Friday, October 17, 2003

I'm increasingly becoming a fan of the Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, Winston Njongonkulu Ndungane. In the row currently embroiling the Anglican church about the appointment of an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in the United States, he seems to be one of the few voices of reason.

While some provinces have been threatening to declare that they are no longer in communion with the American Church, Ndungane has urged respect for diversity within the Church itself. He's noted that the issues of women priests and divorce are handled differently in different parts of the Church, and has urged that homosexuality should be no different. He's also cautioned against the selective use of biblical passages, pointing out that the bible has been used to defend practices such as slavery and apartheid.

In so doing, Ndungane has completely undercut the claim made by some African archbishops that homosexuality is intrinsically 'un-African' (Peter Akinola, Archbishop of Nigeria, has derided homosexuals as 'lower than beasts', and declared that the appointment of Gene Robinson is the 'work of Satan'). Implicitly, he's demonstrated that, like the Anglican Church, Africa is a diverse place with diverse values and cultural practices. You can read an outline of his views here.

Given that Ndungane's position was previously held by Desmond Tutu, it seems that the Anglican Church in Southern Africa is developing a habit of producing men who talk with moral authority.


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