communion Institute have turned their backs on him. He was defrocked by the Diocese of Colorado, his Colorado Springs followers lost the Grace and St. Stephen’s property in court, and he is under indictment for theft. On a happier note, he and his followers have been embraced by Martyn Minns, Peter Akinola and CANA. And his spokesperson throughout his ordeals, the Rev. Alan R. Crippen II, still stands by his side.

Who is Crippen? He is a former vice-president at the Family Research Council, which is Focus on the Family’s lobbying arm. At present he is founder and president of the John Jay Institute for Faith, Society and Law in Colorado Springs. [The Family Research Council is not to be confused with Paul Cameron’s Colorado Springs-based Family Research Institute (“FRI is working to produce sound, scientific data on pressing social issues — especially homosexuality — in an effort to promote traditional policies”).] Crippen’s institute had been headquartered at Grace and St. Stephen’s.

The John Jay Institute has displayed a recent interest in integration. In a November 9th press release it said,

Uganda Christian University is pleased to announce, by action of the University Senate on 5 November 2009, the promotion of the Rev. Dr. Christopher Byaruhanga to the rank of full Professor in the Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology at Uganda Christian University.

UCU Vice Chancellor, The Rev. Professor Stephen Noll, remarked, “UCU follows the British nomenclature by which only a few distinguished academics gain the title professor. Christopher Byaruhanga has progressed over the years since the University was founded by his teaching, his administration, and his scholarship writing to be the first to receive that rank and honour. We know he will not be the last to be so honoured, but he will retain the credit of being the first. To God be the Glory!”

The Rev. Dr. Byaruhanga is currently participating in a year-long academic fellowship as a visiting Chaplain and Theologian in residence at the John Jay Institute in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Ah, yes, Steve Noll, one of many western scripters and stage managers for the Global South. And, recall, an ordained Church of Uganda faculty member of the university recently compared homosexuals to cockroaches.

In a story on the anti-homosexuals bill:

The reaction from Christians in America creates tension for Ugandan Christians, says the Rev. Dr. Christopher Byaruhanga, professor of historical theology at Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology at Uganda Christian University.

“You see there’s a kind of imperialism and a kind of relativism from the West,” said Byaruhanga, who is doing a fellowship for a year at the John Jay Institute in Colorado Springs. “They don’t understand our ethics in the country of Uganda and they are trying to impose what they believe.”

But as Michael Gerson, opinion writer and member of Falls Church CANA, writes in his most recent column, Faith and Folly,

Ugandan supporters of the bill have dismissed international criticism as liberal, cultural imperialism. … It is not cultural imperialism to criticize an oppressive law in Uganda, any more than in Iran or Saudi Arabia. It is consistency. And it is not colonialism for nations that donate to the fight against AIDS in Uganda to be disturbed about policies that make this effort more difficult. Uganda is on a path of self-isolation that will hurt its people.

(CANA, and ACNA, really out to get a clue from Gerson, and revise their statement backing the Church of Uganda’s stance on the anti-homosexuals bill.)

On Thursday, Christianity Today printed a phone interview with the Rt. Rev. Dr. David Zac Niringiye, assistant bishop of Kampala in the Church of Uganda. Some extracts from what the bishop had to say:

I can certainly say the objectives of the bill have the total support of most of Uganda, not just Christians, but also Muslims and Roman Catholics. …

The second thing I need to say is that it is important to understand that the section on the death penalty seeks consistency in the law. The law on rape in this country (and I am not stating a position, I’m stating a fact) has a maximum sentence of death, particularly if it is rape of a minor. Therefore, there is the idea that the law that is proposed needs to be [consistent] with other laws on the books.

The Church in Uganda has never given an official position on the death penalty.

Western homosexual groups are seeking to make homosexuality an acceptable practice here. In these attempts by churches or Christian leaders to speak in favor or against, they seem to indicate we don’t know what we want for our own society. I would plead with governments and the Rick Warrens of this world, Don’t make any public pronouncements about this bill.

[Interviewer asks: “Did you hear about the statement from Rowan Williams?”]

Ambassadors or religious leaders serve us best by not going public, by simply relating to their individual relationships. If they have none, they have no legitimacy to speak. They should just be silent.

Time will tell, but DCAgenda is reporting that the US State Department says the President of Uganda has committed to not signing the bill should it reach his desk. H/T to Box Turtle Bulletin which has more; see also the instructive comments.

John Jay was active in the reconstitution of the Episcopal Church of the Revolution. Informed by his faith, he became an abolitionist and was a friend of William Wilberforce. He served as the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. It is hard to imagine he would support the use of the power of the state to oppress fellow human beings. As Gerson puts it, “Pluralism is not a temporary or tragic compromise; it is the proper way to treat men and women created free and autonomous in God’s image.”

Nor is it hard to imagine that Martyrs of Uganda would support such oppression. They were victims themselves of the power of the state to abuse individuals. They were victims not of a mere homosexual, but of a sadist with absolute power.

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