Position Paper on Scripture, Authority, and Human Sexuality

May 1, 2005

Church of Uganda

Position Paper on Scripture, Authority, and Human Sexuality

May 2005

Executive Summary

The occasion of this Position Paper is the current crisis in the Anglican Communion in which the “fabric of our communion” has been torn at its deepest level because of recent actions and decisions in the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) on matters relating to human sexuality. At the same time, we rejoice in the opportunity to reflect more deeply on these matters as they relate in our Ugandan context.

The perspective of the Church of Uganda to the current crisis in the Anglican Communion is that it is fundamentally a crisis of authority, both legislative and biblical. There appears to be no authority within the Communion at all four levels of its Instruments of Unity – The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Lambeth Conference of Bishops, The Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council. If all four Instruments of Unity can advise against a particular innovation or even heresy, and a province still proceeds and no disciplinary action is taken against that province, then there is a crisis of authority in the Communion. This apparent lack of resolve manifests a deeper crisis: on the place of “the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as “containing all things necessary to salvation,” and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith”.

This current crisis of authority, however, is an opportunity for reformation of the Anglican Communion as a whole. We believe that if the term ‘communion’ means the deepest relationship between believers with God in the fellowship of the church, the Communion must base its identity on bonds of truth as well as bonds of affection. The Communion must recognize that false teachers will arise within the church (Acts 20.29-30) and that heresy may divide the church and scandalise her before the world. This truth will include not only the four planks of the Lambeth Quadrilateral, but other essentials of doctrine, discipline, morality and mission.

We in the Church of Uganda are convinced that the Authority of Scripture must be reasserted as the central authority in the Anglican Communion. From our point of view, the basis of our commitment to the Anglican Communion is that it provides a wider forum for holding each other accountable to the Scriptures, which are the seed of faith and the foundation of the Church in Uganda. The Church of Uganda, therefore, upholds Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998 that says, “Homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture,” and calls upon all in the Communion in general and the ACC meeting in Nottingham in particular to likewise affirm it.

The Church of Uganda recognizes that the schismatic and heretical actions of ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada maintains its stand of ‘broken communion’ with them, and challenges those provinces that subscribe to the authority of scripture to do likewise, for the sake of Gospel and God’s Church. The Church of Uganda is committed to maintaining fellowship, support and communion with clergy and parishes in these provinces who seek to uphold biblical orthodoxy and ‘the faith once delivered to the saints’.

We concur with the observation of The Windsor Report 2004 (Section C paragraph 97): “… the views of the Instruments of Unity have been ignored or sidelined by sections of the Communion”.

It is our considered view that The Windsor Report recommendations on the Instruments of Unity (Section C paragraphs 105 –107; with additional suggestions as outlined in Appendix One) be critically examined as a matter of urgency with a view to make the member provinces of the Anglican Communion accountable to the said Instruments of Unity and the entire Communion.

We acknowledge that the Windsor Report has made a start in this direction with its proposal of an Anglican Communion covenant, but the covenant needs to be given more substance, including reference to the 39 Articles of Religion. We strongly recommend that a ACC considers and proposes to the Primates a process for the enacting of a covenant to be ratified at the 2008 Lambeth conference.


The crisis – its nature and character

It is important for us at this point to remind ourselves of significant events, meetings and statements from various Instruments of Unity within the Anglican Communion in the period leading to the current crisis in order to understand the nature and character of the crisis.

· In 1998 the Lambeth Conference of Bishops passed a resolution that rejected “homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture,” and did not advise the “legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.”

· In June 2002 the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada voted to authorise the blessing of same-sex unions in their diocese and Bishop Michael Ingham gave his permission for such blessings to proceed.

· In August 2003 the General Convention (the equivalent of our Provincial Assembly) of ECUSA – the Episcopal Church USA – voted to confirm the election as bishop of a divorced father of two children who had been living in a same-sex relationship with another man for fourteen years. In many respects, this was the culmination of years of theological and moral innovation on the part of ECUSA.

· In October 2003 the Archbishop of Canterbury convened an emergency meeting of all the Primates to discuss the crisis the New Westminster decision and the ECUSA election had caused in the Anglican Communion. The Primates requested that the Archbishop of Canterbury appoint a commission to report a year later on how best to maintain communion “within and between provinces when grave difficulties arise.” They also stated that if ECUSA proceeded with the consecration of this man, called Gene Robinson, it would “tear the fabric of our communion at its deepest level.” The unanimous consensus of the communiqué was that ECUSA should not proceed with the consecration.

