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Confronting Anti-Gay Anglicans at Lambeth Palace: A Fantasy Speech for Michael Curry

Joseph Kagunda, the Bishop of Mt. Kenya West, who has led an anti-Gay purge among his clergy.

Joseph Kagunda, Anglican Bishop of Mt. Kenya West, who has led an anti-Gay purge among his clergy.

When +Michael Curry, who becomes Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church two weeks from now, goes to the Anglican Primates’ Meeting at Lambeth Palace next January, I hope he’ll tell the African bishops this.

“You need to stop believing what the white man told you about Gay people. Just because the white man said it doesn’t make it true. It is a fact that the English clergy who came to Africa and brought you the Gospel – may their names be forever enshrined in heaven for it! – also brought with them the racism of England, the imperialism of England, the greed of England, the false ethnic superiority of England, and the homophobia of England.

“LGBTs represent no threat whatsoever to your culture, your churches, your families, your children, your survival or your prosperity.

“Nor is homosexuality a Western import, unknown to you prior to the arrival of the white man. Your own indigenous, homegrown, native LGBT community proves that. So does your own indigenous, homegrown, native LGBT history. In most of your clans, if not all of them, sexual variation was recognized for what it is – a phenomenon of nature, not of choice, a characteristic evidenced early in childhood, an intrinsic part of who that child is. Your cultures historically accepted this variation, they didn’t seek to destroy it.

“Every one of the native languages and dialects of Africa has a name for homosexual persons that predates colonialism. So stop saying it is a Western import. It’s not true, you know it’s not true, and so do your own people.

“Today you work in concert with your corrupt governments, armies and other institutions to scapegoat LGBTs, to distract your people from the real problems of poverty, lack of education, pollution and uneven economic development. Let me tell you, scapegoats are no more permissible today than they ever were in the Christian church. All people are sinners. Christ died for our sins. Do not seek to re-crucify him to enhance your own social prestige. He dined with tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners, including the likes of you and me. If he were here today he would surely dine with LGBTs and bring them the same kind of spiritual healing he brings to everyone else, Gay or Straight, black or white, male or female, slave or free, rich or poor.

“LGBTs do not need curing; they do not have a disease. They need the same human dignity we seek for all persons. And they need freedom from oppression and homophobia, brought to you by white fundamentalist Americans today as they were brought to you by white evangelical Englishmen in the 19th century.

“You are Africans. You are black. Think for yourselves, and put away the prejudices of your white conquerors, so that your nations, clans, families, citizens and churches can take their proud place in the world as persons entitled to the dignity God gave us all in creation and in our salvation.

“The same things you are saying about LGBTs today are what white Englishmen said about you 150 years ago; that you were morally inferior, dangerous and unworthy of freedom, and thus ripe for exploitation.

“Imitate Jesus, not those flawed but blessed saints who brought you their tainted version of him. Stop this persecution of those who are different from you. You don’t have to accept same-sex marriage, but you must stop the violence your governments, churches and clergy are committing against people every bit as capable of love as you are.

“And let us all remember that the greatest sin we can commit as bishops is discord, disunity and schism.

“Back off. Make peace, not war. Understand who your real enemies are, and be friends with those who offer you friendship and peace.”

I posted this on Facebook this afternoon, and some Episcopalians think I should send it to Bishop Curry. (One person called it condescending.) I don’t expect him to pull it out of his pocket and read it to the African bishops – he’s a gifted preacher and doesn’t need tips from me – but I do think it needs to be said in plain English.

It isn’t the whole story by any means; the three worst anti-Gay Anglican churches in Africa (Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda) are different nations with different histories, cultures and politics. But they have several things in common besides their homophobia; all are former British colonies, and all were taught Christianity in the 19th century by low-church, “evangelical” English missionaries. All three had homophobic laws imposed by their Anglo overlords – laws they now support more than the English do. All three Anglican national churches compete with Islam, Roman Catholicism and Pentecostalism, each one homophobic in turn.

I don’t expect any of these countries to “see the light,” make LGBT Pride Day a national holiday and embrace same-sex marriage. But it is reasonable to demand that their Anglican churches stop promoting anti-Gay violence, stop scapegoating and fear-mongering for political gain, and stop tearing apart the Anglican Communion over a triviality like Gay sex when their own citizens suffer such appalling poverty, insecurity and lack of resources.

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, last year at Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York. (Richard Perry/The New York Times)

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, last year at Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York. The parish largely finances the Anglican Communion. (Richard Perry/The New York Times)

I also think it’s time that Justin Welby and the Church of England be rebuked for cozying up to these violent Anglican bishops. He’s planning on recognizing anti-Gay American schismatics as a legitimate Anglican province and kicking the Episcopal Church to the curb – and he needs to be stopped.

He’s the ultimate target of my fantasy speech. Bishop Curry will be entering a minefield at Lambeth Palace just two months after taking office as the American Presiding Bishop, and I hope he doesn’t allow his own flock to be mistreated.

He will face a lot of pressure in London to be nice, speak diplomatically and turn the other cheek. I hope he understands that Jesus’s advice doesn’t apply in this situation. If he is personally snubbed, as Welby’s predecessor did to openly-Gay Bishop Gene Robinson (and the entire American Church) the last time, so be it. But +Michael doesn’t have the right to make every LGBT person in Africa, and every Episcopalian, be smited too.

We are counting on him to understand what he will face is a human rights issue more than a theological one, and to make no peace with oppression.

This Primates’ Meeting, full of brinksmanship engineered by Welby, is going to be a knife fight. I don’t want +Michael hurting anyone or being hurt himself – but he has no right to be passive when others try to shed our blood.

Jesus often fought with words; +Michael should too.++

Michael Curry, Episcopal Presiding Bishop-Elect, preaching this summer in Hayneville, Alabama at the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of civil rights activist Jonathan Daniels, a seminarian. (Selma Times Journal)

Michael Curry, Episcopal Presiding Bishop-Elect, preaching this summer in Hayneville, Alabama at the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of civil rights activist Jonathan Daniels, an Episcopal seminarian. (Selma Times Journal)