In search of justice in Kingston

Savitiri Hensman, writing for the Guardian, notes that the Anglican Consultative Council is meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, which has “a rich but troubled history, marked by slavery and colonialism as well as resistance to these and other forms of oppression.” She hopes that as the ACC considers the latest draft of the Anglican Covenant, they might look around and think of the victims of hatred.

She writes:

Though Kingston was a major cultural centre, high unemployment and poverty remained. Frustration was sometimes violently expressed, and gays and lesbians became a convenient target.

Violent homophobia in Jamaica has destroyed people emotionally and sometimes physically, and taught others to hate their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered neighbours. In a prison riot in Kingston in 1997, warders failed to protect supposedly gay prisoners, several of whom were stabbed or burnt to death. Horrific violence continues, sometimes justified on supposedly religious grounds .

Hensman hopes that the members of ACC will continue to stand up for the rights of the poor and marginalized and will not give into the calls to centralize authority in the hopes of appeasing conservatives who demand discipline against those who ordain gays or bless same sex unions.

There were strong reactions by some churches against earlier drafts of the Covenant, and a new version has been produced, to be discussed by the Anglican Consultative Council in Kingston. Though this takes on board some of the concerns voiced earlier, the emphasis is still heavily on reining in those provinces which might do something “controversial”. In practice, this is more likely to affect pro-inclusion churches than those where leaders have refused to enter into dialogue with lesbian, gay and transgendered people and their families, or to uphold their human rights.

It remains to be seen whether the Anglican Consultative Council, which has previously resisted attempts to over-centralise authority in the Communion, will give way in the interests of persuading “conservative” churches to stay. Many members of the Council have taken a bold and sometimes prophetic stance on respect and justice for all, caring and campaigning for the poor and marginalised, yet they face huge pressure.

Perhaps those attending the gathering could spend a few moments remembering the many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people in Kingston who have been terrorised, raped, beaten or murdered, or learnt to hate themselves, as well as the families and friends who mourn them, and the children who have been taught hatred rather than love of neighbour. There are no easy answers, but with thought and prayer, maybe the Council can develop an approach that recognises the evil of homophobia.

Read it all here.

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