· Yet, two weeks later, ECUSA’s Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, presided at Gene Robinson’s consecration.

· In June 2004 – after the emergency meeting of the Primates – the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod (their equivalent of our Provincial Assembly) passed a resolution affirming the “integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships.” In other words, while not actually approving the blessing of same-sex relationships, they resolved that same-sex relationships are “holy.”

· In February 2005, the Primates met to receive and make recommendations from the Windsor Report of the Lambeth Commission on Communion, commissioned in October 2003. The unanimous request was that the “Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada [would] voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference.”

· In April 2005 the Executive Council of ECUSA (equivalent to our Provincial Assembly Standing Committee) resolved to “voluntarily withdraw our members from official participation in the ACC as it meets in Nottingham…. [However,] we are asking our members to be present at the meeting to listen to reports on the life and ministry we share across the Communion and to be available for conversation and consultation.”

· In May 2005 the Council of General Synod (equivalent to our Provincial Assembly Standing Committee) of the Anglican Church of Canada affirmed “the membership of the Anglican Church of Canada in the Anglican Consultative Council with the expectation that the duly elected members attend but not participate in the June 2005 meeting of the Council.”

This simple recital of recent events reveals the depth of the crisis of authority in the Anglican Communion. The inability of the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Primates to exercise discipline on erring provinces demonstrates the crisis of legislative and ecclesiastical authority. And, the lack of respect by ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada for the guidance of the Communion’s leadership reflects a crisis of relational authority. The sum total of all this leaves us inevitably with fundamental questions about the nature and character of communion in the Anglican Communion.

The deeper crisis however in the Communion is the place of scripture in defining the nature and character of communion. The sanctioning, promoting and celebrating of unbiblical sexual practices demonstrates a departure from the ethical norms and standards enunciated in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament.

Human Sexuality in Biblical perspective

The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments teach that God’s design for sexual relationships is male-female. The biblical examples of meaningful same-gender relationships are never depicted in sexualised ways (cf. Ruth and Naomi or married men like David and Jonathan). The creation mandate of Genesis chapters one and two, that establishes the basis of natural law, shows that God’s design and intention is for humanity to be expressed in the male-female relationship. From companionship to procreation, the male-female relationship is the only relationship that is extolled as normative sexually.

In Genesis 3, when sin and rebellion entered God’s good creation, distortion and tension entered the male-female relationship, including the distortion of sexual desire and all their manifestations. These distortions have impacted on all people and the created order. Homosexuality, bestiality, incest, pedophilia, fornication, adultery, polygamy / polygyny and polyandry are all manifestation of perverted sexual desire.

Concerning homosexual behaviour and relationships in particular, from a plain reading of Scripture, from a careful reading of Scripture, and from a critical reading of Scripture, it has no place in God’s design of creation, the continuation of the human race through procreation, or His plan of redemption. Even natural law reveals that the very act of sexual intercourse is an experience of embracing the sexual “other”.

In Christ, however, people and their sexual desires are redeemed, and restored to God’s original intent. Through repentance and faith, relationships are restored to their original creation design. From Genesis to Revelation, in the sphere of human relationships to the redemptive plan of God, Scripture is clear that God’s plan is man and woman becoming united in one flesh, what the church and Scripture has called marriage. Indeed, marriage can even be seen as a divine agent of sanctification. When sin separated man and woman at the fall, God begins to reunite through marriage. Redeemed marriage is an image of the union between Christ and his Church. Ephesians 5.20ff as well as being a teaching on marriage, is also an exposition of the union of Christ and his Bride, the Church, based on an analogy of union that is assumed to take place in marriage.

