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Dec 10 / Jonathan

Rick Warren repudiates Ugandan homophobia

Well, good for him. This from Andrew Brown:

Rick Warren repudiates Ugandan homophobia

The most important evangelical preacher in America has denounced the Ugandan anti-gay law

Who would have thought that Rick Warren, the most influential Evangelical in the USA, would be quicker to denounce the Ugandan anti-gay law than Rowan Williams? Yet after weeks of mounting pressure in which he has held to the line that, as a pastor, he doesn’t tell foreign governments what to do, he has just issued a statement denouncing the odious Ugandan law.

This is I think a historic moment. It shows the huge social change that has taken place even in the mainstream of evangelical America, that they realise that gay people are almost entirely human like them and not to be used as the victims of witch-hunts. Warren’s statement says

there are thousands of evil laws enacted around the world and I cannot speak to pastors about every one of them, but I am taking the extraordinary step of speaking to you — the pastors of Uganda and spiritual leaders of your nation — for five reasons:

First, the potential law is unjust, extreme and un-Christian toward homosexuals, requiring the death penalty in some cases. If I am reading the proposed bill correctly, this law would also imprison anyone convicted of homosexual practice.

Second, the law would force pastors to report their pastoral conversations with homosexuals to authorities.

Third, it would have a chilling effect on your ministry to the hurting. As you know, in Africa, it is the churches that are bearing the primary burden of providing care for people infected with HIV/AIDS. If this bill passed, homosexuals who are HIV positive will be reluctant to seek or receive care, comfort and compassion from our churches out of fear of being reported. You and I know that the churches of Uganda are the truly caring communities where people receive hope and help, not condemnation …

I suspect that this will kill the bill, or at least its most obnoxious provisions. There is already a report on Bloomberg news that the minister of ethics has said the death penalty must go from the bill. But Warren seems to be denouncing even prison sentences for homosexual acts. Since the bill seems to have arisen from the efforts of American evangelicals to stir up the witch-hunting passions of Ugandans, it matters immensely that the most influential of them (and probably the richest) should now have spoken out so clearly.

No time for more now, but I will follow this story tomorrow.

Update: Rowan Williams follows suit. Actually, this interview precedes the Warren statement, though it became public later.

“Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades,” says Dr Williams. “Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.” He adds that the Anglican Church in Uganda opposes the death penalty but, tellingly, he notes that its archbishop, Henry Orombi, who boycotted the Lambeth Conference last year, “has not taken a position on this bill”.

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