"Confusion worse confounded."

The South Sudan

The situation in the South Sudan is still unstable. At the time of writing (at the end of April) John Inglis-Jones, Executive Officer of AID (Anglican International Development), is visiting the country and the AID staff working there. He will report back at the beginning of May. The good news is that plans are under way for the ICMDA (International Christian Medical and Dental Association) to start training Sudanese nationals as Clinical Officers ( = UK Nurse Practitioners) in Uganda and AID is making funds available to help. The Institute of Health Sciences being planned for Bor in Jonglei State is necessarily on hold for the moment, as Bor recovers from the terrible violence and destruction it has recently suffered. This Ugandan plan, therefore, is a temporary arrangement. Certainly millions of innocent and helpless people in the South Sudan need medical and other help more than ever. Those of us involved in AID are asking people to pray and still to give for all the work that is able to continue, and not least for training new Clinical Officers. But there have been other reports from, and about, the South Sudan and other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa during April and involving the West. These recall to mind famous words of John Milton. In Book 2 of Paradise Lost he describes the fall of evil angels and their expulsion from heaven as “with ruin upon ruin, rout on rout, confusion worse confounded.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church Times

On 11 April 2014 the Church Times had the following report:

Bishops in South Sudan have confirmed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s warning that Christians in the country face a violent reaction if the Church of England permits same-sex marriage and blessings. Archbishop Welby gave his warning during a phone-in on LBC radio last Friday. Asked why the Church of England could not permit clergy to bless same-sex relationships, he said: “The impact of that on Christians in countries far from here, like South Sudan, like Nigeria, and other places would be absolutely catastrophic.” He spoke of a visit to South Sudan in January: “The church leaders there were saying, please don't change what you’re doing because then we couldn't accept your help, and we need your help desperately.” The LBC presenter, James O'Brien suggested that gay Christians might interpret the Archbishop’s words as a ban on marrying “because of ... some, dare we say, less enlightened people in Africa.” “I don't think we can say ‘less enlightened’, actually,” replied the Archbishop. “That's nothing to do with it. It's about the fact that I stood by a graveside in Africa of a group of Christians who'd been attacked because of something that had happened far, far away in America.” Returning to the subject later, he said: “what was said [by their opponents] was that ‘if we leave the Christian community in this area’ - I am quoting them – ‘we will all be made to become homosexuals; so we are going to kill the Christians.’ The mass grave had 369 bodies in it, and I was standing with the relatives. That burns itself into your soul - as does the suffering of gay people in this country.”

On Tuesday, the Bishop of Maridi [in South Sudan], the Rt. Revd Justin Badi Arama, verified this report. “Gay relationships in the Church of England would mean the people of South Sudan going back to their traditional religions which do not take them to same-sex practice,” he said. “Secondly, there would be continued violence against Christians [in the fear] that they would bring bad and shameful behaviour or homosexual practice, and spread it in the communities.” Any change would lead to a risk, the Bishop of Wau, the Rt. Revd Moses Deng Bol, warned on Wednesday. “The Church of England blessing gay marriages will be dangerous for the Church in South Sudan, because people here, like many African countries, strongly oppose gay marriages. And so they would want the Church here to break relationship with the Church of England. As a Church, we need to remain united as a body of Christ. We must be mindful of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world when taking decisions, because what affects one part of the body affects the whole body as well.” Bishop Arama concurred: “As South Sudanese, we very much value the partnership, and all the efforts of the Church of England to support the Church in Sudan during all the difficult moments in our history. Same-sex practice would distort this long history, because light and darkness cannot stay together. It is our prayer that the Church of England should not follow the world into darkness, but lead the world into light.”

During the phone-in, the Archbishop reiterated a traditional position on same-sex relationships: “My position is the historic position of the Church, which is in our canons, which says that sexual relations should be within marriage, and marriage is between a man and a woman.” Asked whether he could imagine a day when two people of the same sex married in the Church of England, he said: “I look at the Scriptures, I look at the teaching of the Church, I listen to Christians round the world, and I have real hesitations about that. I am incredibly uncomfortable about saying that. I really don't want to say, "No," to people who love each other, but you have to have a sense of following what the teaching of the Church is. We can't just make sudden changes.”