The heritage of Holy Scriptures in the Church of Uganda

The story of the Church of Uganda is one of obedience to the preaching and teaching of the gospel, according to the Bible. When the early missionaries announced the gospel of Jesus Christ to our fore fathers and mothers, they responded to the word of salvation. They acknowledged that Jesus is Lord and Saviour and for that reason gladly obeyed His word in Scripture. The transforming effect of the Bible on Ugandans generated so much conviction and confidence that even ordinary believers were martyred in the defense of the message of salvation through Jesus Christ that it brought. The adherents of the East African Revival, that broke out in the late 1920s and early 1930s (a movement that has shaped the ethos of our Church), were simple people who learned to take God at His Word. For the Church in Uganda, to compromise God’s call of obedience to the Scriptures would be the undoing of more than 125 years of Christianity through which African customs, belief, life, and society have been transformed for the better. For instance:

1. Most traditional African societies were solely based on oral culture, which limited its ability to share ideas beyond the clan or ethnic group. For many centuries most of the African languages were un-written. The Bible was the first book in African vernacular. Thus African languages have been enriched and recorded.

2. For many of our tribes, revenge was an esteemed virtue. If a family had been violated, the first instinct was to gather the clan or ethnic group, arm them, and seek revenge on the family, clan, or ethnic group of the offender. As the Bible came with the authority of Christ, it revealed a God that is greater than the evil spirits and the kingdom of darkness that controlled so many people’s lives. In this realm of relationships, the Bible has had a profoundly transforming effect with the teaching of Jesus on forgiveness.

3. Traditional Ugandan society was driven by family loyalties with little basis for loving those beyond your blood ties. Strife and mutual exploitation were rampant. The Bible brought the teaching of Jesus to love your neighbour and even your enemy. And, while there are remains of this old culture, the Bible gives a moral and spiritual basis for transforming culture. At the same time, the Bible affirms certain esteemed values of our culture like community life and hospitality – we have found our home in Scripture.

4. Some traditional African societies believed, for example, that if women ate chicken they would grow a beard. So, women were often denied access to nutritious food and other social benefits on the basis of superstitions. When the Bible came alive during the East African Revival, the Holy Spirit convicted men of sins of oppression and began the progressive empowerment of women that is continuing today.

5. Perhaps the most degrading form of gender inequality was the African tradition of polygamy and divorce at will, which left many women neglected or even destitute. The biblical teaching of marriage between one man and one woman in a loving, lifelong relationship liberated not only women, but also the institution of marriage and family.

6. Traditional African objects of worship, which were limited to families and clans, had established a system where no central beliefs could be held or shared beyond the ethnic setting. Ancestral spirits, natural phenomena like earthquakes, lakes, and mountains, could not satisfy the African’s quest for the living God. The Bible’s revelation of Father as Creator of all things, the Son as redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as the life-giving Spirit of God brought hope for deliverance from the fatalism that resulted from worshiping created things rather than the Creator.

7. The Bible has also been a transforming agent in modern / contemporary Africa societies. The growth of the Church in Africa is a contemporary phenomenon. Most African societies are more cosmopolitan in nature and relate a lot more. The churches have been at the forefront of transforming society. The Bible message, through church leaders, has significantly contributed to the ongoing transformation of politics. Even Archbishop Janani Luwum was martyred for calling our political leaders to Biblical accountability.

8. It is the Church’s commitment to the Authority of Scripture and the Biblical values of abstinence before marriage and faithfulness within marriage that enabled the Church in Uganda to provide leadership in formulating a national response to the HIV/AIDS that has finally brought down the infection rates making Uganda the success story it has become in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

9. Contemporary Ugandan society has been transformed through Scripture’s teaching and we no longer live only in our ethnic enclaves and there are inter-marriages. The gospel has caused us to form a new tribe from every language, nation, tribe, and tongue.

For us in the Church of Uganda, the Bible is the cherished source of authority that is central to the faith, practice, and mission of our Christians. It is an absolute treasure that no one can take away. For ministers, the Bible is the basis for ministry: preaching, teaching, Christian nurture pastoral care and counseling. If you take away the Bible from our bishops and clergy, they have nothing to offer the world. For all God’s people, obedience to this Bible is the source of confidence, abundant life, and joy.

As a Church we are committed to the contextual issues relating to our mission which include (without being limited to) widespread dehumanising poverty, HIV / AIDS, malaria, conflicts, Islam and secularism. We strongly believe that the proclamation of the Good News of the gospel of the risen Lord and Saviour (Jesus Christ) is an answer to these issues confronting us as a Church in Mission today.

We also believe the Church of Uganda has a mission to the Anglican Communion to share the treasure of the Scriptures and to call other parts of the Communion to recognize and to submit to the Authority of Scripture as the place of transformation into abundant life.

