Church backs Human Rights - unless you're gay

From the Sunday Pepper April 19, 2009

Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian:

A bill currently before the Ugandan parliament proposes seven year prison sentences for discussing homosexuality; life imprisonment for homosexual acts; and death for a second offence. Sober observers believe it will be passed. The Anglican church in Uganda appears to support it, and the Church of England in this country is absolutely silent. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Winchester solemnly denounce violence in the Congo, where they have no influence at all, but on Uganda they maintain a resolute post-colonial silence.
He includes a link to a pdf version of the Bill.

The silence of the archbishops and the complicity of the American Right in the promotion of this Bill we know.

What I tripped over the other day was an extract in Evans and Wright (ed.) The Anglican Tradition.

In 1972, before Uganda became a separate Province in its own right, The Church of the Province of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire, Provincial Constitution, said:

Article 3: On the dignity and rights of man

In conformity with the established xn doctrine, the Church of the Province shall proclaim and hold that all men have equal value, rights and dignity in the sight of God, and, while mindful to provide for the special needs of different people committed to its charge, shall not allow discrimination in the membership and government of the Church solely on the grounds of colour, race and tribe.

Would any reader know whether this clause survived the division of Provinces? (A very similar clause was in the Kenyan Church's constitution in 1979.)

And why, if 'all men have equal value, rights and dignity in the sight of God', doesn't this mean all men instead of only heterosexuals?

Perhaps a clue has been that the Church has consistently supported human rights with respect to religious freedom and to matters that do not impinge on its jurisdiction but are leery of rights which purport to constrain the 'right' of a Church to discriminate for religious reasons. How churches square the first and last of these is beyond me.

In 1948 the Lambeth Conference had some general - and probably widespread -qualifications for its support of the Human Rights then being debated in the United Nations:

Resolution 6

The Church and the Modern World - Human Rights

The Conference declares that all men, irrespective of race or colour, are equally the objects of God's love and are called to love and serve him. All men are made in his image; for all Christ died; and to all there is made the offer of eternal life. Every individual is therefore bound by duties towards God and towards other men, and has certain rights without the enjoyment of which he cannot freely perform those duties. These rights should be declared by the Church, recognised by the state, and safeguarded by international law.

Resolution 7

The Church and the Modern World - Human Rights

The Conference declares that among such rights are security of life and person; the right to work, to bring up a family, and to possess personal property; the right to freedom of speech, of discussion and association, and to accurate information; and to full freedom of religious life and practice; and that these rights belong to all men irrespective of race or colour.

Resolution 8

The Church and the Modern World - Human Rights

The Conference endorses the proposed Convenant on Human Rights, now before the United Nations, and declares it necessary for full religious freedom that:every person shall have the right to freedom of religion, conscience, and belief, including the right, either alone or in community with other persons of like mind, to hold and manifest any religious or other belief, to change his belief and to practice any form of religious worship and observance, and he shall not be required to do any act that is contrary to such worship and observance; and that every person of full age and sound mind shall be free, either alone or in community with other persons of like mind, to give and receive any form of religious teaching, and in the case of a minor the parent or guardian shall be free to determine what religious teaching he shall receive.

The Conference believes that the above rights should be subject only to such limitations as are internationally recognised as necessary to protect public order, morals, and the rights and freedoms of others. Any such limitations should be clearly defined by law, and there should be appeal concerning them before impartial courts of justice.

'Morals' as a limitation on rights begs a whole number of questions, but even here it only applied to 'internationally recognised' moral constraints.

In 1978, and again in a similar resolution in 1988, the Lambeth Conference resolved:

Resolution 3

Human Rights

The Conference regards the matter of human rights and dignity as of capital and universal importance. We send forth the following message as expressing our convictions in Christ for the human family world-wide.

We deplore and condemn the evils of racism and tribalism, economic exploitation and social injustices, torture, detention without trial and the taking of human lives, as contrary to the teaching and example of our Lord in the Gospel. Man is made in the image of God and must not be exploited.

In many parts of the world these evils are so rampant that they deter the development of a humane society. Therefore,

1. we call on governments to uphold human dignity; to defend human rights, including the exercise of freedom of speech, movement, and worship in accordance with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights; the right to be housed, freedom to work, the right to eat, the right to be educated; and to give human value and worth precedence over social and ethnic demarcations, regardless of sex, creed, or status;

2. we thank God for those faithful Christians who individually and collectively witness to their faith and convictions in the face of persecution, torture and martyrdom; and for those who work for and advocate human rights and peace among all peoples; and we assure them of our prayers, as in penitence and hope we long to see the whole Church manifesting in its common life a genuine alternative to the acquisitiveness and division which surround it, and indeed penetrate it;

3. we pledge our support for those organisations and agencies which have taken positive stands on human rights, and those which assist with refugee problems;

4. we urge all Anglicans to seek positive ways of educating themselves about the liberation struggle of peoples in many parts of the world;

5. finally we appeal to all Christians to lend their support to those who struggle for human freedom and who press forward in some places at great personal and corporate risk; we should not abandon them even if the struggle becomes violent. We are reminded that the ministry of the Church is to reveal the love of God by faithful proclamation of his Word, by sacrificial service, and by fervent prayers for his rule on earth.

And in 1998:

Resolution I.1

Affirmation and Adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

On the fiftieth anniversary of its proclamation in December of 1948, this Conference

(a) resolves that its members urge compliance with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the nations in which our various member Churches are located, and all others over whom we may exercise any influence; and

(b) urges extension of the provisions of the Declaration to refugees, uprooted and displaced persons who may be forced by the circumstances of their lives to live among them.

Only, not when it comes to sexuality.


1 comment:

  1. Anonymous30/11/09

    I understand that York (Sentamu) said that there would be no comment. It's a cop out on the part of both York and Canterbury and symptomatic of the timid leadership that the Anglican Communion has these days.