The equatorial African nation, the Republic of Uganda, has pending legislation that mandates execution of HIV positive gay persons. According to San Francisco reporter and columnist Ralph Stone,
Uganda already punishes gay intimacy with life in prison. The “Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009” would penalize anyone who “attempts to commit the offence” with up to seven years in jail. Additionally, a person charged will be forced to undergo an invasive medical examination to determine their HIV status. If the detainees are found to be HIV+, they may be executed.
The religion of Uganda is reported to be 85% Christian consisting primarily of Roman Catholic (42%) and Anglican (36%) adherents. Is execution of gays the appropriate Christian response to the HIV epidemic?
“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.” Leviticus 20:13 (NRSV)
What say you, literal and inerrant interpreters of Holy Writ?
What say you, Rick Warren–mega-church pastor, best-selling author, and Prop 8 cheerleader–at your recent prayer breakfast sermon to the political leaders of Rwanda, the nation that shares a border with Uganda? When asked about the proposed Ugandan legislation, Warren reportedly responded,
“The fundamental dignity of every person, our right to be free, and the freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God, our creator. However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.”
What say you, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury (leader of the worldwide Anglican communion) at your speech to the Gregorian Pontifical University on November 19th? As the Anglican leader speaking to Roman Catholic leaders, the two major religious denominations of Uganda, certainly you railed against this draconian legislation. Not so, according to the blog, Episcopal Cafe:
What is not easy, and where the silence has been deafening, has been to find anything said about Uganda and its proposed laws singling out one group of people for harsh and repressive treatment. We also have an Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, a Ugandan himself, who doesn’t mind a bit of publicity now and again, in jumping out of aeroplanes and refusing to wear his white collar until Robert Mugabe leaves office – but when it comes to Uganda and gay people, and that Anglican Church’s intense homophobia, he suddenly has his mouth all zipped up. So it is easy [for the ABC] to talk shop, easy to talk about general situations, and yet when it comes to the minority sheep in the flock in your own back pen, silence is the order of the day.
What say you, the leaders of the ELCA? I see nothing in your press releases at ELCA.org. With a noteworthy history of advocacy for peace and justice issues, the Lutheran World Federation includes most international Lutheran bodies, including the ELCA, and the LWF presidency is currently filled by the ELCA’s own presiding Bishop, Mark Hanson. Commendably, the LWF promotes a sensitive and supportive attitude toward those afflicted with HIV / AIDS, most of whom are in sub-Saharan Africa. Would it be too much to expect a word about Uganda’s proposed legislation? Is the ELCA still stinging from the Lutheran CORE criticisms at 2009 Churchwide assembly microphones that the pro-LGBT resolutions might offend the less enlightened sensitivities of African Lutherans?
UPDATE 1: Another Episcopal voice, past president Susan Russell of Integrity USA, offered the following brief post on her blog, An Inch At a Time:
The Ugandan legislation, if in effect here, would have imprisoned every member in attendance at our church last Sunday for the crime of knowing of the existence of a gay or lesbian person and failing to give their names to the police within 24 hours.
Also affected would be anyone who ever watched American Idol.
UPDATE 2: Lutheran CORE is beating its chest this morning with the announcement that a group of African-American churches known as Oromo Lutherans has joined CORE.
Lutheran CORE is honored to have these faithful Christians standing with us. We are humbled by their faithful witness both during the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly and since then. These faithful Christians faced persecution in their homeland of Ethiopia. They know what it means to stand firm in faith even in the face of intense opposition. Their witness is a source of encouragement to all who bear the name of Christ and to all who stand on the witness of Scripture and thus in opposition to the ELCA sexuality decisions.
The statement from these recent African immigrants starts with the following note of indebtedness to the ELCA:
The people and the Government of the United States have accepted us with extended hands to become part of the nation. We appreciate the hospitality we received and experienced in this country by church and people. We are also grateful to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) for standing with us in the process of organizing our Oromo congregations in several States of the United States. We are indebted to the bishops and Mission Directors of our respective synods, which have helped us in so many ways. We love our fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ with all our hearts. We have been through many things together with churches that hosted us and pastors and leaders of congregations who shared the warmth of their hearts with us.
but, their statement then offers strong criticism of the ELCA pro-LGBT policies. It is sad that these well-meaning African Americans are critical of the ELCA, which has nurtured their congregations into existence, but it is also the case that their unenlightened view of homosexuality unfortunately reflects the rampant homophobia that exists in Africa, and the proposed legislation in Uganda is merely the most extreme example.