The British High Commissioner to Kenya and the Kenyan Star

A second important report was two days earlier, on Wednesday 9 April 2014, and in the Star newspaper of Kenya. It was as follows:

The Anglican Church of Kenya [ACK] Archbishop, Reverend Eliud Wabukala, has said the institution of marriage is under attack from both foreign and local forces. In a statement, Rev Wabukala said marriage is under attack from outside the country with the West, and sections of the Anglican Church, pressuring the ACK to treat homosexuality as a human right. Wabukala stated that “this is to cheapen rights so that they become a demand that we tolerate individual preferences that are destructive of our moral fabric.” He further termed same sex marriage (which recently became legal in England), and homosexuality, as an attack on human identity as male and female created in the image of God. “To use the law of the land to legislate for an activity which is against the natural order, and consistently described as sinful in the Scriptures, is a very serious step which strikes at the heart of family life. It is a repudiation of God and his Word which should make us tremble and cry out for his mercy,” Wabukala added. He said within Kenya marriage is under attack following recent amendments to the Marriage Bill by Members of Parliament recognizing polygamy. “I have to say that the proposal agreed by a majority of Members of Parliament to recognise in law the right of men to have as many wives as they like was cowardly and will be a backward step for Kenya, if it becomes law. It is true that this legislation would not apply to Christian marriages; but we cannot stay quiet when we see the place of women in our society being demeaned. God’s pattern is given for us in one man and one woman (Adam and Eve before the fall) and is reaffirmed in the New Testament, where we see marriage used as a picture of the love of Christ for his bride, the Church,” Wabukala said. He further urged Kenyans to ensure that our laws are Godly, promoting justice and righteousness.”

However, immediately after that report in the Star newspaper we heard, through a reliable source, that the British High Commissioner to Kenya went to see Archbishop Wabukala to protest about this statement about marriage made in All Saints Cathedral on Sunday 30 March (the day following the legalization of Gay Marriage in England). “What is particularly disturbing,” we were told, “is that the High Commissioner issued a direct threat to the Archbishop that his statement could jeopardise UK government aid to Kenya.” Nor was such a threat for the first time. The previous High Commissioner made a similar one in 2011. This UK attempt “to use financial muscle to try and intimidate an overseas Archbishop in this way is outrageous. Fifty years after independence, it looks as if the UK government still thinks it can bend Kenyan leaders to its will, even spiritual leaders,” it was said. Such an attempt “to interfere with the voice and the conscience of the Church is completely unacceptable.”

Geopolitics

The folly of such British Government policy is two fold. One, it will drive more and more Africans to support extremist positions on homosexual relationships, especially those of radical Muslim groups. It will generate recruits for such violent Islamic terrorists in Kenya as Al-Shabaab, and in Nigeria as Boko Haram. Christians, of course, hold the middle ground between such murderous extremists, on the one hand, and such illiberal sexualized Westerners, on the other hand. While condemning all sexual activity outside marriage, Christians believe not in execution but forgiveness through Christ, then echo his words, “Go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8.11).

Two, the policy is folly for it surrenders global moral leadership to President Putin. In February Russia stopped same-sex couples adopting. Last year saw a new law banning “propaganda promoting non-traditional sexual relations” seen by minors. A bill is in process to prevent “non-traditional” relationships from contracting with surrogate mothers. The American, R.R.Reno writes:

Commentators ascribe this moralism to domestic Russian politics, arguing that Putin is shoring up his conservative base of support. No doubt that’s true, but that’s not the whole story. Putin is thinking internationally as well, positioning Russia to lead an anti-Western coalition along moral as well as geopolitical lines. In a speech last December, he pledged to defend “family values” and reject moral relativism, pointedly observing that this message appeals to “more and more people across the world who support our position.”


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