Saturday, January 5, 2013

Kenyan clergyman opposes gay bishops

By PAUL REDFERN in London paulredfern@ntlworld.com and LILLIAN ONYANGO in Nairobi laonyango@ke.nationmedia.com

The decision by a small group of Anglican bishops in the UK to allow gay priests to become bishops could have potentially devastating results for the 77 million strong Anglican Communion.

The Anglican community has been divided over the issue of homosexuality within the church for over two decades with the issue of ordination of priests at the heart of the debate between the more liberal church in the West and traditional African and Asian Anglicans.

It was one of the main issues, along with the ordination of women bishops, which also shaped the recent controversy over who should become the new Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual head of the Anglican Community, with some critics saying this was the reason the post did not go to the Ugandan bishop Dr John Sentamu, currently the Archbishop of York.

The decision by the House of Bishops within the Church of England on Friday to allow gay men to become bishops, providing they are celibate, has already caused controversy.

Since 2005, homosexual men and women who are in civil partnerships, legally recognised unions which give them similar rights as married heterosexual couples, have been allowed to join the clergy on the same condition.

In Kenya, retired Anglican Church archbishop David Gitari on Saturday described the decision as “conflicting and impossible”.

“This is very disappointing, very divisive and very unconventional.” He said it would be virtually impossible for the church to ensure that married gay bishops remain faithful to the condition.

“It does not make sense to me as these are people who have been living in the same houses with their partners and have been sleeping together,” the retired archbishop said. “The church cannot ask a married heterosexual person serving in the clergy to remain celibate.”

He accused the mother church of causing confusion in the Anglican Communion.

“The church in Africa is conservative and, though I am now retired, I know their minds and they will find this decision confusing and divisive,” Dr Gitari said.

TheSunday Nation could not get the official position of the ACK as efforts to reach Archbishop Eliud Wabukala by telephone were unsuccessful.

The timing of the announcement was surprising given that it threatens to present incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, with renewed infighting in the Anglican Church over the issue of sexual orientation.