Accordingly, we believe that the Anglican Communion would then have a gift to offer the world. Repentance and obedience to Scripture is not judgment; rather, it is the gateway to the redemption of marriage and family and the transformation of society.

The Church of Uganda’s position on Homosexuality and a torn Communion

We believe that God is calling the Church of Uganda to seek continual transformation from the Word of God written, in preaching repentance and faith in Christ and develop ministries of pastoral care that don’t ostracize, shun, or reject those tempted by homosexual desire. We acknowledge that God is calling us to come alongside those who give into the temptation of homosexual desire and show them the power of the Word of God to bring joy, peace, and satisfaction to their life through repentance and obedience to God’s Word.

On the matter of equating the ordination of practicing homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions with the ordination of women, we are insulted by the comparison. In our African context, there has always been a place for women’s involvement with spiritual activities. It was the patriarchal approach of the Western missionaries that clouded this aspect of our African heritage.

When the East African Revival swept through our communities, it called for the equality of women and men, and began the process of restoring women to traditional roles as spiritual leaders in their communities. The Revival movement was a strong contextualising force. In the 1950’s and 1960’s when African Christians took over leadership, we find a number of women seeking theological training and even aspiring for ordination. And, all of this was happening before women’s ordination was approved in the West.

Women’s ordination in Uganda was a movement of the Holy Spirit independent of the West’s promotion of women into ordained ministry. Therefore, to say that homosexual unions and ordination is an extension of a so-called biblical principle of liberation is insulting to us. It belittles women and their ministry, and equates a perversion with God’s movement toward women’s ordination in Uganda.

As a Church we are determined to uphold and encourage the biblical teaching on marriage and promote the ethical demands thereof while providing the necessary pastoral care and counseling for those with difficulties in this regard. In obedience to Jesus’ teaching, the Church of Uganda frowns on divorce. Divorce is part of a broader context of brokenness. Problems of divorce do come up, but we don’t compromise the high ethical demands on believers. We look upon brokenness with grace and truth. On the one hand, we affirm what scripture affirm; we don’t approve. On the other hand, we find ways to minister in His grace to these people, with pastoral care and counseling in the love of Christ.

The Church of Uganda, therefore, upholds Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998 that says, “Homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture,” and calls upon all in the Communion in general and the ACC meeting in Nottingham in particular to likewise affirm it.

The Church of Uganda recognizes that the schismatic and heretical actions of ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada maintains its stand of ‘broken communion’ with them, and challenges those provinces that subscribe to the authority of scripture to do likewise, for the sake of Gospel and God’s Church. The Church of Uganda is committed to maintaining fellowship, support and communion with clergy and parishes in these provinces who seek to uphold biblical orthodoxy and ‘the faith once delivered to the saints’.

Proposed Resolutions

1. Recommend enhancing the existing instruments of unity through functional approaches.

a. The Primates commend doctrine and church order to all provinces of the Anglican Communion and serve as a Council of Advice to the Archbishop of Canterbury;

b. The Anglican Consultative Council becomes a forum for sharing best practices of mission and ministry with other provinces;

c. The Lambeth Conference of Bishops is the plenary gathering of bishops with the Primates as the core;

d. The Archbishop of Canterbury is a presiding bishop among the primates.

2. Recommend suspending all ACC activities until a covenant is written and at least four provinces have ‘opted in.’ ACC activities resume at that point and new members are added as they ‘opt in.’

3. Request the primates to appoint a covenant drafting group to present a draft covenant to the Lambeth 2008 meeting for approval. Please include some sections of the historic 39 Articles in the content of the covenant. Need to make recommendations on the content of the covenant vis-a-vis what the Windsor Report says. A covenant which includes these essential elements:

i. Essentials as contained in the 39 Articles;

ii. Nature of leadership which we hold to certain ethical standards and a process of discipline for those who breach them;

iii. Mission – being obedient to the Great Invitation of our Lord to follow him, and the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations;

iv. Church discipline

4. We call upon the Anglican Consultative Council to affirm that homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture and cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.

5. We commend the Primates for exercising their God-given episcopal ministry to guard the faith of the church and pledge to them our ongoing support and call upon other provinces and the Anglican Consultative Council to do likewise.

6. We commend provinces for the development and implementation of abstinence and faithfulness programmes for reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, and encourage the sharing of best practices among provinces.