Large Churches Across Africa Firmly Oppose LGBTQ Rights | Religion

In Ghana, home to a wide range of religions, leaders of major churches have united to denounce homosexuality as a ‘perversion’ and approve legislation that, if passed, would impose some of the harshest anti-LGBTQ policies. from Africa.

In Nigeria, the coordinating body of Christian churches describes same-sex relationships as an evil deserving of the long prison sentences prescribed by current law.

And in several African countries, bishops aligned with the global United Methodist Church are preparing to join an ongoing separatist denomination so they can continue their practice of refusing to recognize same-sex marriage or ordaining LGBTQ clergy.

In the United States, Western Europe and various other regions, some prominent Protestant churches have advocated for the inclusion of LGBTQ. With few exceptions, this has not happened in Africa, where Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran leaders are among those who oppose such inclusion.

“The traditional churches – all of them – they’re actually totally against it,” said Caroline Omolo, associate pastor with the Cosmopolitan Affirming Community in Nairobi, Kenya. It is a rare example of a church in Africa serving a predominantly LGBTQ congregation.

“They always organized a group to maybe silence us or make the church disappear,” Omolo said. “They don’t want him to appear anywhere.”

Ghana, generally seen as more respectful of human rights than most African countries, is now under scrutiny over a bill in parliament that would impose prison terms ranging from three to 10 years for people who identify as LGBTQ or support this community. The bill has been denounced by human rights activists even as Ghanaian religious leaders rally to it.

“Their role in perpetuating queerphobia and transphobia is clear and it is very disturbing and dangerous,” said Abena Hutchful, a Ghanaian who identifies as queer and co-organized a recent protest against the project. law in New York.

“The bill’s strongest supporters claim to do this in the name of religion,” said Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch. He called the measure “an extremely cruel case study.”

Lawmakers who proposed the bill said they consulted with influential religious leaders when it was drafted. Among those who endorse it are the Christian Council of Ghana, the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the country’s chief imam.

“We don’t accept murderers, why should we accept someone who has sex in a sinful way? Archbishop Philip Naameh, president of the bishops’ conference, told The Associated Press. “If you take a position that opposes the production of more children, it is a choice that is detrimental to the existence of the Ghanaian state.”

The Christian Council – whose membership includes Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Anglican churches – views homosexuality “as an act of perversion and abomination,” according to its general secretary, the Reverend Cyril Fayose of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

“Homosexuality is not a human right and we reject it in all uncertain terms,” he said earlier this year.

In Africa’s most populous country, the Christian Association of Nigeria has threatened to sanction any church that shows tolerance for same-sex relationships.

Such acceptance “will never happen,” Methodist Bishop Stephen Adegbite, the association’s director of national affairs, told the AP.

Asked about Nigeria’s law criminalizing same-sex relationships with sentences of up to 14 years in prison, Adegbite said there was no alternative.

“The church can never be compromised,” he said.

Such comments dismay Nigerian LGBTQ activists such as Matthew Blaise, who told the AP he was manhandled by a distraught Catholic priest that Blaise was not heterosexual.

“The church has been awful when it comes to LGBTQ issues, instead of using love as a medium,” Blaise said.

In Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, Catholic Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins told the AP that Catholic education “recognizes the dignity of every human person”. However, he said LGBTQ people who enter same-sex relationships lead “messy lifestyles” and should change their behavior.

Nigeria is home to one of the United Methodist bishops, John Wesley Yohanna, who says he plans to separate from UMC and join the proposed World Methodist Church. This new denomination, likely to be established next year, is the result of an alliance between Methodists in the United States and abroad who do not support the LGBT inclusion policies favored by many Methodists in the United States. United.

Bishops Samuel J. Quire Jr. of Liberia and Owan Tshibang Kasap of UMC’s southern Congo district have also indicated that they will join the breakaway.

Reverend Keith Boyette, a former United States Methodist who chairs the World Methodist Initiative, said the views of African bishops reflect societal and cultural attitudes widely shared across the continent.

“Homosexual orientation is viewed negatively,” he said. “It is true that a person is of a Christian, Muslim or more indigenous religion.”

In Uganda, where many LGBTQ people remain locked up for fear of violence and arrest, there is a retired Anglican bishop who in 2006 was banned from presiding over religious events because he expressed his empathy with homosexuals.

During decades of ministry with struggling LGBTQ people, Christopher Senyonjo said he has learned that sexuality “is a deep and important part of who we are. We should be free to let people be who they are. are”.

“Ignorance is a big problem in all of this,” Senyonjo told the AP. “When there is ignorance, there is a lot of suffering.”

In 2014, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a harsh anti-gay law that, in its original version, prescribed the death penalty for certain homosexual acts. Later that year, amid intense international pressure, a judicial panel struck down the legislation over a technicality.

However, a colonial-era law criminalizing sex acts “against the order of nature” remains in place.

Frank Mugisha, a prominent gay activist in Uganda, described religious leaders as “the main drivers of homophobia in Africa”. Some Anglican leaders, he said, have escalated their hostility towards LGBTQ people in an attempt not to lose worshipers to aggressively anti-LGBTQ Pentecostal churches.

Across Africa, only one country, South Africa, has legalized same-sex marriage. Even there, gay and lesbian couples often find it difficult to be accepted by churches, let alone have their marriage celebrated by the clergy.

“People tell me, ‘I grew up in this church, but now I am not accepted,” said Nokuthula Dhladhla, pastor of the Global Interfaith Network, which advocates for LGBTQ rights in the religious sector.

She said some religious leaders privately support same-sex marriage, but are reluctant to do so openly for fear of being sidelined by their more conservative peers.

South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, known worldwide for his opposition to apartheid, has been a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights.

“I wouldn’t worship a homophobic God,” he once said. “I would refuse to go to a homophobic paradise. No, I would say ‘Sorry, I would much rather go to the other place.'”

Caroline Omolo, the activist pastor in Nairobi, said some Kenyan religious leaders blame LGBTQ people for the coronavirus pandemic.

“When we say we always serve God, they don’t see something possible,” she said. “They think it’s something unknown and needs to be stopped.”

However, she said some professors and students at Kenya’s theological schools support her LGBTQ church, which has around 300 members.

“The students, we call them the next generation, the leaders of tomorrow,” she said. “When we have this population on our side, I think there is nothing that can shake us.”

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