The “gay church” label

I have been traveling and so missed out on much of the initial ventilation of outrage in the North Atlantic world in response to Archbishop Justin Welby’s comments linking openness to same-sex relationships in one part of the Anglican Communion with mass graves in other parts.

Not the one Samuel was in, but you get the idea
Not the one Samuel was in, but you get the idea

His comments put me in mind of an encounter I had with a seminary student in South Sudan, who told me during a general conversation about these issues, the personal impact that decisions of the American church had had on him. I tell the story—and several other like it—in my new book, Backpacking through the Anglican Communion:

“Many other churches in Sudan say we are apostate,” says Samuel. “They say we have broken away from the church and have gone very far away from the Bible and that soon we are going to practice here what you are practicing in America. I have heard other people say, ‘Don’t join ECS—that is the gay church.’” Samuel’s question comes from experience. When he was on the bus ride from his home village to come to school for the beginning of the term, a fellow passenger learned he was a member of ECS and accused him of being part of the “gay church.” Samuel argued back and said he would not allow homosexuality in his church. The argument became so heated the driver of the bus threatened to kick them both out unless they changed the topic. Other students are nodding their heads as Samuel speaks and I can tell this is not an isolated incident. It is hard to know what to say in response. The actions Americans take—in church or otherwise—have consequences on people around the world. (p. 57)

To assert that actions in one part of the world have an impact elsewhere in the world is not exactly a startlingly original observation in this day and age. In this regard, the archbishop is entirely correct.

The key issue is how we, as Christians, respond to such situations. The archbishop, I think, takes the wrong approach (and one he has, anyway, backed away from in recent days). But I am still unpacking. More on that in a coming post.